A few years ago Duke Robillard left Roomful of Blues, and the band hasn't been the same since. Robillard, a large man fond of wearing Swing Era-style apparel, served the band not only as a fine instrumentalist but as the focal point onstage as well.
Without him, the band has lost much of its charm and appeal. The set it performed last night at Desperado's, though entertaining, never once measured up to the robust sound of earlier recordings.
Robillard's guitar isn't missed as much as his vocal power and stage presence. In fact, guitarist Ronnie Horvath worked quite well with the band. On the opening jump band shuffle, his terse, biting riffs were in sharp contrast to the cavernous tone Doug Jones extracted from his baritone sax.
Unfortunately, the tunes sung by Greg Piccolo weren't as successful. Piccolo is neither as expressive nor as expansive a vocalist as Robillard, and virtually everything he sang lacked the necessary parts. He was much more effective playing alto sax with the band's superb horn section, performing the lively arrangements of R&B classics written for the band by pianist Al Copley.
Roomful of Blues returns again tonight.