Few bands get one good run. The Flamin' Groovies are on at least their third.
Formed in 1965 in San Francisco, the band had its first wave of success fronted by singer Roy Loney through their first three albums. Supersnazz (1969), Flamingo (1970) and, especially, Teenage Head (1971) swaggered with a Mick 'n' Keith vibe that had them quickly pegged as the "American Rolling Stones."
But Loney left after the third record, and guitar slinger Cyril Jordan brought in Chris Wilson to take over most of the lead vocals, along with second-guitar duties. With Wilson came a more British-invasion/power-pop angle and, after a string of singles, the Dave Edmunds-produced Shake Some Action album was released in 1976. More records followed in that same vein in the late '70s and early '80s. (And if you were smart, you'd dig up a copy of the the Sire Records comp Groovies' Greatest Grooves and bask in the singles from that era that you would otherwise work hard to find). But eventually, rock-and-roll hibernation took hold, as it almost always does.
Fast forward to the last couple years, when the Hoodoo Gurus convinced the Jordan/Wilson version of the Groovies, with original bass player George Alexander and a younger drummer along for the ride, to reform the Shake Some Action-era band for the inaugural rendition of the Dig It Up festival in Australia. (Sadly, apparently financial issues will mean that festival never makes its way to the U.S.). Great fun was had by all concerned and they vowed to do it again.
Fast forward once more to the legendary Hoboken, NJ club Maxwell's this past Sunday night. Maxwell's is closing at the end of the month. It is one of my very favorite places to see live music, and, despite staring down the barrel of a long ride up the New Jersey Turnpike on the Sunday evening of a holiday weekend, I decided the double-draw of yet another Maxwell's show plus the Flamin' fucking Groovies was too much to resist.
I'm so glad I went.
As expected, the setlist drew hard from the Jordan/Wilson years. Duh. And, despite the passing of years (the first album came out in 1969! Do the math.... These guys are older than you) the band rocked hard -- straight through both Wilson's and Jordan's sniffly colds that they, no doubt, picked up in England at a recent festival -- to deliver a killer set.
Highlights were a "First Plane Home" and "Yes I Am" that shimmered and jangled and rocked, and a "Between the Lines" that surprised me in its intensity. But the closing pair of the main set -- "Slow Death" and "Shake Some Action" -- were the kind of 1-2 knockout punch that most bands live their whole lives never to deliver. Stunning, dynamic and ... Wow, just wow. About 30 seconds into "Slow Death" I made sure to notch my "greatest moments I've ever seen onstage" belt. Damn, boys. Then the encore, "Teenage Head," was its Stonesy/Sticky-Fingers awesome self, and the creep factor of sixty-year-olds playing that one was at least diluted by Chris Wilson's quip as it began: "More like septuagenarian head, actually."
It was one of those "for the ages" gigs -- a classic, legendary band living up to its billing. Just one request, gentlemen: next time bring the show to Philadelphia.
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