The Radiators may be old rockers, but they showed how to get it done

Hat’s off to the old pros. Here’s to the journeymen, the musicians who never get famous but keep pla

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Hat’s off to the old pros. Here’s to the journeymen, the musicians who never get famous but keep playing, gig after gig, year after year, decade after decade. Though they never became stars, the Radiators showed how big a hole they leave in the pantheon of touring rock bands on Saturday at The Egg’s Swyer Theater.

After 30 years and 4,500 shows, the New Orleans rockers are entitled to a long good-bye; and all those years and all those shows paid off in a two-hour feel-good fest. They were sharp as the Grateful Dead on a good night, though less adventurous; funky as Little Feat when both Lowell George and Richie Hayward were still alive — but with less interesting songs than either classic-rock crew. If lack of consistently first-class material kept the Radiators from becoming a successful recording act, ultimately, how they played was more important than what. And they played as well on Saturday as any band that’s ever knocked you out with sheer veteran skill and old-friends spirit.

They started right at home, with the New Orleans groove “Love Grows on You,” then turned the beat around for the Bo Diddley cadence of “Losing You,” then the straight-rock blues “Honey from the Bee.” But they really crushed the place with Louis Jordan’s “That Chick’s Too Young To Fly,” swinging it hard. Keyboardist Ed Volker joked that, in Professor Longhair’s term, he’d “de-composed it;” but this vintage tune — older than their own — revved the crowd in a big way. A lesser band might have hit hard again with another rocker, but they actually slowed things down with “Soul Survivor,” followed, naturally, with “Soul on Fire.” They knew they’d take everyone higher, later in the set.

Guitarist David Malone joked they’d formed right after building Stonehenge, and their onstage manner was fittingly unadorned, business-like. They stood and delivered, with only Malone and his fellow guitarist Camile Baudoin showing any animation. Volker was pretty stolid, except when he sang the extra-funky “Seven Devils,” while bassist Reggie Scanlan and drummer Frank Bua, playing barefoot on his birthday eve, simply delivered rock-hard riffs, but swung like mad.

None of those guys will see 50 again; some seemed on the north side of 60. But they made their experience count in a big way. Few songs stretched past five minutes, and most tunes included over-the-moon solos by Malone and Baudoin. But then you marveled at how far they took you, so fast — without ever seeming to hurry.

They knew which were their best songs: They put the rollicking “My Last Getaway,” the emphatic “Crack That Whip” and the zippy centrifugal force of “Shine Down” into crowd-pleasing overdrive. “Shine Down” was a real peak, with Baudoin nimbly handing off the solo spot to Malone, who ran away with it. And they knew a good cover when they lit one up: “Wild Horses,” “Corrina, Corrina,” “For What It’s Worth.”

In their last hurrah here, a chance to see the Radiators heat things up was worth plenty.

Categories: Entertainment

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