Is they is or is they ain’t? Well, it’s gotta be JD McPherson’s songs: tough little retro-fitted rock 'n' roll gems that come from the music’s red, white, black and blue early days of Chess or Sun. The days when Ike Turner still had some say in what was cool. If not, it’s definitely the dynamic interpretation that gives the beautifully simple compositions their ragged, polished patina. Or maybe it’s the vibrato that the band pours all over the place like a kid with a bottle of catsup. If not, then it’s got to be the band’s sweaty, unrelenting delivery of all these things.
Any way you look at it, JD McPherson’s show knocked Rochester out -- twice. He had me at 1-2-3-4.
Leaning heavy on material from its new album, "Let The Good Times Roll," the band played two shows last Friday. The first, an in-store to rival all in-stores at The Record Archive, had the fans abandoning their cars where they could, to flock into the joint. The band played a generous set highlighted by living legend Dick Storms as he conjured up some vintage light show psychedelia a la Black Shit Puppy Farm from his San Francisco days. But this show, though a pleaser was simply a teaser for the big spectacle that night at the Downstairs Cabaret.
All doubt in my mind -- “Rock n roll in a cabaret? That makes as much sense as a condom with a perforated tip” -- washed away the minute I strolled into the joint. What a great layout for a show. The place was packed but not uncomfortable with decent visibility wherever you stood and plenty of room left to set your backfield in motion. The sound was amazing with McPherson and his awesome band living up to the hype 100 percent, baby. Playing songs so instantly recognizable and hook-laden, McPherson wound up sharing vocal duties with a majority of the crowd. My favorite tune, “Head Over Heels” knocked me out that way. People are gonna be talking about this show for a long, long time. Me too.