Incredible Roots Rock Blues Show By The Alvin Brothers
After seeing Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin and The Guilty Ones perform at a festival last summer, I knew I had to see their headlining show at The Sinclair. Dave and Phil recently returned to performing and recording together; the joy they feel while sharing a stage is obvious and the audience could feel it too.
Last year, they released the Grammy-nominated Common Ground, a tribute to legendary bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, and performed many songs from that album.
They opened their two-hour set with several songs from Common Ground. As soon as (and, I think, even before) they took the stage, the crowd erupted with heartfelt applause which did not let up for the entire show. This was one of the most appreciative audiences I have seen at a rock club in a long time; people truly listened to the music which is not always the case at clubs such as The Sinclair.
Dave acted as host, and did not miss an opportunity to tell us how happy he was to be on stage with his OLDER brother. Several years ago, Phil almost died which makes their collaboration even more special. He looks and sounds fantastic, and I hope he is entrancing audiences for many more years.
The set was peppered with songs from the days of The Blasters, including crowd favorite ‘Maria’. At one point late in the show, they started one of their songs with the intro to The Doors’ ‘Break On Through To The Other Side’! That was an unexpected twist and I was amazed at how well it worked. I am sure it is not the first time they’ve done that, but it was certainly the first time I have heard it.
Dave is a fantastic guitarist as well as a vocalist. Phil is a dynamic vocalist who plays acoustic guitar and harmonica (which I enjoy seeing him play while holding the harp in his hands).
Drummer Lisa Pankratz, guitarist Chris Miller, and bassist Brad Fordham comprise The Guilty Ones; they look guilty of nothing except playing great music! They are terrific musicians who work hard on stage to provide the support that Dave and Phil have obviously come to expect from them. I especially love watching Lisa on the drums; she wears pretty dresses which are almost incongruous with her talent on the drum kit.
They closed their set with more Big Bill Broonzy songs; we could have listened to them play for another two hours.
Opening the show (and touring with them) was The Far West, an Americana band from Los Angeles. I will write more about them in another review of a headlining show I saw two nights after this show), but they are awesome and a perfect fit to open for the Alvin brothers.
The Far West’s music draws from many styles, from outlaw country to country to bluegrass to roots rock. The band members are founder Lee Briante on guitar and lead vocals, bassist Robert Black, Aaron Bakker on guitar, Michael Whiteside on keyboards, and Brian Bachman on drums.
The highlight of the tour for them was having Dave Alvin join them for an encore (seriously, how often does an opening act get to do an encore – it just isn’t proper etiquette – and have one of the headliners ask to join them?). How lucky were we to be present for that?
The audience was respectful of the opener, something that rarely happens in my experience. As I have been known to say, why not listen to the opener because you never know when you will be hearing your new favorite band? That was certainly the case this night.
This was an evening of truly stellar music. I hope to see them again in the near future!