Dave and Phil Alvin were so off-the-charts fantastic at GRF last summer, and when we saw they were playing Sinclair in Cambridge, we grabbed tickets immediately. Made it to busy Harvard Square on the first full day of Spring and were able to squeeze into the parking lot on Church Street, then get in line at the club. We looked around when we got inside but finally figured what the heck, we were going to stand in front of the stage, right between the brothers.
The Far West opened and played a rocking, tight set that warmed up our eardrums, including a Hank Williams song. Dave came out to join them for the last number, Townes' White Freightliner, which they killed!
Then one more beer and the place was suddenly packed, squishing us a bit up against the stage. Dave and Phil came out with Dave's ace band of Lisa Pancratz, Brad Fordham, and Chris Miller, and they proceeded to tear the place up. The band was on like you wouldn't believe, Phil was doing his jaw-dropping vocals, and Dave was as supreme as ever on the blues-rock guitar.
We were so close to Dave (basically 2 feet when he was at his mike), that we could see details of his guitar style. He had a thumbpick that he plucked with his forefinger, and used two other fingers to pick the higher notes. He had three tight rings on his right hand that looked functional (as well as stylistic), helping him keep his fingers stiff. The nails on his left hand were all polished and cut short, helping with his quick precision on the fretboard.
Phil played acoustic guitar on most numbers, but pulled the harps out of jacket and jeans pockets and wailed away, trying to make as much noise as his younger brother. At some points when he was really blowing you could see the glands on his lean neck puffing up bigger and bigger.
And the band was having such a great night, this was incredible stuff. Lisa for one was having a fantastic night, and actually smiled and bowed to the crowd, as opposed to the stiff manner she had shown when we'd seen her before. I think they really appreciated to reception they got from the full room of people. Kate came up front for a few numbers and we all heckled Dave ... he loved it.
We picked up a setlist from the stage after the show, but they digressed a bit here and there. I think this one is accurate:
All By Myself
I Feel So Good
Key To The Highway
How You Want It Done?
Southern Flood Blues
Out of Control
The Stuff They Call Money
Truckin' Little Woman
What's Up With Your Brother?
Please, Please, Please
One Bad Stud
Johnny Ace Is Dead
Break On Through To The Other Side
So Long Baby Goodbye
I was glad to hear so many old Blasters songs, in particular Border Radio, and One Bad Stud from the Streets of Fire soundtrack (actually a Leiber-Stoller song). Phil just killed the James Brown song Please Please Please ... possibly the highlight of the night. They of course rocked out on Dry River and gave Lisa a break for an excellent drum solo.
We were pleased with the long encore. I called Marie Marie, which was not tough to do :) ... a classic case of Dave writing a song for his older brother's excellent vocal instrument. Break On Through was actually just a band-introduction interlude, interspersed with a few Doors lyrics. Then they rocked out one more time and Dave and Phil posed for the crowd and then left while the band went on and on, finally finishing with a flourish. They're off to the Iron Horse tonight and then to Australia and New Zealand, which I hope is ready for them!