Singing earnest, solid rock songs with infectious hooks, The BoDeans have always presented an urgent, heartfelt hopefulness. Founded by Waukesha, Wisconsin, buddies Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas in the 1980s, they laid out a template for a winning brand of Americana heartland rock on their debut, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams. That album could have been the band’s mission statement as well: 30 years later, The BoDeans are still writing guitar-driven, three-chord rock melodies that continue to express longing and desire, and possibility.
Singing of home and the promise of love and angels, BoDeans songs have always struck me as a bit Springsteen-esque in energy, albeit without such hard-bitten characters. What they may lack in edge, however, they make up for in motivation and inspiration. “If I can hold you tonight,” Neumann and Llanas sang on “Still the Night,” “I might never, I might never let go.”
And, having caught and held the ear of a certain generation of listeners, the band has kept that promise to its fans. Despite falling on and off the radar of the charts, The BoDeans never stopped making music, recording 12 studio albums, carrying on, even after the departure of co founder Llanas in 2011.
And thus a relaxed and confident six-piece version of The BoDeans arrived at The Freight & Salvage Friday night to play for a dedicated house full of fans. Playing electric guitar and flanked by a muscular group of musicians, Neumann led the band through a set that cherry-picked from the BoDeans’ discography. He lined up songs from their 1986 debut alongside those of their upcoming April 21, 2015 release, aptly titled “Can’t Stop,” without showing any seams. Propelled by pop/rock drummer extraordinaire Kenny Aronoff on the kit, the band — including Eric Holden on bass and Stefano Intelisano on keys and accordion — simmered from start to finish, breaking out into extended jams that showcased their considerable musicality. Aronoff, who has played and recorded with The BoDeans throughout their career, is a rockstar in his own right. Every time Neumann crouched down to cede the lead to Aronoff, the Freight’s roof lifted that much more.
Most of the crowd appeared to have been with the band from the beginning, singing along on hits such as “Fadeaway” and “Still the Night” and dancing in the aisles by the time the band closed with “Good Things.”
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you and I