Saturday Saints: J-Roddy Walston and the Business and Tommy Tucker and the Supernaturals at the Ottobar, July 31
J-Roddy Walston and the Business have been packing big, enthusiastic crowds into the Ottobar for years, so in a sense, this was just another Saturday night for the Tennessee native and his backing band. In another sense, however, it represented a big moment for Walston: a release party in his adopted hometown for the band’s first national release, the self-titled album released on Vagrant Records earlier in the week.
Like the album, Saturday’s show kicked off with “Don’t Break the Needle,” Walston pounding away at an upright piano, whooping and bouncing on his bench with a manic energy that piano men have been channeling since the 1950s. A few songs later, he acknowledged that influence with a Little Richard cover, and then went right back to his own originals, which maintain a retro flavor with a certain convincingly rustic, lived-in charm that makes Walston more than a boring traditionalist. Occasionally, Walston switched to guitar, and the band was just as rousing on more modern rock-sounding anthems such as “I Don’t Wanna Hear It.”
The Business’s main set ended with “I Used to Did,” a favorite from the 2007 debut full-length Hail Mega Boys that was re-recorded for the new album. Returning to the stage, Walston started into the band’s only lighter-waving power ballad, “Go Malachi,” but struggled to remember a few lyrics and got help from the audience. After the song picked up steam for a big finish, Walston announced the song the band would close with by stating his theory that nobody really knows the words to Van Halen’s “Panama.” With that, he invited anyone who thought they did to join the band and help out, and soon almost a dozen fans were onstage jockeying for room in front of a microphone and belting out the classic.
Walston had appropriately like-minded openers for the show, a similarly old-fashioned band called Tommy Tucker and the Supernaturals. The 9-piece soul revue’s debt to the past was a little more obvious, and delivered with a little more camp and role-playing than the Business’ relatively no-frills rock shows. But Tucker was a charming frontman and was willing to deflate the pageantry of the gimmicks and costumes by referring to them openly as gimmicks and costumes. And by the end of the set, when the band swelled to 11 members as a couple of percussionists, including Wye Oak’s Andy Stack, joined it onstage, it was impossible to resist the Supernaturals’ sense of good old-fashioned fun.