The subdudes deliver deep, soulful set at Swyer Theatre

In the “less is more” department, the subdudes rule. Returning to their early, stripped-down sound a

In the “less is more” department, the subdudes rule. Returning to their early, stripped-down sound at The Egg’s (smaller) Swyer Theatre on Saturday, they played acoustically, except for electric bass, filling the place with soul and spirit.

Actually, everything was amplified, though softly. So when Tommy Malone’s acoustic guitar hookup failed in “Fairweather Friend,” accordionist John Magnie stopped the show so Malone’s solo could be heard, promising, “It’s a good solo” — and it was. Paradoxically, the skill of the more subdued-sounding subdudes sang out perhaps even more clearly at low volumes than their usual electric-guitars approach. This was especially clear in the completely unplugged encores at the lip of the stage: heartfelt, fantastic readings of “The Rain” and “It’s Been Known to Touch Me.”

The journey to encores from their confident, engaging start with an assertive “Fountain of Youth” stretched with the first of many sparkling Malone guitar solos and a sizzling Magnie accordion workout, touched on R&B, funk, blues and even country, in Malone’s tribute to his late father “Carved in Stone.” They also celebrated their children in the equally sweet, harmonized “Sugar Pie.” Early on, Magnie said the acoustic streamlining of their sound lent itself to reviving seldom-played songs, notably the jaunty “Miracle Mule” two songs in and “Stranger” later on, which Malone initially didn’t want to play since they hadn’t performed it since they recorded it. His reluctance, of course, sealed the deal: they HAD to play it then. They also cooperatively accepted requests for “One Word” and “Thorn In Her Side,” giving them full-strength readings rather than rushing through them.

Malone’s tremendous voice ranks with the very best in the south, such as Al Green’s, Aaron Neville’s or even Elvis’s; and may be the band’s best instrument. But they are heavily armed otherwise, too. All but guitarist/bassist Jimmy Messa sing, alone or together; and they expertly blend voices and instruments.

On Saturday their top songs — a towering “If Wishes Made It So,” the sweet but not saccharine “Sugar Pie” the powerful “Light in Your Eyes,” the restless, edgy funk of “Late at Night” — hit soulful peaks that few other bands could scale, even with overwhelming amplification. The fact that the subdudes could do this with little electric power but their own skills and personality marks them as some sort of miraculous.

Their Katrina songs “Street Symphony” and “Poor Man’s Paradise” poignantly mourned the drowned city where they invented their sound some 20 years ago; but without preaching. Like everything else they performed on Saturday, these songs relied on the power of their songwriting and straightforward unadorned performing — even their most fiery solos were to the point. However, the performances elevated the level of everything; and when their best songs hit, they hit hard.

The subdudes return here regularly and regularly uncork Top-10-of-the-year shows, each one different but each one a masterpiece of inspiration and conviction.

Reach Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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