Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Kirsten Ferguson. See more of Kirsten’s photos from this show here.
Music-wise, springtime in Nippertown has been shaping up as one glorious barrage of brothers.
In the past several weeks, we’ve been privileged to hear the Brubeck Brothers at Skidmore’s Zankel Center; the Malone Brothers at The Egg; the Avett Brothers at the Palace; and not one – but two – appearance by the the Felice Brothers (May 11 at Jillian’s and May 15 for the anti-fracking benefit at The Egg). And let’s not forget upcoming shows by the Wood Brothers (May 26 at Club Helsinki) and the Psychedelic Furs (featuring Butler brothers Richard and Tim) at The Egg on Saturday, June 2.
And if you still don’t think there’s something special – indeed, almost magical – about the telepathic musical connections between siblings – the Spampinato Brothers rolled into Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany on Friday, April 27 to prove you oh-so wrong.
As a long-time, die-hard NRBQ fan, I was more than a little disappointed/pissed-off when the Spampinatos and Terry Adams went their separate ways a few years back. Truth be told, I’ve gotten over my initial sorrow/anger. And now I’m digging the opportunity to see two variations of NRBQ twice as often as I used to. (If you haven’t read Michael Hochanadel’s recent road-trip report on Terry Adams’ variation, you should read it right now. Go ahead. We’ll wait for you to catch up…)
While Terry’s new NRBQ (with Nippertown ex-pat Pete Donnelly of the Figgs on bass) is more loopy, the Spampinatos are sweeter. But both combos carry on the NRBQ tradition of “omni-pop,” with thrilling results. At Valentine’s, the sublime sibling vocal harmonies of bassist-vocalist Joey Spampinato and guitarist-vocalist Johnny Spampinato turned even old warhorses like the Beatles’ “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” into something special.
The Spampinatos weren’t even armed with their full contingent – Bruce Maclean (aka, Luke Montana) was filling in for Aaron Spade on second guitar for what the foursome dubbed their Spring 2012 Upstate NY Tour – but if they hadn’t mentioned it during the show, chances are that no one would have ever noticed. Maclean stepped up to the microphone to lead the way through a rousing rendition of the Beatles’ “What Goes On” and a delightfully rattle ‘n’ clatter version of Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”
Fueled by slippery, but in-the-pocket drummer J. Cournoyer, it was only natural that they dug into the vintage NRBQ catalog for a few choice nuggets such as “You Can’t Hide,” “I Gotta Rocket in My Pocket” and “Flat Foot Flewzy,” but they also showcased plenty of tracks from the lone Spampinato Brothers’ album, “Pie in the Sky,” most notably “Let Him Think On That,” a dead-ringer for an out-take from “A Hard Day’s Night.”
And lest you think that Terry has a corner on the market for loopy tunes, the Spampinatos also rambled through the decidedly off-beat, lowdown, talking blues of “A Bear Is a Bear Is a Bear.”
Yeah, oh-so-sweet… but somewhat surreal, too.