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Graham Parker And The Rumour At Highline Ballroom, Saturday, June 13th, 2015

IMG_2365“Ah the sounds, the snare drums, the haircuts.” Graham Parker snarks about the 1980s before performing “Get Started, Start A Fire” from 1988 at the Highline Ballroom last night. A solo song but  performed with a lot of bottle.The blues rave up was what we were hoping for when Parker reformed his original Rumours and that’s what we got, a stunning solo by Martin Belmont and a nice groove, and there is the Rumour:The one  with Brinsley Schwarz and Martin  on guitars. After appearing as part of the soundtrack to Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40” in 2012, after a quarter century hiatus,Graham Parker And The Rumour reformed and since then GPR have released two first rate albums, Three Chords Good and the latest, Mystery Glue, less than a month ago. They’ve toured enough for Highline to be less than capacity. I, myself,  planned to give it a miss till my friend Carol Jackson offered me tickets. Although I’ve seen Parker solo a number of times, I’ve never seen him with the Rumours, it is indicative as to how much they’ve fallen off my radar that I forgot I loved them and the boys did a good job of reminding me.

Last night Graham mixed songs from 1976 with songs from 2015, and they were all great songs. Not great performances, Graham’s vocals were too low, the band was too loud, it didn’t sound perfect, though the performances themselves were fine. But great songs one after another, all given a tough minded, top notch take. It might be enough to note that I can find little difference in quality between one of the sets highlights, the recently released “I’ve Done Bad Things” and “White Honey”-a song it looks back to. Sometime syou get dirty blues Parker but sometime you get jukebox Parker, these two are jukebox Parker and they echo each other perfectly. They belong together. Graham is out of time and that’s Mystery Glue isn’t catching on, but it is a s good as a rock album can be and the band is as great as a rock band needs to be.

In a spirited and energetic 90 minutes with Graham dancing and jiving, and giving the spotlight to Martin for a sliver of a solo and Schwartz for a coupla bars before stealing it back again, a cranked up Hammond Organ by Bob Andrews all over the damn place, and a standard of song selection that has you spoiling for a favorite, the evening was an old time pub rock new waved up to date howlin wind smash, with the ease only time can give you and the concentration only time can buy you. By the time they’ve reached “Don’t Ask Me Questions”, the band have cracked open a rhythmic reggae time bomb and still sound like they always have.

The encore alone was worth the price of admission, starting with debatably Parker’s greatest achievement, the story of a woman aborting his child “You Can’t Be Too Strong” (“You decide what’s wrong”  he abdicates), it also gave his greatest album Squeezing Out Sparks, its name (Graham would claim Howlin’ Wind is better) . The one that should have made him a superstar back in 1979, where if Parker was the Mets to Costello’s the Yanks, Parker  was the ’69 Mets. Parker quietened himself down with a brooding take, everything still intact, including the pain.  He followed it with “Back To School Days”, a song I always used to believe was Dave Edmunds. Edmunds covered it on Get It, and for a rocker can there be a bigger compliment than Edmund covering you next to Arthur Crudup and Otis Blackwell. As a fan, all I could have wanted more was “Crawling From The Wreckage”! This one two was perfection but so were the rest of the songs in the set. The hardcore soft shoe “Live In The Shadows” made me smile, “Stick To Me”, “Howlin’ Wind”, “Love Gets You Twisted”, all given good hearted run throughs…

Wait,,, good hearted? Mr. Mercury Poisoning. Parker was the Thom Yorke of New Wave,a  feral, angry, gifted guy, a leader filled and distilled with anger and really, Parker has more reason to be pissed at the biz then more. But that doesn’t exist any more, dapper with gray hair and a snazzy brown suit, the sound hasn’t mellowed but the mood has. You can’t be angry all the time and with two 21st Century great albums with the  Rumour released, why would he want to be angry still?  Less mellow and more indifferent to the business, Graham Parker and the Rumour go there own way, you’d be a fool not to follow them.

Grade: B+

 

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