Review and photograph by Joel Patterson
You like twisting, convoluted backstories? Lucky you!
The saga of NRBQ (New Rhythm & Blues Quartet) should make for some interesting bedtime reading… the long and short of it is this: Terry Adams, one of the original founders of the group in the 1970s, is touring with the latest incarnation, which honestly might equally be called “Terry Adams and three handpicked, much younger guys,” or TATHMYG, for short.
Terry himself is looking somewhat haggard these days, his hair drooping over his face like a hayfield cascading down a mountainside, and he doesn’t do a lot of the singing, but make no mistake – he retains the blistering intensity at the keyboards and the cocky bravado that pretty much defines rock and roll. This is no exaggeration: the set I saw at Maxwell’s – down in Hoboken, NJ – was a textbook example of pummeling, hammering, thrashing perfection, which kept the assembled crowd of four or five dozen bopping and swaying throughout. Even his instructions to the sound guy, with whom he might have been slightly perturbed, even disgusted, were delivered in a kind of sign language, not to disturb the flow.
No one wasted any time screwing with capos on guitar necks or anything else. One song followed another immediately, generally begun with Terry’s signature stomping out a riff on the keyboard, and the band joining in with a potent, punchy wallop. Every tune seemed like some variation on “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” but then also it isn’t every band that can take tunes like “Ain’t She Sweet” or “Here Comes Santa Claus” and set them on fire.
Opening the evening was the Chandler Travis Three-O, with their ineffable blend of humor, sincerity and lush dreaminess.