Though they've put out a couple of solid studio albums, this is one of those bands that you really must experience live to become a believer. I was first introduced to the Revivalists at the Wannee Festival in Florida earlier this year and their brief, second-stage performance there left me wanting more; so I was excited to experience them in a more intimate club setting.
The Old Rock House provided the perfect atmosphere for fans to get up close and personal (and very sweaty) with the band. It's a great venue with good sound, ample dance space and plenty of room for those who just want to hang back and take it all in.
They took the stage around 9:30 p.m. and wasted no time getting loud and funky with "All in the Family." Front man and lead vocalist David Shaw has a deep, powerful and soulful voice that catches you a bit off guard emanating from his lanky frame, and all of the stage presence to go along with it. From the very first note, he had the whole audience dancing and jumping along with him, and many times throughout the night he perched himself on the very edge of the stage -- sometimes standing, sometimes sitting -- singing just inches from the faces of eager fans, high-fiving them and drawing them even further into the performance.
For a lot of bands, a lead singer with that kind of charisma can leave the rest of the band fading more into the background. Not so with the Revivalists. What makes this band special is that every single one of its seven members not only pulls his weight, but each gives a standout individual performance that when put together creates an incredibly full, rich and amazing sound. To borrow one of the band's song titles, it would seem "Criminal" to only mention Shaw's performance, when it's just one piece of this dynamic musical force.
Pedal steel guitarist Ed Williams is as much a delight to watch and clearly a fan favorite. Typically a more ethereal instrument, aside from Robert Randolph, I've rarely seen anyone play a pedal steel quite like Williams does, standing and throwing his entire being into it, literally picking it up, tilting it forward and just absolutely slaying it.
There was some great interaction between Williams and bassist George Gekas, riffing off of each other and laying down the funk as drummer Andrew Campanelli held the rhythm together behind them.
At the opposite end of the stage, lead guitarist Zack Feinberg made his own magic. With a more laid-back stage presence, Feinberg lets his fingers do the talking, injecting deft solos into nearly every song.
Give me some horns and I'm happy, so I remained planted at the feet of sax player and back-up vocalist Rob Ingraham, who, along with double-duty keyboardist/trumpeter Michael Girardot, brought that taste of New Orleans jazz front and center. With the heat outside creeping in over the sweaty, writhing crowd, at one point David Shaw noted, "If I close my eyes, it feels just like we're in New Orleans right now."
Though the band mostly concentrated on material from their most recent album, 2012's "City of Sound," they worked in a few inspired covers as well, including an on par rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," and, in honor of Chuck Berry playing simultaneously at Blueberry Hill, a brief version of "Johnny B. Goode."
The Revivalists have a keen ability to flow easily from all-out-throw-down jams like "Stand Up" to slightly more laid back tunes such as "When I'm Able," and the lovely "Soul Fight."
The most fun part of the evening was funk-fest "Elementary," a primarily instrumental tune that allowed Ingraham and his sax to own the stage for a bit, as well as Girardot showing off on keys and trumpet. Shaw divided the audience for a scat sing-off that got everyone pumped up and into the song.
The band ended its nearly two-hour set with the hard driving single "Criminal," which culminated in what can only be described as an all-out frenzy on the dance floor. Though visibly spent after leaving it all on the stage, and past the venue's end of show time, the crowd's adoration prompted the band members to nod at each other and agree to play just one more. Not taking the easy route, The Revivalists bore through a full-throttle cover of the Allman Brothers Band's classic "Whipping Post" that would have made Gregg Allman proud.
Sometimes I judge how much I enjoyed a show by how tired and sore my legs are from dancing. Suffice it to say that I could barely stand up the next morning. This is a band that truly lives up to its name. I've always believed that music can save your soul, and the Revivalists had me screaming, "Amen!"