NRBQ played a stupendously fun gig Saturday night (Aug. 27) at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, but some folks are bound to wonder: Was this really, truly NRBQ? The legendary band was together for a good, long stretch of time, from 1967 until 2004. And now it’s back, but only one of the old-time NRBQ members, Terry Adams, is in the lineup. When Adams formed this newer band in 2007, at first he called it the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet. Now, he’s decided just to call it NRBQ.
It’s essentially a new generation of NRBQ — a key member of the classic band making great music with three talented younger musicians, who are just about a perfect match with the old NRBQ vibe. And they’re not just playing the old NRBQ songs — they have an excellent new album, Keep This Love Goin’. (Order it at www.nrbq.com — and I received a copy straight from NRBQ headquarters in a brown envelope covered with about a dozen postage stamps.)
The lineup includes Scott Ligon, one of Chicago’s most stellar musicians, known for his work with Kelly Hogan and the Flat Five, among many other bands. (He was the subject of a wonderful 2007 cover story by Anne Ford in the Chicago Reader, “The Opposite of Selling Out: How a month of ‘Margaritaville’ and a bald man with a hair dryer convinced Scott Ligon to get serious about music.”) Ligon sings and plays guitar with NRBQ, handling lead vocals on many of the old songs as well as the new ones — including some that he either wrote or co-wrote. NRBQ is a terrific vehicle for Ligon’s talents and his obvious appreciation of a wide range of musical genres.
The new NRBQ also includes Austin, Texas, drummer Conrad Choucroun and Philadelphia bassist-singer Pete Donnelly, who’s also a member of the Figgs, and he’s contributing new songs as well.
Enthusiastic fans danced all night in front of the stage as Terry Adams made goofy faces and bounced around his keyboards. At one point, he even reached over to the accordion mounted on the FitzGerald’s wall next to the stage and pretended to play that. (Sorry, I missed getting a photo of that, alas.) There was no denying Adams’ youthful spirit.
Thankfully, NRBQ did not neglect its new record during the concert, playing plenty of those new songs, which range from rollicking old-fashioned boogie-woogie to Pet Sounds-esque chamber pop. During two long encores, NRBQ dug deeper into its catalog, playing oldies such as “Me and the Boys” “Wacky Tobacky,” “Captain Lou” and “Get Rhythm.” The audience would’ve gladly stayed for a third encore.
The Sanctified Grumblers opened the show with their distinctive washboard-rhythm old-timey blues. It was cool to see bassist Tom Ray supplementing the duo’s spare sound.