Morells – Pontiac Grille (Philadelphia, PA)
When the Morells took the stage shortly before midnight, the crowd could have fit into about three Pontiacs. Wrapping up a short East Coast tour, the band could have gone through the motions. Instead, the Springfield, Missouri, quartet delivered an entertaining and spirited set for the chosen few who ventured out on a Monday night.
The Morells were not immediately running on all cylinders. Guitarist D. Clinton Thompson broke a string on the opening instrumental (“Pink Dominoes”) and left to change the string. “We don’t have enough tour support to have a spare guitar,” cracked bassist/vocalist Lou Whitney.
The band quickly recovered and hit its stride, performing selections from its two CDs — Shake And Push and its new self-titled disc — plus a few choice covers (“Ups And Downs” by Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Nadine” by Chuck Berry). The Morells, and in other incarnations as the Symptoms and the Skeletons, are musical salvage experts.
Blending rock, country, blues and pop, the Morells mix musicianship with a sense of humor and fun. They are a bar band in the best sense of the term. It was only natural, then, for them to deliver a couple of drinking songs — “Hair of the Dog” and “Last Nite I Spent My Money”, both from the new CD — with Thompson contributing kazoo solos to keep the mood light.
For this leg of the tour, Dudley Brown, who plays with Thompson in the Park Central Squares, ably filled in on keyboards for Joe Terry. Drummer Ron “Wrongo” Gremp took a turn in the vocal spotlight on Jonathan Richman’s “Government Center” and even got a singalong started among the small crowd.
Whitney contributed his tongue-in-cheek country tune, “Don’t Let Your Baby Buy A Car”, prefacing the song by noting he was 58 and a grandfather. At his age, he quipped, “Women don’t look at you as dangerous, they look at you as invisible.”
The crowd had dwindled to seven people by the time the Morells delivered a rousing version of “Big Guitar” for their final song of the night. With G. Love & Special Sauce in the midst of four sold-out shows at the TLA just up the block, Whitney summed up the situation as the band packed up its equipment: “It’s a young man’s business.”