Garland Jeffreys "Escape Artist" is one of the years' very best albums. Jeffreys and the Rumour translated it to the Bayou stage with stunning effectiveness last night. The Rumour -- one of rock's most underrated bands while backing Graham Parker -- played a convincing, exciting set by themselves and then transcended that success behind Jeffreys' intimidating singing and inspiring songwriting.
After 14 years of never quite making it, Jeffreys has finally put it all together: the right band, the right sound and the right sonds. The sound was a mix of punk, reggae, folk and old rock blended so no one element ever got predictable. The songs were street smart tales of outcasts who refuse to go away. Jeffreys has always had a big, bellowing voice, but never before has he shaped it so dramatically.
The evening's highlight was "Mystery Kids," a song about the teen-agers of America's bleakest neighborhoods. After quieting the song to an eerie late night encounter with tenement rats, Jeffreys: "I can't take it anymore," and stubbornly rebuilt the song to a cathartic crescendo.
The Rumour played old-fashioned, drum-pounding, guitar-thrashing rock 'n' roll. Brinsley Schwartz and Martin Belmont reasserted themselves as two of new wave's best guitarists. Bassist Andrew Bodnar and drummer Stephen Goulding were tirelessly slaphappy. Though Schwartz and Goulding are decent vocalists, the quartet lacks a special singer. They did turn the Spinners' "Rubber Band Man" into a new wave dance attack and Nick Lowe's "I don't want the Night to End" into a raving '50s rocker.