NRBQ

By Theresa Johnson

Here comes Terry, here comes Tom, here comes Joey, here comes Al! Yes, it's none other than NRBQ, that eclectic foursome with their own quirky brand of rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues, making a Louisville appearance at Phoenix Hill Tavern on Friday, April 12.

A band founded in Louisville (Shively, to be exact) by Terry Adams and Steve Ferguson in 1966, NRBQ has been entertaining audiences with their simple, basic rock (reminiscent of the late Fifties) for over two decades. Although band members have changed over the years, NRBQ's musical gospel of hard-driving rock and R&B – often couched in musical satire – never wavers.

Today's members include Big Al Anderson on lead and rhythm guitar, Joey Spampinato on bass and vocals, Tom Ardolino on drums and percussion, and, of course, the irrepressible Terry Adams on keyboards and vocals.

Music selections for the evening included a skillful mix of old classics, new material and cover songs.

NRBQ opened with the title track from its latest album, Wild Weekend. On the old Kink's classic, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," Adams played musical chairs with drummer Ardolino. Terry played drums (and quite commendably) while Tommy sang about the band's "fashion" consciousness. "Rocket in My Pocket" sounded as fresh and bouncy as ever.

No subject is too mundane for this group, not even Girl Scout cookies.

"I love Girl Scout cookies," Adams growled to his audience. His declaration was enthusiastically followed by a wacky, surreal musical commercial touting the virtues of the aforementioned cookie. In the same sardonic vein, Adams launched into a seemingly sincere – if somewhat dissonant – rendition of "Whistle While You Work" from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

NRBQ is definitely drenched to the bone with musical sarcasm. A good example is their "country" chestnut, "Sure to Fall." It's hard to believe, but NRBQ released this parody of country music as the flip side of a single, "Down in My Heart," released in the late Sixties.

After an hour of soul-wrenching showmanship, Terry Adams threw on his overcoat – complete with neon lime vertical stripes – and the band headed for the side doors beside the stage. It looked like the evening of mania was over, but hundreds of ardent NRBQ fans stomped their feet and clapped their hands, coaxing Terry and the boys back for an encore.

Not a band to disappoint their fans, NRBQ returned and performed three encores: "Me and the Boys," featuring their trademark harmonies; "Lucille," the Little Richard classic; and Big Al Anderson's "Riding in My Car," a regional Top 40 hit in the Seventies.

NRBQ has the unofficial title of the "hardest rockin' band" in the country. With Adams' brutal playing style (at times banging the keyboard with his head!) and the cohesive tightness of the rhythm section (consisting of Spampinato and Ardolino), it is a title not lightly given, yet richly deserved.

When the show was definitely over and the stage dark, I felt slightly let down that the NRBQ members were once again in their bus and heading for another gig, leaving the magic of their madcap antics behind in a trail of fuel exhaust. Ah, well! Another year of watching Louisville Music News' music calendar and fervently waiting for the letters N, R, B, Q to pop up again!