Tuesday, September 19 , 2017, 7:37 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Having a Blast with The Blasters at Marjorie Luke Theatre

The band plays revved up R&B at Sings Like Hell's temporary home

At the beginning of their Sings Like Hell concert at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on Saturday night, singer and rhythm guitarist Phil Alvin of The Blasters joked, “I’ve been singing like hell for a long time.”

Indeed he has. The first album by The Blasters came out way back in 1980, and their revved up take on rhythm and blues won favor in that era’s Los Angeles punk rock scene and beyond.  Their follow-up albums came out on the legendary Slash Records label, and they shared the bill with bands including X, Black Flag, Fear, The Go-Go’s, The Cramps and, curiously, Queen.

Alvin, bassist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman continued to carry the Blasters torch after Alvin’s brother — and the band’s primary songwriter and lead guitarist — Dave left the band in 1986 for a solo career. The Sings Like Hell concert had these three joined by longtime lead guitarist Keith Wyatt. (Dave himself is no stranger to the concert series.)

The show featured lots of Blasters classics, kicking off with “American Music” and including the tribute to the Baja California-based radio station XEPRS with “Border Radio,” plus “So Long Baby, Goodbye,” “Long White Cadillac” and “Marie Marie.”

They also dusted off some old gems from yesteryear, including Willie Headen’s “Fun on a Saturday Night,” Charlie Rich’s “Rebound,” Tiny Bradshaw’s “Well Oh Well,” Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm” and Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’.” The latter was on The Blasters’ self-titled Slash Records album, and is back on the radar thanks to Jack White’s recent — and inferior to The Blasters’, in my humble opinion — cover version.

Phil Alvin was in great form, which was wonderful to see after his serious health scare a few years ago while performing in Spain. His voice was strong, and his trademark grin was ever present.

The sound was also great at the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Sings Like Hell’s temporary home while the Lobero Theatre is undergoing renovations. As the first show for the series at this location, Sings Like Hell’s Peggie Jones called it “our first night in purgatory.”

Interestingly, some 30 years ago there was a riot of sorts during a performance by The Blasters at the Lobero, which caused the band to be banned from Santa Barbara. Things were much more subdued this time, with Alvin joking that playing at a junior high auditorium meant “rock and roll with no drinking, no smoking, no carrying on.”

The opening set by David Luning was engaging and often amusing, with folky songs about falling in love with a Nashville singer/songwriter, rowdy friends, things going from bad to worse, and beer. For an encore, he played “Just Drop on By,” which he revealed (or admitted?) was used in the sci-fi films Swamp Shark and Arachnoquake.

Click here for more upcoming Sings Like Hell shows, temporarily at the Marjorie Luke Theatre. Next up: stringed instrument virtuoso David Lindley on July 27.

Setlist

American Music
Fun on a Saturday Night (Willie Headen song)
Border Radio I’m the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised) (Johnny Paycheck song)
Dark Night Rebound (Charlie Rich song)
I’m Shakin’ (Little Willie John song)
Well Oh Well (Tiny Bradshaw song)
Get Rhythm (Johnny Cash song)
Help You Dream
No Nights By Myself (Sonny Boy Williamson song)
I Can’t Live My Life Without You
So Long Baby, Goodbye
Blue Shadows
Red Rose
Trouble Bound
Long White Cadillac
Marie, Marie
One Bad Stud (Leiber and Stoller song)

Encore

Rock Boppin’ Baby (Ed Bruce/The Collins Kids song)

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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