LIVE: NRBQ @ The Hangar on the Hudson, 06/04/2022

No extras, no frills, all fun – NRBQ at Troy’s Hangar on the Hudson Saturday was lean, lively and lovely – a perfect dessert to a delicious day.

Recent road reports portray the veteran rock quartet as hot and happy, sometimes with horns or guests. 

Saxophonist-singer Klem Klimek and trombonist Carl Q (founder-keyboardist-leader Terry Adams claims not to know his last name) have spiced the diverse Q’ sound while former bassist-singer Pete Donnelly guested on some nearby shows. (Donnelly left to reinvigorate the sometimes-dormant Figgs, playing the Hangar June 24.) Without horns or guests, or the confining brevity of an opening slot – their role at the Palace opening for Bonnie Raitt just last month – how fun to have them in a cozy space at full fun force over two hours.

Photo by Michael Hochanadel

They needed no help on Saturday in rockabilly romps, fervent love croons, revived antiques from the age of swing, moody blues, bouncy bebop, goofball improvisations. If they’d done nothing but human-jukebox shrewd sometimes skewed cherry-picked borrowings from every era and style of American music, the show would have charmed and rocked and amazed anyway. But re-inventing others’ classics also helped to emphasize how sturdy, sweet and super-charged their own tunes are, old or new.

They started with old and borrowed: “This Old House,” in a rollicking roll, a jaunty blast-off. Then some newer tunes, and their own: guitarist Scott Ligon’s loving “Here I Am,” yearning but upbeat; then newer still. “Where’s My Pebble?” – peppy nonsense – and “Five More Miles” sprang from the new “Dragnet” album; the latter a countdown chant that gathered centrifugal riff force in its travels.

“Things to You” – their sweetest-ever love song – slowed the pace and deepened the feel before the vintage (borrowed and only slightly re-imagined) “Blues, Stay Away From Me” took the tempo down even further, into a smoky speakeasy vibe.

Photo by Michael Hochanadel

Then, back upbeat with their own sunny “Boy’s Life” and “Keep This Love Goin’” before capping this lively run with the Beach Boys’ celestial “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” bassist Casey McDonough in fine, fine voice.

Then, they wandered back even further in Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” straight out of 1939 but charming in the here and now.

They did all this completely off the cuff. There was no setlist in sight as Adams called the show song by song or simply started some ruckus at the keyboard and everybody climbed aboard the train. The band’s great secret and inimitable power is to put a ticket in everybody’s pocket, or heart, or nostalgia. Whatever you bring to an NRBQ show, they know how to celebrate it.

Fans of sheer oddity guffawed at Adams improvising a whack mash-up of country clatter “Dang Me” with the buttoned-down folk of “Tom Dooley.” We could see band members’ quizzical “what’s this?” glances before they joined in.

They swapped instruments, Ligon jumping into John Perrin’s drum kit as Perrin took over Ligon’s guitar for the Neanderthals’ “Shaggy Dog.” They false-faded “Encyclopedia” before roaring it back up. And before Adams dove deep into Thelonious Monk’s bebop romp “Scrapple from the Apple,” an explosion of powerful piano, he challenged Ligon to solo. Ligon did, to typically impressive effect. Asked afterward for the title, McDonough said he’d never heard Ligon play that melodic exploration before – and those guys play together all the time, not only in NRBQ but the Chicago-based Flat Five.

Photo by Michael Hochanadel

In other words, NRBQ made up a whole dizzy, dazzling, delicious show from fresh ingredients – simmered over many shows into a tasty stew of hot licks, humor, unabashed romanticism, pathos and punch.

Fans of vintage favorites found lots to like in the late run of “I Want You Bad,” “Magnet” and the mission statement “I Want You to Feel Good Too.” Tossed in there too, was the brand new “The Moon and Other Things” from “Dragnet.”

Then, somewhere in his playful encore negotiation, Adams promised “one and a half songs” – launching an exaggeratedly verbose bandstand discussion of the sort Adams condemned other bands for using to reduce music time. That joke finished, they reached back to 1935 for Tommy Dorsey’s “The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round,” than their own happy highway hymn “Ridin’ in My Car” (1978).

Photo by Michael Hochanadel

As usual, they proved, to general delight, that a good song stays good and that they can play any good song, any night.

The Hangar felt like a club anybody could join, filled with fans who likely hadn’t gathered together since NRBQ last hit town but likely will again, next time.

SONG LIST

  • This Old House
  • Here I Am
  • Where’s My Pebble?
  • Five More Miles 
  • Things to You 
  • Blues Stay Away From Me
  • Boy’s Life 
  • Keep This Love Goin’
  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Moonlight Serenade
  • Can’t Wait to Kiss You 
  • Dang Me/Tom Dooley
  • Hobbies
  • It’ll Be All Right
  • Encyclopedia
  • We’re Walking
  • Shaggy Dog 
  • Sit In My Lap
  • Pouring Out a Bottle of Wine
  • Howard Johnson’s Got His Hojo Workin’
  • It’s Not Too Late
  • Improvised Scott Ligon guitar solo 
  • Scrapple from the Apple 
  • I Want You Bad 
  • The Moon and Other Things
  • Magnet
  • I Want You to Feel Good Too 

ENCORE

  • The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round
  • Ridin’ in My Car

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