Ferocious, hard-rocking subdudes show range, human touch at Egg

The subdudes are that special sort of veteran band that means every note, so they never waste any. A

The subdudes are that special sort of veteran band that means every note, so they never waste any. And when they rev up it really packs a punch. In a pre-hiatus farewell show on Saturday at The Egg’s jam-packed Swyer (smaller) Theatre, the quintet peaked in the first of two sets by uncorking ferocious hard-rocking solos in “Brightest Star” — cooking and rocking — then granted a fan’s written request for “Why Can’t I Forget About You,” a vintage number and one of their quietest and most plaintive.

In “Star,” Tommy Malone — one of the great voices in rock today — played his most hyperactive guitar of the evening, and in “Why,” they went all reggae at the end, reminding that New Orleans — actual home for some subdudes, musical-spiritual home for all five — is the northernmost Caribbean city.

They repeated this dynamic to close the first set with the Gospel roll of “So Hard,” stretched far from home by John Magnie’s zippy-funk accordion solo before the voices reclaimed it, then started “No Man” quietly and extended that with a long Malone guitar solo — like taking a hymn to a honky-tonk.

This was the acoustic subdudes of their 1980s origins as the quiet counter-band to the noisy Continental Drifters. But raucous screams from Malone’s acoustic slide guitar hit like lightning in “Late at Night” to launch the second set. A few songs later, after the boisterous, whistling-past-the-graveyard romp of “All the Time in the World” and the a cappella-spiced “Sarita,” they introduced “Carved in Stone” by citing its appearance in “Treme.” Odd that their most country-sounding song would appear in this most New Orleans HBO series — but they nailed it, as they did everything else.

They went big with “Light in Your Eyes,” everybody clustering around Steve Amedee as he soloed on tambourine, agreed to a scrawled request for “Fountain of Youth” and got deep into a super-laid-back hippie mood in “Papa Dukie and the Mud People” — literally — they all sat or lay down on the stage and kept playing.

For encores, they clustered in the furthest corners of the theater to sing — with no mics but the crowd’s rapt attention — first the fervent, Jesse Winchester-like, and that’s a compliment, “Rain;” then “It’s Been Known to Touch Me.” Then they eased out the door.

Once again the subdudes proved themselves one of our finest and most consistently entertaining bands, and also really deep and meaningful. Early on, they lamented the huge toll of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in “Poor Man’s Paradise,” making the epic and tragic personal. They easily managed the reverse, too. “Why Can’t I Forget About You” expanded individual heartbreak to epic proportions.

Their playing was relaxed yet brilliantly cohesive, Jimmy Messa and Tim Cook swapping bass chores, Amedee slamming the beat, Malone singing his head off and playing fantastic guitar and Magnie mostly playing accordion and occasional harmonica and singing indispensable harmony and some leads.

Friday’s farewell-for-now was a terrific show by a well-loved band in fine form and a good mood.

Categories: Entertainment

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