As always, timing is everything. The subdudes have stopped over at the Egg five times in five years, but other obligations kept me from checking them out. So when I finally got the chance last weekend to see the New Orleans roots-rock quintet, it turns out this tour will be their last one for a while, as they plan to take a hiatus from the road. On the plus side, at least I got to see the magic the one-time backup band has been weaving for 20 years; the minus is that they’re so much fun in concert, I want them back here extra soon – like, say, next weekend!
I saw lots of guitars on the spare stage set when I walked into the Swyer, but no drum kit. That’s because the subdudes don’t have a drummer per se: Percussion duties are split between Tim Cook and Steve Amedée, and Cook plays bass half the time. But don’t feel sorry for Amedée, because – as I found out on the hopping opening number “One Time” – the beret-wearing beatbox does more with a tambourine and a microphone than most drummers can manage with a kit befitting Tommy Lee. Amedée’s also part of a dizzying four-part harmony sound filled with equal parts of country, R&B and gospel. There was an a cappella break during “No Man” when I swear I was listening to the Oak Ridge Boys!
Magnie did feed an acoustic guitar through an effects box to give it some snarl for a few numbers, and Cook did his very best Blue Oyster Cult during “All the Time in the World.” (“Can you hear the cowbell?” guitarist Tommy Malone asked, to much hilarity.) For the most part, though, this was an acoustic show, and I think the music was all the better for it. For one thing, those amazing vocals didn’t have to fight to be heard, and we could appreciate the intricate construction that went into Malone’s solos. Accordion wizard John Magnie (who has the hair I’ve always wanted) also benefited from the acoustic setting, because it let us see his instrument as more than a novelty. His solos on “It’s So Hard” and “Sarita” would have been terrific on a Hammond B3, but Magnie’s deft touch with the accordion made those pieces more intimate, and therefore more reachable.
Mind you, the subdudes have no problem reaching their fans, and vice versa. Malone dedicated “No Man” to someone who’d requested the song so he could propose to his girlfriend while the band was singing it. (Thankfully, she said “Yes.”) They also pulled out “Fountain of Youth” as a birthday gift to two girls who’d been to all the band’s Egg shows. The crowning point of the night came during the encore, when the band literally went unplugged: Accompanied by two acoustic guitars and Magnie’s squeeze box, the group went into the audience, walked to the top of the stage-right aisle, and gave a beautiful rendition of “The Rain.” And when they were done, they went to the other side of the Swyer and did the rousing closer “Known to Touch Me.”
It was a sensational way for the subdudes to say “Goodbye (for now)” to their longtime fans. Speaking for their newer fans, let’s not say “Goodbye” – let’s do it again, say next weekend!
Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk