Seeing your Rock & Roll heroes perform decades after they’ve made the music that first drew you to them can be a risky proposition. Often they’ll have lost that certain essential vibe, soul or sound that once made them so special and you’ll be let down and disappointed but occasionally our heroes come through for us, meeting or exceeding our expectations, leaving us amazed and elated.
I’m happy to report that John Wicks still has it and that John Wicks and The Records delivered in full last Saturday night. John’s wonderful voice, those great harmonies, the killer guitar riffs, incessant hooks, buoyant melodies, the witty engaging lyrics, everything I’d hoped for and then some, because live the band added an additional power and grit sometimes lacking on The Records’ recordings.
They opened with the rocking “All Messed Up And Ready To Go”, which like The Stones’ “Start Me Up” makes for a perfect introductory number, followed by the super catchy “Hearts In Her Eyes” and a couple of great new tunes. I was especially taken with “That Girl Is Emily” (which Wicks dedicated to Syd Barrett) with its compelling lyrics, great guitar riff and highly infectious melody. The classic “Teenarama” from The Records’ debut album was another highlight among many although its comical lyrics about an ill-conceived romance with a teenager come off much more Lolita-like now that Wicks is in his mid-fifties than they did when he originally sang the song nearly 30 years ago.
As I looked around at the audience I noticed many like me nodding their heads to the beat, singing along or simply gawking in awe with wide grins stretched across their faces. The show climaxed with “Starry Eyes” The Records best known song and a prefect piece of timeless power pop.
I should quickly mention the other bands on the bill as all performed excellent sets. I was impressed with The Shy Ones who have a cool sound that’s one part The Beatles, one part The Shangri-Las and two parts The Ramones. This was only their second show but they played a tight and entertaining set. Keep an eye out for them. The Small Change sounded great as always with their infectious “Maximum R&B” style of power pop and Portland’s The Neat played a riff-heavy set of classic jangly power pop.