Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Biff Rose plays the piano, but pianist doesn't come close to describing the relationship he has to the instrument. It's more like a nervous habit, something to keep his hands busy while his stream-of-consciousness humor rattles out of his mouth staccato, molto allegro.
How much of his act - about 45 minutes - is ad lib is hard to tell. Considering the clever/crazy asymmetry of the lines and rhymes, it could be nearly all. Even the songs that start out with some serious images are disguised as jokes and eventually peter out into a series of puns and double entendres.
The simplest metaphor for his humor is the three-piece white suit. Very Steve Martin. Rose even looks a little like Martin, and the comparison is the closet available. So, if you're a wild and crazy guy . . .
Rose, who appeared Tuesday night and last night at the Cellar Door, was preceded by the John Wells Congregation. The three, who perform primarily on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and electric bass - a sometimes difficult blend which works for them nicely - really shine on vocals. Their harmonies fall generally into the America-Firefall range (the strong end rather than the milquetoast fringe.) Their original writing could use a little honing, but their renditions of Dan Fogelberg's wistful/defiant "Anyway I Love You" and an Irish folktune sung partly a cappella were particularly fine.