“In 1987, I met Peter Donnelly…. The first song we played together as a band was ‘Fire’ by the Jimi Hendrix Experience,” said guitarist Mike Gent near the start of the Figgs’ show at the Putnam Den last Saturday.
Twenty-three years after that auspicious beginning (when Saratoga natives Gent, Donnelly and former-Figg Guy Lyons first played together under the name Sonic Undertones), the Figgs were back in Saratoga Springs, where they spent much of the early ’90s playing marathon gigs at clubs no longer in existence (the Metro, the Bijou).
It was the second of two local shows celebrating the release of the Figgs’ new album, “The Man Who Fights Himself,” their tenth full-length release (counting 1992’s “Ginger” and 1993’s “Ready Steady Stoned,” originally released only on cassette). The night before, the Figgs unveiled much of the new material at The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio in Albany.
“We’re gonna play a load of new shit. We’re going to be here awhile,” Gent announced early on. He was right on both counts. The show ended in the wee hours of the morning, and the set kicked off with a handful of tunes from the new album, including “Gone Spent,” the album’s upbeat lead-off track; “Stuck on Leather Seats,” a nostalgic rocker by Gent; and “I Need a Reason,” a plaintive pop gem sung by Donnelly (with Gent chiming in on nice back-up oohs).
The new Figgs album is a bit more reflective than some of their previous offerings; they’ve grown up, you could say. The title echoes a quote from Bob Dylan, who once reportedly said, “No man can fight another like the man who fights himself. Who could be a stronger enemy?”
After the new material, the Putnam show progressed nearly chronologically through the Figgs’ catalogue. They started with the more recent, including the high-energy bliss of “Breaking Through These Gates” from 2006’s “Follow Jean Through the Sea,” and ended with some blasts from the past, including the teen-themed pop-punk of “Stood Up” and “Bus.”
This being a hometown show, there was the obligatory nod to locals in” “Saratoga Bossa Nova,” which name checks long-gone local landmarks, including former Route 9 topless shack the Bunkhouse and Saratoga bar Solomon Grundy’s. There were also plenty of great covers to go around, touching upon various Brit-rock influences: the Kinks (“Victoria”), the Small Faces (“Song of a Baker”) and the Who (“Sell Out’s” quirky “Odorono,” sung by drummer Pete Hayes).
It’s been said before but the Charlie Watts Riots are Albany’s preeminent power-pop super-group, a distillation of greatness from notable former Capital Region bands: Seth Powell (the Vodkasonics), Brendan Pendergast (the Wait), Mike Pauley (Bloom, the Day Jobs, Lughead) and Joe Putrock (the Coal Palace Kings). Dressed sharply in white shirts and black ties, the Riots hit highlights—some ballads, some rockers—from their debut CD, “Long Story Short,” and added a killer cover of AC/DC’s “Rosie” (co-sung by Day Jobs’ vocalist Rich Baldes, who made a guest appearance) into the mix.
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
CHARLIE WATTS RIOTS SET LIST
Lie to Me
Out of Touch
Running in Place
THE FIGGS SET LIST
Stuck on Leather Seats
I Need a Reason
And Here’s Some More
Breaking Through These Gates
Odorono (The Who)
Some Desperate Measure
Saratoga Bossa Nova
Song of a Baker (Small Faces)
Wait on Your Shoulders
Katie Lied (Green Pajamas)
Cherry Blow Pop
Hey! Mr. Moonman