NRBQ gave the packed Ale House no choice: You had to dance. Fans front, back and both sides bounced, so you bounced too at the April 18 concert. Then there was the beat, NRBQ’s patented power-glide bop that cooked rock, rockabilly, blues, zydeco, hard or sweet country and jazz.
NRBQ’s beat has a new ingredient: bassist Casey McDonough, aboard since September. He more than held his own, locking with drummer Conrad Choucroun, singing strong tenor lead or harmonizing with guitarist Scott Ligon and contributing new songs that helped render leader/keyboardist Terry Adams’ pre-encore shout “We’ve got TUNES!” totally true.
As always when NRBQ really nails it, they messed with space and time. It was compressed, space-wise; the furthest fan standing on a chair with an old friend and a stranger or two about 20 feet from Choucroun’s drum stool. Saxophonist-singer Klem Klimek and trombonist Carl Q played in an alcove near the crammed space, stacked with amps and instruments, where the rest of the band rocked. NRBQ stopped and reversed time so you had no idea what hour it was but felt about 19.
Better than pretty good
They started with the upbeat “Keep This Love Goin’,” title track of their latest studio album, proclaimed “All you gotta do is rock ’n’ roll” in “That’s All” then tightened up in the march beat of “We’re Walkin.’ ”
Then things got loose: the rollicking “Punkinhead,” Adams wistful croon “A Smile and a Ribbon on My Hair,” and jaunty vocal and piano solo in the vintage love song “Magnet.”
Then came a straight-goofy romp through the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme, McDonough singing its trumpet lead, then singing straight and true in his own rockabilly style “Fightin’ Back.”
They did the blues (a style the ’Q seldom plays) with “Stop Foolin’ Around,” and went zydeco in Boozoo Chavis tributes, “Boozoo, That’s Who!” (early) and “Boozoo and Leona” (an encore). Jazz tunes “Snowfall” and “Ruby My Dear” put on their rock ’n’ roll shoes, hard-country weepers “I’m Leaving it All Up to You” and “Walk Right Back” went all cowboy and, though Adams said he was glad John Sebastian wasn’t present to hear a somewhat fractured “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” it was pretty good too.
Way better than pretty good were vintage NRBQ rockers that pumped things up late: “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Workin’,” “Captain Lou,” “I Hate to See You With a Girl Like That,” “Green Lights,” “That’s Neat, That’s Nice” and “I Want You Bad,” with slower numbers for spice, before big encores including “Rain at the Drive-In,” “Get a Grip,” Klimek’s vocal soaring way over the top, and “Honey Hush.”
Follow the leader
Adams shaped the show song by song, starting a riff and everybody else instantly jumping on board. He played the hottest solos, especially in Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” and his own “Ain’t It Alright;” but Ligon lit up his solo spots, too, knocking “That’s Neat, That’s Nice” and “Green Lights” way out of the park.
On a Thursday night, in a packed Troy bar, this was an extra-cool show, even by (extra-high) NRBQ standards.
Reach Michael Hochanadel at firstname.lastname@example.org.