I gathered from the scuttlebutt being bandied about that the set that night last year at the Firebird was, shall we say, less than stellar. A couple of the complainers wondered aloud whether the Cobras would redeem themselves this time around. But once the band hit the stage and started playing, those same naysayers sure enough stopped speculating and started dancing, a strong indication that the Cobras had more than made amends.
Now, I wasn't at that previous show so I can't compare the performances. But, I can say that Cobras co-founders Rachel Nagy and Mary Restrepo, along with the rest of the band, put on a mighty fine rock show last night, chock full of their brand of classic soul music filtered through a raw, punk/garage rock aesthetic.
Between puffs on her E-cig and alternating sips of beer and water, Nagy ripped through favorites from the band's three records like Otis Redding's "Shout Bama Lama," the Hank Ballad classic "Cha Cha Twist," the 5 Royales' "Right Around the Corner" and the Cobras' lone original tune, "Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)," among others.
The band was tight and restrained, providing a solid foundation for Nagy's sometimes ragged, often gravelly, always deeply soulful voice, which unfortunately got lost in the mix all too frequently. While her between-song banter mainly consisted of some rambling asides, once each song was counted off Nagy was pure, focused rock 'n' roll energy, conjuring up copious amounts of heartbreak and raunch as needed. It's a sure bet that fans at the Cobras' next St. Louis show will be speculating on whether it will be possible for them to top this one.
Opening the show was a pair of Nashville acts that proved there's more going on musically in that town than the "country" charts would have us believe. Nikki Lane kicked off the night with a set of originals that leaned heavily on her latest record, "All Or Nothin'," which was released last month. While there have been more than a few comparisons made between her and Wanda Jackson in the press, her vocals -- especially when harmonizing with backup singer Erika Wolf -- along with her lyrical sensibilities reminded me more of Neko Case than the Queen of Rockabilly.
Pujol played the middle slot on the bill, serving up some catchy, lo-fi, guitar-driven rock that sounded like it would be right at home on a modern version of Nuggets. Six-string action aside, underneath the guitar drone was where the action really was during this set. Drummer Tiffany Minton, all of five-foot nothing and sporting a Suzi Quatro shirt (which garnered her major bonus points from this Leather Tuscadero fan), pounded the skins with ferocious intensity. The massive thud of her toms is still reverberating in my ears.