Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(ALBANY, N.Y.) – I don’t really care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – who’s in it, who’s not – but one thing is for sure: the fact that Graham Parker and the Rumour — who have been eligible for membership in the hall for over a decade — are not in it renders the institution utterly incredible, as one of the greatest rock bands of all time demonstrated on Wednesday night at the Egg in yet another spectacular show.
Parker and the Rumour reunited as a collective last year for the first time in about thirty years (although various members have appeared on Parker recordings in the interim) for an appearance in Judd Apatow’s This Is 40 and the recording of Three Chords Good. Then the band hit the road last November, and we caught them on the second night of their reunion tour at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, where they blew the house down.
So going into Wednesday night’s show, we wondered how they could have topped the previous one. But boy did they ever: if it’s possible to be both looser and tighter, these guys were. Their months on the road have clearly reinvigorated the musicians and the frontman – Parker sounds in even finer voice, more passionate, with more color and drama. He’s much more relaxed than he was last fall, soft-pedaling the between-song banter and intros and allowing the songs and music to speak for themselves to a much greater extent.
The band, which seemingly had little room for improvement, has become even more three-dimensional – the Rumour is as much about the spaces, what the band does not play, as it is about what it does play. That is to say, the two guitarists – Martin Belmont and Brinsley Schwarz (plus Parker on acoustic and electric guitars) — and keyboardist Bob Andrews carefully place every fill and lick. Bassist Andrew Bodnar and drummer Steve Goulding drove the songs with finely geared turbo power. There is no excess in the arrangements, yet they are rich and full, because these guys really listen to each other and serve the whole. They know when to crank it up, they have their moments in the spotlight, but mostly they serve the songs and arrangements – which are as rich, full, and funky as classic Motown soul – and not themselves. They also appeared to be greatly enjoying themselves, which isn’t always the case, but always is infectious.
Once again, Parker’s song catalog amazes. Considering much of the show was drawn from only a handful of albums from the group’s late-1970s and early ‘80s period, this group – and this songwriter – boasts a body of work as deep and broad as the Rolling Stones. Once again, when it was all over, the list of all the songs the group didn’t play was as noteworthy as those they did. (That being said, what I wouldn’t give to hear these guys play “Heat Treatment,” “Stick to Me,” “Mercury Poisoning” and their awesome cover of the Trampps “Hold Back the Night.” Next time, Graham? PLEEEEEEEZE???)
But look what we did get: “White Honey,” “Fool’s Gold” (with Bob Andrews playing Miami Steve on vocals to Parker’s Boss), a gorgeous “Howlin’ Wind,” a jazzy, swinging “Lady Doctor,” a slinky “Start a Fire,” a soulful “Black Honey,” a mournful “Watch the Moon Come Down,” an acerbic “Discovering Japan,” a gloriously spiteful “Stupefaction,” and a rollicking “Local Girls.”
Parker sprinkled numbers from Three Chords Good throughout the program, and the songs, including the title track and “Long Emotional Ride,” sit comfortably aside his classics.
Kudos to the Egg in Albany for continuing to present a brilliantly curated music series. Where else can you see the likes of Parker and the Rumour, Hot Tuna, Lyle Lovett, Leo Kottke, and Son Volt in the comfort of a modern theater without a bad seat in the house?
Parker and the Rumour play Sunday night at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City and on Friday, April 19, at the famed Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. Go see them.
Seth Rogovoy is the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner, 2009).