The 20 or so attendees at Valentine’s the Saturday before last already know, so this message is for everyone else: The next time Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby play in town, be one of those 20 people. (And yes, the mathematics/logic conundrum expressed in the differential between those reading these words and those at the club will tear asunder the notion of the number 20.)
Wreckless Eric (aka Eric Goulden) is from England and first came to prominence in the’70s as part of the original Stiff Records roster (which included, among others, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury). While his inroads into the U.S. pop market were minimal, he did score a very big success in the U.K. back then with his “Whole Wide World,” along with a few other justifiably beloved singles. The hits stopped, but he continued, recording regularly over the following decades, building a stunning catalog of songs.
Meanwhile, in the States, Amy Rigby showed up on the scene during the ’80s as part of Last Roundup. Poised for big things that never quite came, she was then a member of the Shams in the early ’90s before embarking on a solo career commencing with the critically lauded Diary of a Mod Housewife.
The two met and were on bills together in the past decade, which led to further entwinings, and they are now happily married. But on to the show: They opened with Rigby on amplified acoustic guitar and Goulden on bass guitar. Playing the most riveting version of “The Ballad of Easy Rider,” they made it clear that, though there were only two of them, this was truly a rock band. A compelling study in contrasts, the pair make something that is its own powerful entity, different than either one of them on their own. Their voices couldn’t be more different, especially with his sprawling British accent, but that is what makes for such a rich blend.
During the course of the set, Rigby switched to keyboard or electric guitar and he to guitar, as they made their way through a mix of songs from their own albums, a few covers, and some brand new ones (from their forthcoming third album together). If forced to pick out highlights, besides the aforementioned Roger McGuinn number, I’d go with Amy’s “Please Be Nice to Her” and Eric’s new “Duvet Fever.” But it’s about the whole show, the flow, the talking between, the surprise turns, the broken string. These are two people who are both in their full and confident element onstage. No overt grandstanding or wild antics, just the real thing, there on the Valentine’s stage. You know that any two sets of theirs would never be the same, even if they were playing the same songs in both. (And, message to the duo, when you do come back, here’s my two song requests: “The Trouble With Jeanie” and “Someone Must Have Nailed Us Together.” Thank you.)