Concert review: Nick Waterhouse (with Allah-Lahs) brings down the house at Plush, Friday, September 28
The towering glass double doors at Plush which separate the music venue from the restaurant offered an entrance to a time machine. Everything appeared to be normal, but as the canned sounds of classic R&B and rock ‘n’ roll poured from the speakers above, a gradual, hypnotic wash began to fall over all within earshot.
As Los Angeles-based Allah-Lahs began to take their positions beneath the blue and gold stage lights, the entire transportation was still easing into full effect. The four skinny, denim-clad members of the group launched into their set with a vibe invoking the spirit of mid-career Tom Petty.
After a few lazy strums, the vocals kicked in. The band seemed to be an alter-incarnation of Petty himself. Allah-Lahs demonstrated a loyal discipleship to this familiar and beloved sound. Single-noted riffs reverberating amidst slow strums of the guitar backed by easy sounding surf-influenced rhythms loosened the grooving joints of the crowd. Anticipation grew as Waterhouse could be spotted roaming throughout the audience.
In contrast to the laid-back fashion of Allah-Lahs, Nick Waterhouse stepped on stage along with his band, the Tarots, commanding applause and attention. The stage was quickly flooded as the band burst into non-album track, “Money.” This alluring sonic time warp drew in those mingling around the room. Faces in the crowd glowed blue as smiles spread in adoration of the group’s timeless talent.
Moving directly into “Say I Wanna Know,” the crowd began to sing along as audience members began syncing with their dancing partners. As Waterhouse wailed on his sunburst, hollow-bodied electric guitar, the sounds traveling through the curly white instrument cable reached the amps with enough soulful swagger to incite a riot a little over a half century ago.
The sound of Waterhouse and his crew is most aptly explained by their debut record’s title, “Time’s All Gone.” Rock, swing, blues, soul: This is one act whose genius translates equally well to music lovers of all stripes. Though he bears a resemblance to Buddy Holly physically, perhaps the closest musical comparison would be Elvis. However, this is what Elvis may have sounded like if he overcame his impulsive gluttony and returned with a focused fury (and a bad ass saxophonist) to reeducate the souls of rock ‘n’ roll.
During one of the few lulls for stage banter, Nick informed the crowd that he and the band were thoroughly enjoying their first show in St. Louis. Later on he took a moment to introduce the musicians. Though all are indeed very talented, the loudest cheers came as he introduced Miss Erin Jo Harris, his newest recruit from Denver, whose sultry vocals povided a highlight of the evening. Immediately following the introduction, the band swung into its breakthrough jam, “Some Place.”
Anyone who had managed to remain still up to this point was overtaken as the pit floor erupted with dancing. Each dancer employed his or her own retro move, a tribute to centuries of live music enjoyment.
As Miss Harris traded her tambourine for a pair or red maracas, the Tarots launched into “Is That Clear.” Finishing just as strongly as they started, the musicians offered a raucous version of the album track, before slinking gratefully off stage. However, the stage was cleared just long enough for Waterhouse to gather the members of Allah-Lahs to join him for an encore.
During this time he managed to ditch his suit coat, as there were now 11 musicians crowded on the stage. The band grooved on as Waterhouse crooned, “It’s all over now.” The inexhaustible crowd danced on through the night’s closing jam and continued to plead for one more song — even as the lights rose on the faces, full of gratitude, smiling towards the vacant stage.