Tim Krekel and NRBQ

Jim Porter's on June 24

By Allen Howie

Rarely have I seen two such well-matched acts playing a double bill. On a stormy Thursday night, Louisville's own Tim Krekel jump-started the proceedings, manhandling Chuck Berry and Little Richard into the most primal roots rock on tunes like "Dancing at the Sad Cafe." Krekel's experience working with some of the biggest names in the business served him well as he and his three-piece band grabbed the stage and never looked back, tearing through the driving "Hard Bargain," then riding the slippery rhythm and blues (emphasis on the blues) of "Nobody Knows." When someone requested "Greetings from Nashville," a Krekel song the band had never played before, Tim led the way through a spirited version, with the band falling right in behind him after the first verse.

The high point of his set, though, arrived with the lovely "Kentucky Samba," with its instantly memorable chorus and light Latin rhythms, and a magnificent "All Night Radio," the best song Van Morrison never wrote. Krekel and company took it home with the predatory "Take a Ride" and a fierce "Shy Guy," both from his Out of the Corner CD.

Following Krekel, NRBQ had their work cut out for them. They proved equal to the task, blasting through numbers like "Ain't It Alright" and the hard-edged pop of "I Want You." Even more than on their albums, NRBQ live serves up such a dizzying mix of styles, often within the same song, as to defy description. The players (Terry Adams on keyboards, Joey Spampinato on bass, Al Anderson on guitar, Tom Ardolino on drums, and everybody on vocals) often seem to be spinning off in completely different directions, only to have their orbits collide again as everything falls back into place.

A self-deprecating sense of humor is at the center of everything NRBQ plays, and was in ample evidence on tunes like "Whistle While You Work" (yes, the Disney song), "S-P-A-M-P-I-N-A-T-O" (a tribute to guess who?) and a wiggly, wobbly "Little Liza Jane." They can play pretty, too, as they did on songs like "Never Take the Place of You," "If I Don't Have You," "Ridin' in My Car" and the Beatlesque "You Can't Change People."

But these guys put fun first as they continued to serve up tasty fare like the bluesy funk (or was it funky blues?) of "Ain't It Good," a tumultuous "Rocket in My Pocket," the classic "RC Cola and a Moon Pie" and "Wild Weekend." Through two hours and more than two dozen songs, the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet ripped thro gh pop music's cellar and uncovered more treasures than anyone imagined were there. Together with Tim Krekel's opening set, their show was a textbook example of how to give the fans what they paid for and then some.