The Blasters Continental Club January 24, 2013
With rare Houston performances by Barrence Whitfield and the Savages and hallowed SoCal roots gods the Blasters, the city has had a whopper-sized dose of old-time rock and roll in the past couple of weeks.
Phil Alvin and his hard-traveling cohorts -- drummer Bill Bateman, bassist John Bazz, and guitarist Keith Wyatt -- did a number on a full house at the Continental Club Friday night, tearing off rabid, blitzkreig versions of two dozen nuggets from one of the most storied catalogs in roots-rock.
In spite of last year's sudden heart issues while on tour in Spain, Alvin looked to be in fine form Friday as he tore into one of the band's signature tunes, "American Music," to open a torrid set that had dozens of couples whirling on the dance floor.
Rocks Off hadn't seen the Blasters since a show at the Satellite Lounge in 1996, and to find these graybeards still operating at such a high-octane level was both inspiring and uplifting. It was evident that they still know how to "git 'er done" with the same fire and enthusiasm they had when they exploded on the world 35 years ago.
A master of set lists and reading audiences, Alvin kept the tempo fast and let his bandmates work their magic. There were times when Bazz and Bateman, who sport much the same haircuts and look, seemed fused. From our vantage point, Bazz's and Bateman's hands seemed like a four-armed blur, an electromagnetic force field of energy pulsing behind Alvin's vocals and Wyatt's Hades-hot guitar attack.
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In fact, the Blasters have always been the perfect band for guitar hotshots: Dave Alvin, Hollywood Fats, James Inveld and now Wyatt, who joined in 1996 and has held the guitar slot ever since. He was on fire all night, adding not only torrential sheets of hot licks to the proceedings but also giving a clinic in rock and roll stage stances, in which he is actually carrying on a tradition that began with Dave Alvin back in the day. Wyatt's mastery of his instrument -- a Les Paul Gold Top -- and his area of the stage are things to behold for a war-weary old rock and roller like us. When you're this good, you don't have to hot-dog.
Highlights included a roaring take of "Border Radio," the nasty licks of "Dark Night," which saw Wyatt split the guitar atom, and romp-stomp take on "Trouble Bound," which may well be the song we have played at our funeral.
"I don't think twice when the sun goes down, I'm trouble bound, trouble bound."
All in all, the show was everything the old-guard cogniscenti expected, a fierce lesson in the art of rock and roll. We should all hope to have these men's energy, enthusiasm, and drive when we are in our sixties.
Personal Bias: Hoped openers Whiskey Shivers would turn out to be something other than a one-trick pony kind of thing but, alas, in spite of tight harmonies and fine instrumental skills, their stage schtick got in the way of their music. And that hillbilly mullet thing? Well...
Random Notebook Dump: It looks like a Gray Panthers meet-up in here.
Overheard In the Crowd: "These grandpas came to rock" -- some hipster girl who seemed to be attached to openers Whiskey Shivers)
The Crowd: The majority was graying white men up past their usual bedtimes.
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