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Monday, 12 May 2014 10:18

Concert review: The Blasters (with Piñata Protest) take rock 'n' roll fans to school at Off Broadway, Sunday, May 11

Concert review: The Blasters (with Piñata Protest) take rock 'n' roll fans to school at Off Broadway, Sunday, May 11
Written by Matt Sorrell
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I have to admit that lately, I'm feeling the effects of age. On the back end of my 40s, my body is letting me down, my short-term memory is shot through with holes and I feel my aesthetic and artistic sensibilities are, to say the least, unappreciated by the current crop of whippersnappers coming up.

It had almost gotten to the point where I was willing to cede whatever tenuous position I may have attained in the big scheme of things to the young lions nipping at my heels and just unceremoniously fade away. And then I saw the Blasters again.

Sunday nights aren't prime time for live music. Add a holiday to the mix and it's a good recipe for a sparse crowd, which pretty well describes the turnout for the Blasters show last night at Off Broadway. A few punks, rockabillies, even a couple of Illinois Hell's Angels were in attendance, but the small crowd was mostly a motley group of middle-aged fans looking to connect with a band they likely first heard of in the early pre-MTV '80s.

The band took the stage looking fit. Maybe drummer Bill Bateman and bassist John Bazz had more gray in their pompadours than the last time I saw them, but they took their spots onstage, along with guitarist Keith Wyatt, with the silent confidence of musicians who know exactly what they're doing. Singer Phil Alvin has had quite a few health issues in recent years, but when he strapped on that vintage Harmony guitar and flashed that trademark toothy grin of his, he seemed every bit the slyly charming, energetic front man he was the first time I saw the band live in '86.

And then, they played. From the opening clamor of "American Music" to the extended frenetic guitar workout of "One Bad Stud" that closed the show, this group of veterans took us all to school. Alvin's trademark yelp was as clear as ever, and Bateman and Bazz provided as rock solid a rhythm section as you're likely to find playing out today. Wyatt was, as always, a revelation. He throttled his Les Paul gold top with gleeful abandon, pulling and twisting out all manner of riffs and runs that ranged from blues to rockabilly to country and then some. His playing on Blasters standards like "Marie Marie" and "Red Rose" was nothing short of incendiary, perfectly balancing precision and utter rock and roll abandon. Despite the size of the audience, the entire band played as hard and as true as if they were in front of a hometown crowd in Downey, California.

I walked out of the gig with a renewed spring in my step and, dare I say, even a bit of swagger. Maybe I'm not quite done yet. Bring on the young'uns.

Opening band Piñata Protest proved my long-held belief that you should always try and catch the opening act -- you just might find a new favorite. This San Antonio-based band played a raucous combo of Tex-Mex and punk that showed just how well an accordion and a Gibson Les Paul can play together, sort of like a south-of-the-border Social Distortion. Though the Mexican influence was most evident, some of their songs seemed to veer into more gypsy rock territory reminiscent of groups like Gogol Bordello. Hopefully they'll swing back through town soon.

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