Last Night: Storyville at Warehouse Live

Warehouse Live
August 18

Better Than: Planning your Hurricane Dean evacuation plan.

Download: “Blind Side” and “Bluest Eye” give a good overview of what these guys are about.

Has there ever been a Texas band with this much talent? For musicianship, virtuosity, good taste and sheer rock power, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to surpass the sweat-soaked show Storyville put on Saturday at Warehouse Live. Unfortunately, the Warehouse techies drove the PA to ear-paining levels in the Studio, but that did little to diminish the spirits of the 300 faithful fans who listened with religious fervor to the return of what had been a major club draw in Houston before calling it quits in 2000.

As the band took the stage, there was almost a sense of relief in singer Malford Milligan’s cry of “hey, we’re back” as he looked out on a room packed with old fans. All trepidation went out the window as drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble rhythm section – and Olympian guitarists David Holt and David Grissom laid down an earthquake wall of sound so tight these guys could well have been slavishly woodshedding in Austin since their breakup.

Photos by William Michael Smith

They cranked through all the old favs like “Cynical,” “Bitter Rain,” “Piece of Your Soul” and “Luck Runs Out,” and the attack was as blisteringly torrid as ever. But like NASCAR drivers who know when to reach for another gear and stomp the pedal, Grissom and Holt occasionally blew all the guitar circuits on songs like “Writing On the Wall” and Grissom’s “Good Day for the Blues.”

Grissom’s extended finger workout as the intro to the anthemic “What Passes for Love” was a lesson straight from one of his instructional videos, but Holt proved he’s a singular talent in his responses – and what other guitarist would want to share duties and attempt to hold his own with Grissom? While Grissom has always had the larger share of lead guitar duties, it’s Holt’s rhythm guitar that puts the deep funk in the band, and increases the Texas-twang factor that separates Storyville from bands like the Iguanas or the Subdudes. Both Joe Ely Band vets brought out their guitar blowtorches for extended exchanges on the encore “Solid Ground” and left most of the crowd in deafened awe.

As great as the show was, however, it’s probably worth noting that without new material and some sense of added artistic vision, even longtime fans have to wonder what’s the point of this band reforming beyond selling some CDs and keeping a loyal fanbase alive. In other words, is this a real comeback or is this just an attempt to push the new Live at Antones CD/DVD recorded during some reunion dates last year? When we find out – and we’re hot on the information trail – you’ll read about it here. – William Michael Smith

Critic’s Notebook:

Personal Bias: I probably saw 30 Storyville shows from 1994 to 2000, even one in Solana Beach, Calif. They never played a bad show, never played a short set and always blew it out.

Random Detail: David Grissom played a battery of Paul Reid Smith custom guitars and a Dan Electro double-neck, but counterpart David Holt picked up his black Strat and never laid it down.

By The Way: An observant fan wryly noted, “Ten years ago these guys were the absolute shit in Austin. Now it’s Band of Heathens. What’s up with that?”

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William Michael Smith