Although the Old West decor of the Crazy Horse Steak House is about as far as you can get from a naval setting, the club certainly had a loose cannon on deck Monday evening. Humorist/singer Joe Cannon had the typically polite Crazy Horse crowd dancing in a conga line, shouting cheerful expletives at one another, throwing money and generally carrying on in a manner they probably wouldn’t want their kids to see.
Not that having a daughter in the audience particularly inhibited Cannon: The one-man party of the Reno and Sun Valley saloons went right ahead with his rowdy jokes, singing songs such as “Pubic Hair” and coping with a number of female fans who seemed intent on leaving their tongues in his throat.
Only Elvis-esque doofus Ronny McDowell is as effective at moving a country crowd into lunacy, and unlike McDowell, Cannon doesn’t even waste time bothering with a career. He can’t be found in record-store bins or country encyclopedias, and a critic would have to imbibe paint thinner before he’d be in a frame of mind to argue that Cannon’s act matters in the scheme of things. But the roustabout showman is a wild entertainer.
Some of his act is made up of the set routines and pat song selections that are lounge-act staples, but they are tempered with a spontaneous humor and contagious spirit of fun. He may play the standard lounge-hound list of current country hits and rock ‘n’ roll-heaven classics, but instead of just crowd-pleasing, Cannon clearly loved the songs themselves. He did immediate, personalized versions of tunes by the Moonglows, Roy Orbison, Bobby Helms, Elvis and even tackled Ross Bagdasarian’s “Witch Doctor.”
The only down spot was the ill-considered encore medley of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic veterans’ ode, “I’m Proud to Be an American,” with “Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye.”
But the songs mostly seemed to be there just so Cannon could preface them with rambling 12-minute introductions. Then, no sooner would he launch into a tune than a fan would interrupt, wanting to buy one of the $20 custom brass belt buckles Cannon sells, which read, “While You’re Down There, Make My Day.” Less than a quarter into his 2 1/2-hour show, there was a lengthy buying frenzy for these trinkets, prompting Cannon to remark: “I really feel sorry for the people here who thought they were going to a show.”
The interruptions practically were the show, with Cannon rarely at a loss for repartee. When a bottle crashed to the floor at one point, he didn’t lose a beat, asking: “Someone drop their contact lens?” Rather than just take money for requests, Cannon has a policy of also stopping any song if someone pays him a dollar, an amount that escalated as pro-and-con bidding broke out over some songs and crumpled $1, $5 and $10 bills rained on the stage.
Then there was what Cannon aptly called “the dirty song portion of the show” wherein, among other antics, he had the crowd singing along on various ribald refrains.
Some of the humor was sexist, though that fact seemed to be lost on the female fans who were busy grabbing his leg or stuffing his guitar cord down their blouses.
Things just kept getting looser from there, and by show’s end, Cannon had much of the audience snaking in a dance line through the saloon and crowding up on stage with him.