Aug. 24, 2013
In fact, when Amigo took the Evening Muse stage Saturday night, the trio's energy was almost too much. Slade Baird's scorching guitar, Adam Phillips' Keith-Moon-crazed-yet-in-the-pocket drums and Craig Lentz's nimble bass runs almost buried Baird's lead vocals. Yet by the close of the trio's second number, the collision of of crisp Tom Petty chords and Replacements' stagger that is "Best Laid Plans," the sound had balanced out, and Baird's expressive voice rang rich and clear.
Fittingly, Baird was dressed in bright red, because he was on fire. The doo-wop vocals and sock hop slip-slide of "This Old Girl" were lifted to a higher plane by Baird's fretwork. Kicking in where the sax break would dwell on the song's 1950s models, Baird's distorto guitar bristled with the grimy energy of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Introduced as "a song about fucking," "Easy Rider" boasted a reckless Tex Mex rush that recalled the glory days of Doug Sahm and his Texas Tornadoes. Baird's guitar break barely kept to the rails as he spit out licks like Alvin Lee burning through "Going Home."
According to the band, most of the songs in its setlist have been crafted over a long haul, with the germ of some tunes going back to Baird's college days. This perfection has not honed the edges off the trio's oeuvre. Indeed, Amigo's song craft walks an exhilarating line between finely tuned pay-off and imminent collapse, and that tension keeps Amigo crackling. As a result, the rockabilly shake, rattle and roll of "I Love You" sizzled with punk rock passion.
"Good Luck" was a roof raising shout-along about the joy of being alive. Even the bitter break-up tune "Every Day That You are Gone" was leavened with witty humor and raucous, rollicking good cheer.
Yet, for all the fun, grit and noise, it was during the band's quieter moments that Amigo excelled. The Southern Gothic "Murder of Crows" opened with haunting a capella harmonies pitched halfway between the Laurel Canyon sweetness of Crosby, Stills & Nash and the country noir of the the Louvin Brothers. The number's spooky sense of stillness was only enhanced by punctuations of searing tremolo guitar. The soaring, almost sacred, group vocals of "Gospel Ship" contrasted nicely with smart-assed lyrics and a vintage '60s beat group rave-up that would have done the Yardbirds proud.
On Saturday night, Amigo walked the line between flashback and forward momentum, merging Gram Parson's humane and relevant country to populist folk and hard rock swagger. Nodding to a treasure trove of rock 'n roll greats, Amigo imbued its influences with freshness, energy and an invigorating punked-up attack. To paraphrase another flashback, a quote from consummate showman and wild-man Jerry Lee Lewis, Amigo were "all killer and no filler."
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