With the concert scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., attendance on the main floor of the Pageant (balcony was closed) was still a bit sparse as the Revivalists took the stage – many folks still gathered in the adjoining Halo bar, eyes glued to the big-screen TV airing Game 3 of the World Series being played just a few miles to the east. To the credit of both bands playing Saturday night, it's not easy going up against the country's most beloved baseball team playing for the championship in the most passionate baseball town.
By the end of their all too brief opening set, however, the crowd had filled in and migrated to the dance floor as the Revivalists commanded attention with their explosive sound. They may just be the most underrated band touring today, laying out a tasty blend of soul, funk, blues and rock, led by charismatic frontman David Shaw.
By the time they hit their heavy single, "Criminal" from their most recent album, "City of Sound," the audience was completely under their spell as lead guitarist Zack Feinberg fiercely attacked each note with precision, his face contorting as he poured his soul out through his instrument. At the other end of the stage, Ed Williams stood on his stool, leaning into his pedal steel guitar as far as he could without toppling it as fans jumped up and down below him.
Noticeably absent was keyboardist/trumpet player Michael Girardot, and no mention was made of why he was not there; however, his absence only made sax player Rob Ingraham seem to "double down" on his solos, alternating between Alto and Tenor saxophones while also singing backup vocals. Set-ender "All in the Family" blew the roof off, with a quick guitar tease of Parliament-Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" by Feinberg followed by a segue into a cover of Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade."
It was clear that the gauntlet had been thrown down and JJ Grey & Mofro were going to have to seriously bring it to maintain the energy created by their openers. Fortunately Grey is not one to disappoint in this area.
After a brief introduction by KDHX's own Papa Ray, promoting Grey's in-studio performance earlier in the afternoon, JJ Grey & Mofro took their places on stage, grinning as they kicked off with "99 Shades of Crazy," a fun jam from recent release "This River." The stage set-up for this show was a bit different than I've seen for the band in the past – with a number of table and floor lamps of varying shapes and sizes as well as small end tables placed around the stage, somewhat anchoring the band members to their designated spots, JJ out front. While it was a visually interesting configuration, it seemed to limit the movement and interaction of the band members somewhat, particularly guitarist Andrew Trube and bassist (and native St. Louisan) Todd Smallie.
JJ channeled the spirit of Otis Redding on the soulful "A Woman," supported by the horn section including trumpeter Dennis Marion and sax player Art Edmaiston. Fan favorite "Brighter Days," got him preaching, talking about the dark place he was once in being replaced with light. "Every night's a Saturday night, and every day's a Sunday," he declared. "What I mean is every night is the best night – welcome to the best night of my life." Anthony Farrell anchored the churchy vibe on the organ.
JJ grew sentimental about his 4-year-old daughter introducing "The Sweetest Thing," a tune he penned for her, saying, "My daughter makes me want to be a better person." He then picked up the harmonica for the heavier "Country Ghetto," which, along with the upbeat "Yo Lady, She's Shady," gave the band a chance to lay down the funk.
During sultry "Lazy Fo' Acre," one fan down front unleashed her bra and tossed it at JJs feet on stage, prompting him to pick it up and lay it gently atop drummer Anthony Cole's bass drum, following with many "titty jiggling" jokes throughout the remainder of the night.
The band completed the set with high energy, horn-laden "Orange Blossom" followed by "Everything Good is Bad" – a sweet ending made even sweeter by a Cardinals win.
Following a brief break and some audience prompting from Papa Ray, JJ Grey & Mofro returned for a hot, three-song encore, starting with the sexy "Slow, Hot and Sweaty." JJ then took a moment to acknowledge the "other event" taking place in town, saying, "I know what it means for a lot of you to be here tonight," before launching into the fun, Southern-fried "Ho Cake," about his grandmother's cooking.
Throughout the evening, JJ had been sipping heartily from a ubiquitous red Solo cup, and at this point, he announced, visibly tipsy, "Man, I haven't been drunk in about a year – thanks, St. Louis!" He then took a moment to introduce the members of Mofro before leaving fans with the quintessential "Lochloosa," leaving his heart on the stage as he wailed the lyrics about his native Florida, "All we need is one more Mickey Mouse, another country club, another gated community," and fans sang along to the chorus, "Homesick, but it's all right, Lochloosa is on my mind."
At nearly midnight, the band took its bows and the amped-up crowd poured out of the The Pageant and back into the Land of Baseball. Despite the timing, the one-two punch of the Revivalists and JJ Grey & Mofro proved the perfect way to heat up a chilly October night in St. Louis.
JJ Grey & Mofro set list:
99 Shades of Crazy
Higher You Climb
The Sweetest Thing
Tame a Wild One
Yo Lady, She's Shady
Lazy Fo' Acre
Everything Good is Bad
Slow, Hot and Sweaty