Fabulous Thunderbirds singer Kim Wilson got approving roars Thursday at Alive at Five when he sang of riding on “a dark and lonely highway, and the rain was pouring down.”
So it was through the T’birds set, while openers Super 400 enjoyed dry weather and managed to tug fans’ eyes down from nervously scanning the graying sky to the stage where they rocked out really well.
Troy’s own blues-rocking trio and one of its most durable and powerful bands, Super 400 hadn’t played out since January. Instead, guitarist Kenny Hohmann and bassist Lori Friday had produced a daughter. No rust on those guys, though. Drummer Joe Daley welded snare shots, cymbal crashes and kick-drum blasts to Friday’s insistent basslines under Hohmann’s thick chords and fleet leads.
Though “Summer Song” and the soulful “Green Grass” flowed gently, they mostly beefed up. Their closer, “I Could Be Reborn,” burned on Hohmann’s slide guitar leads and waves of happy relentlessness.
Rain started just as the Fabulous Thunderbirds launched a raunchy run of roadhouse shuffles, blues bursts and sizzling, soulful R&B. The crowd seemed packed with the same folks who flocked to see them at J.B. Scott’s and every other rock bar around here. Those fans now sport less hair and T-shirts from faraway bike shops and knucklehead white blues bands from back in the day.
But this T’Birds edition, with only showman-singer Wilson aboard from the original 1974 original crew, may be the most capable and versatile yet. Always more about the sizzle and the swagger than the songs, they impressed with new tunes from “On the Verge” that seemed stronger than their vintage shuffles and simple blues that had seemed hastily constructed as frameworks for solos.
They soloed plenty, especially guitarists Mike Keller and Johnny Moeller and Wilson himself, using repetition and insistence to light up simple, strong harmonica riffs. Hats off to drummer Jason Moeller and bassist Randy Bermudes, who laid down grooves deep as canyons and made it look almost too easy.
The T’Birds impressed most with their unity and, surprisingly, their songs. Early on, “Too Much Water” plumbed deep regret, and Wilson followed with “Runnin’ from the Blues” — both new and both strong. The new “Got to Bring it With You” was no letdown after the powerfully persuasive, familiar “My Babe.”
The zippy chords Keller laid under “Lovin’ Time” lent a soulful surge to this new R&B romp. Wilson launched epic harmonica blasts from the new “Lonely Highway.” Next, their only hit, “Tuff Enuff,” sent me toward my lonely highway home as I realized I wasn’t tuff enuff for the encore that rang through the streets next.
Here’s hoping no show this summer is as uncomfortable as this one. Yet, few bands could have held a crowd as well through such weather. Some fans clustered under umbrellas; others ignored the cold rain, dancing barefoot or flip-flopped in deepening puddles, bopping with beers in hand, clad in shorts and soggy T-shirts.