Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to write this one up. Graham Parker and the Figgs, back together for one of their occasional dalliances, which have over the years yielded a number of CDs, a live DVD, and considerable critical acclaim. For reasons I can’t explain, I’d only seen Parker once, and I’m ashamed to say I’d never seen the Figgs. That’s just wrong.
This was the first night of a mini-tour, and it showed. There was a mention of a “day and a half” of rehearsals, which I think was exaggerated. There was a lot of shucking and jiving by folks who, as wonderful as they are—and they are wonderful—can’t carry a night by shucking and jiving.
Granted, not the most inspiring setting: Valentine’s, with some kind of metal band playing downstairs and the sound bleeding up, and an audience of, let’s generously say, 100 mostly unathletic males over the age of 55 (a category of which I include myself). Were I one of the great songwriters of our time or a member of one of the great quintessential American rock & roll bands, I might have slacked off a bit myself.
The Figgs opened and played a rather uninspired set, peaking for the tunes from their brand new (and fabulous) double album The Day Gravity Stopped. Even in this less-than-optimal state, the band were a marvel of instinctive group interplay with the occasional flash of individual brilliance. I’ve always loved the idea of the Figgs. Now I love the Figgs.
Parker came out, looking hale and hearty; but things were loose, and not in a good way. And the song selection left an awful lot to be desired. This didn’t need to be a greatest hits show, but a show of tunes mostly unknown to all but the biggest GP fan got long fast. And the late set trampling of “Fools Gold” was just plain depressing.
Still, there were moments. Few singers know their way around a song—how to build a song—better than Parker. And when Mike Gent mentioned that the night before they’d listened to the soon-to-be-released reunion album from Parker and his old band the Rumour, whatever hair remaining on the collective heads in the room stood up and said howdy. So there’s that.