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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 75

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 75

11/29/08 The Terry Adams Rock And Roll Quartet, house concert.  In a perfect world, this band would be playing in a much bigger venue in front of hundreds of people, but as it is, here they are loading in to our living room to play for a small, but enthusiastic crowd.  Once inside, the first thing they did was totally rearrange the layout of the speakers, monitors and sound board to suit the quirky parameters of this six-piece band.

As the crowd assembled in the house, Terry held court in my kid’s bedroom upstairs…he had brought his own espresso machine and was serving ‘em up to everyone around him.  We fed tortellini to all six band members and their tour manager right before show time.

A fervent crowd (a few hard-core fans had flown in from both coasts) of maybe 80 people was packed in as the band (b, d, g, trombone, trumpet and TA on keyboards) started things off with “Eat That Pumpkin Pie”…this song (a variation on Charles Mingus’ “Eat That Chicken”) set the tone for the evening: it was at once silly (the title is pretty much the only lyric), musically inspired, accomplished and loose.  A jazzy instrumental came next, followed by “Florida”, a cool shuffle (written by Chris Ligon, brother of Terry’s guitarist…complete with smooth backing vocals). 

The first NRBQ song they did was “That’s Neat”.  The horns (and Terry’s clavinet) turned it into something more jazzy than I remember from the record.  Scott sang “I’m Alone”, Terry in piano ballad mode.  Every song offered something unique, but just to keep things moving, let’s just say that the instrumentation was fresh and inventive throughout.  “A Girl Like That” (one of my favorite Q songs, on many levels) and “Little Floater” stood out in the home half of the first set.

Set two started off in mellow mode with the instrumental “Snowfall”…trombone, clavinet and relaxed harmonica trading back and forth.  They then turned things up a few clicks with “Beautiful Lover”, a catchy pop song with a prominent guitar hook.  Terry and Scott traded lame jokes while their sound guy tweaked a few things, leading in to “Green Light”, another upbeat highlight from Terry’s days in NRBQ.  For one song, Klem put down his sax and strutted up to the mic to sing “Get A Grip”.  His singing voice is very similar to that of original NRBQ singer, Frank Gadler.  Trombonist Donn Adams got into the act, singing “North To Alaska”, backed by Conrad Choucroun’s Johnny Horton military march-style drums, Klem on sax and Terry on trumpet.

Things took a brief country flavor as Scott sang The Louvin Brothers’ “Hoping That You're Hoping”.  “Umbrella” was sung with classic doo-wop four-part harmonies, Scott throwing in a jazzy lead at one point.  Somewhere in there, my eleven-year-old found me in the middle of the crowded room and asked me to make him a root beer float.  Somehow, I managed to squeeze through the crowd and hook him up. Since things ran loud and late two weeks ago, I was a bit nervous that tonight’s music might get the attention of either the neighbors or the cops, but it all came off without incident. 

“Just One Shoe” featured some way-out, distorted keyboards.  “Please Don’t Talk About Me” was a jazzy gem…guitar, keys and horns each getting their moment in the spotlight. “A Girl Who Loves The Stooges” gave us some inspired musicianship spliced onto a some silly lyrical content.  They closed the set out by granting a shouted request for the NRBQ classic, “Rain At The Drive-in”, Scott on lead vocals.  The appreciative crowd pretty quickly coaxed them into an encore… “Twelve Bar Blues” –the song whose title is its time signature (right term?).  The whole band wound things out and ended on a high note before bringing things down to a whisper.  From there, the band left the “stage”, one-by-one while the audience continued to count out “one…two…three…”  And that was it.

After the usual clean-up/wind-down, Terry, Donn and John headed off to their hotel while the rest of the band settled in to their accommodations upstairs.

11/30/08 Terry Adams, Euclid Records.  Most of the band stayed at our place last night.  We fed them all breakfast right before they headed over to the record store.  I drove down about an hour later, just before their set.  The contingent of hard-core NRBQ fans (many from out-of-town) that were at last night’s house concert were all assembled for their second dose of the weekend.  It was nice to get a chance to talk to some of these folks a bit before the music started.

The store was pretty full when the quartet (plus horns) opened with a dreamy, delicate instrumental.  From there, they drifted into some boogie-woogie, allowing the band (and Terry, in particular) to display that style that is simultaneously reckless and articulate.  By now it’s a bit of a blur to me, but I remember Terry switching over to clavinet on one song and the set (a total of maybe eight songs) ending with “Eat That Pumpkin Pie”.  A couple of these songs will be released on a 45 RPM record that will be available through Euclid Records…look for it on their website.

11/30/08 Terry Adams, Off Broadway.  As if seeing this band last night and this afternoon wasn’t enough, I (along with 50 or 60 other people) made the trek to Off Broadway on the last night of Thanksgiving weekend for one last fix.  It was a quality crowd, not a quantity crowd.  Almost everyone in the room was a big fan and locked in to the music…all except one especially obnoxious drunk who felt compelled to engage the band in conversation.

This was the most rowdy, upbeat of the weekend’s three sets…quite a few boogie-woogie/R & B songs.  My favorite songs from the first set were “Music Goes Round”, “You Can’t Judge A Book” (Donn on Vox and maracas), “Wacky Tobacky” (cool horns), “I Want You Bad” (maybe my favorite NRBQ song) and “Honey Hush”. 

As promised, set two opened with “Magnet”, followed by “One And Only”, both found a rich, soulful groove.  “Florida” and “That’s Neat, That’s Nice” showed up in there, somewhere (a couple of rare repeats over this weekend’s three sets).  It’s hard to keep describing the impressive instrumental interplay, but it was there, throughout.  They closed things out with “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”.

Even on the last night of this holiday weekend, a bunch of us stuck around the bar for a good long while as the band held court with their fans and loaded out.  Eventually, I headed home and hung out until Scott and Sharon showed up around 3:30.  Off to bed shortly thereafter.

12/6/08 Asbury Park, The Duck Room.  I had been meaning to hear this local Springsteen cover band (or is it a tribute band?) for a while.  There were maybe 100 people on hand.  I didn’t know anyone in the crowd until Dave showed up a couple of songs into their set. 

This band has been known to feature one particular Bruce album, start-to-finish at their shows, but tonight, they went for a broader “greatest hits” sampling.  Early on, we heard “Backstreets”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and “Hungry Heart”.  The band had a good feel for these classic songs and the instrumental execution was faithfully rendered, although I thought the lead guitar could have been more prominent in the mix.  Hearing “Darlington County” and “Cadillac Ranch” in the same set made me notice how similar they are. 

The lead singer’s voice was in the approximate range and tone of Mr. Springsteen.  What he didn’t try to recreate was the charismatic stage presence that The Boss brings to the mix.  This goes back to that whole notion of how authentic (or overboard) a band chooses to go in its imitation.  These guys seem to be having a good time playing these fun songs without much pretense of reenacting every detail.

As more classics continued (“Thunder Road”, “Glory Days”) it became clear that they were saving the big hits for the end…sure enough, they did “Rosalita” and “Born To Run” in the home stretch.  By now the crowd was about half the size that it was an hour ago.  They closed things out with a string of “covers of covers”…that revved-up medley that Bruce and band close things out with: “Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly/Little Queenie”, the latter accompanied with a shout-out to Chuck Berry.

12/10/08 Justin Townes Earle, Deluxe.  Lots of familiar faces in the crowd of maybe 80 people on a Wednesday night.  I ended up at a booth with Fred, Kathleen and Tom.  Backed by fiddle & mandolin/banjo JTE alternated between songs with an old-timey blues feel and more contemporary-sounding singer/songwriter material, not too far from what you might hear from his famous father.  The similarities to his dad were most evident when his bandmates left the stage while he did a brief solo set featuring some clean picking patterns.   I still don’t know his originals by name, but a couple of covers I remember were “Hesitation Blues” and TVZ’s “Mr. Mud And Mr. Gold”.

JTE is one tall, lanky dude.  He keeps his microphone placed fairly low, causing him to hunker down while he sings, resulting in a pretty unique stage presence.  Toward the end of the evening he did The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” (the mandolin carrying that distinctive, repeated hook) and “Close Up The Honky Tonks”.

12/12/08 Rough Shop Christmas Show, The Focal Point.  I’m so hopelessly behind with these little write-ups that my memory of this fun show from last December is, by now, a blur.  Ironically, the reason I started keeping this live music journal in the first place was more of a way to write stuff down before my memory faded, more so than as any kind of attempt at serious criticism/journalism.  I could struggle with coming up with a description of Rough Shop’s annual Christmas show, but instead, I’m just gonna cut and paste what Roy Kasten wrote about it on his blog on the KDHX website http://kdhx.org/blog/2008/12/14/christmasville-usa/ .  He’s a better writer than me, anyway, so enjoy:

‘Tis the season for venal gubernatorial corruption, union hating and baiting, throwing shoes at lame ducks, and the collapse of international financial institutions. We’re talking a winter wonderland of glad tidings and merry gentlemen resting on the downy folds of the not-so-golden parachutes of their unemployment checks–if they’re lucky.

Christmas this year is a bitch. OK, so it is every year, but especially this year, when most everyone I know is looking at their checking accounts to see if they’re afloat, or at least bopping above Icelandic levels.

So, I’m glad Rough Shop continued its St. Louis tradition of a holiday show and KDHX benefit at the Focal Point (year five now if you’re keeping score), with lots of guests, standing room only, crazy cool vintage holiday lights and a giant glowing Santa hovering over the stage like Stalin (or so it appeared to Rough Shopper Anne Tkach). The band (which features KDHX’s John Wendland, Andy Ploof, Spencer Marquart and Tkach) plays holiday songs as they should be played: With humor but never irony, with joy but never facile sentiment, with swing but never shtick.

Once upon a time, Steve Pick and I toyed with the idea of writing a book about the 500 (or was it a 1000?) best Christmas songs. Such are the idle of dreams of music critics. If we had made it to the introduction we would have had to acknowledge just how miserable most seasonal music is—Aretha, this year I’m looking you way—how purely puerile product it can be, how predictable, how mindless and soulless.

And then we could get on to celebrating the great stuff, because there’s a lot to celebrate.

Some of the best Christmas songs ever, from a breadth of genres, familiar and rare, got an airing at the Focal Point on Friday night, most all backed up by the not-exactly-over-rehearsed-but-still-into-the-groove Rough Shop: Kevin Butterfield (of the Linemen) steamed the windows with George Jones’s “Lonely Christmas Call” and the deathless “Pretty Paper” by Willie. Toby Weiss (of the Remodels) sang “Silver Bells” and “Sleigh Ride,” two hoary numbers, but with a kind of stoic and sexy rock presence, elf cap and all, that made the songs sound new again. Kate Eddens (formerly of the Julia Sets) sang the glorious “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” (home to the most beautifully bittersweet question in all of holiday music: “Will I be with you, or will I be among the missing?”), a song owned by Ella Fitzgerald, but Eddens made her own unimpeachable, pitch perfect, delicately-phrased claim. Later she was joined by the Love Experts’ Steve Carosello on a not wholly smooth but charming “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” while Carosello belted out a fairly obscure Dolly Parton song “Once Upon a Christmas” and then joined Anne Tkach on a brooding John Wendland original “This Silent Night.”

Chris Grabau (of Magnolia Summer) charged through a rare Stevie Wonder song, “Someday At Christmas,” while Rough Shop drummer Spencer Marquart crooned a little-known Nick Lowe tune: “Freezing.” Further highlights included Wendland wailing Paul Kelly’s “Making Gravy,” fiddler Colin Blair dueting with Andy Ploof on two instrumentals, former Rough Shop drummer Sean Anglin swinging up the Irving Berlin tinsel on “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and keyboardist JP taking on and relishing one of the mightiest holiday records ever: Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

And did I mention Adam Reichmann? The singer and songwriter has been utterly MIA since the demise of Nadine some four years ago, and it was terrific to hear him again, in a virtual Nadine reunion with Anne Tkach on bass and Todd Schnitzer sitting in on drums. Adam completely reworked “Silent Night,” with a dramatic repeating bridge, and transformed a Thin Lizzy rocker (the name of which escapes me) by adding his own swaggering Christmas lyrics to it. The night ended with the inevitable group-hug-as-the-train-derails singalong of “Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” but that’s OK. Christmas is a bitch but it can still make you feel really, really good.




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