While there are no guarantees in rock and roll, a BoDeans show at the Vogue is something that rarely fails to inspire an audience with the joy of rock and roll. And there’s always a little bit of muted pain too, because just below the surface of many of Kurt Nuemann’s and Sammy Llanas’ songs are bits of melancholy, rejection and loss.
And because this is a band that may deserve a little more success than the music business has given them.
The two singer/songwriters, who are the BoDeans, pulled into Indianapolis on Friday night, and had, by the end the 16-song, 110-minute show, given the mostly 40-something roots rock fans a reminder of where the buzz started for the band. The songs and music off of the band’s 1986 debut album “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams” carried the most musical weight and lyrical resonance, and the bands performance helped remind why that album deserved it’s remastering and re-release earlier this year.
Opening with the ethereal “Pretty Ghost” from 2008’s “Still “album, the band proceeded to then knock out two from 1993’s “Go Slow Down”, with the blending of the singer’s voices shining on “Idaho” and then getting the audience bouncing with “Texas Ride Song”, highlighting Bukka Allen’s accordion playing. He was featured prominently on that instrument throughout the evening, giving a uniqueness of sound to add to the harmonies and Kurt’s’s guitar playing, always a integral part of the gig.
After “Everyday”, from their new record, came a surprising early set inclusion of one the band’s regular show closers. “Good Work”, from 1989’s “Home” with it’s Chuck Berry riff and breakneck pace was the first spot for the band to get sweaty and dirty, hear the drums crashing, and crank both the crowd and band energy levels.
Subtly, the sound mix was short of great. While the band would end up trumping what Lucinda Williams had done with her encore three days earlier at the same venue, her house sound mix was superior to the less distinct and at times boomy sound on Friday; simply not as crisp for the BoDeans, though never bad enough to hinder the performance. I moved around to numerous spots in the theatre, searching for a “best” spot. To the right of the soundboard proved to be as good as it got. Within 15 rows of the stage, the volume coupled with band and crowd energy was also a good position, making up for nuances not in the mix.
From LHSD, Sammy introduced “Still the Night” by asking how many had seen them before (big cheer), thanked the audience for being their “little family on the road” and promptly jumped into the song that never fails to get a BoDeans crowd excited. Smartly, they dropped in a lyrical and musical snippet from “Hey Pretty Girl”, from their 1996 “Blend” effort, and was a sweet little teaser for hardcore fans who picked up on it. By the end of the song, the band was again chugging hard, something they did throughout the night – extending the songs, not with noodling, but finding another rock and roll gear.
“She’s a Runaway”, also from the first album, was recast at half speed, as Sammy, who began the song slapping his palm on his acoustic guitar strings, told the audience after playing it that “sometimes Mary needs a new dress”.
Following the sweet harmony showcase of “Stay On”, it was again back to the first record for “Fadaway” and then the sugary melody of “First Time” from their new record – It’s a pretty pop song, memorable in it’s simplicity.
After the slow dance version of “Naked”, they played “Feed the Fire”. The rocker from “Go Slow Down” is usually overshadowed by the same album’s more familiar upbeat burner “Closer to Free”, but on this night provided a podium for the band to drop pieces of classic rock songs onto the end of it. “Gimme Shelter”, “In the Midnight Hour”, “Gloria”, “Light My Fire” and Sly Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher” found places on the back end. The aforementioned “Closer to Free” closed the set, giving the 600 or so at the Vogue a pairing to keep them wanting more.
Unlike Williams’ trio of encore songs that had fallen a bit flat, the BoDeans used their set coda to do what Sly Stone wanted.
“Misery”, one that sits in it’s groove and burns, kept the connection between band and crowd working, with a spot-on audience effort, shouting back on the call-and-response chorus.
“You Don’t Get Much”, from the excellent “Home” record started with Kurt’s best Edge/U2 channeling (the group had opened for U2 ‘s stadium tour before recording the album) and ended with Kurt and Sammy facing each other at center stage, then heading to stand on the front monitors. They did the same with “Good Things”, shredding the song as they finished, and again six inches from each other’s face before talking, smiling and finally simultaneously jumping up and down to the beat to bring the tune to a crashing finale.
Sam and Kurt and the rest of the band were having obvious fun, sweaty and grinning at the end. It’s what we have come to expect from the BoDeans. They delivered again.