Heroes are hard to find, so it's little wonder that heroes' sidekicks can fill concert halls on the strength of past deeds. That seemed the case at the Bayou last night as Clarence Clemmons and the Red Bank Rockers shot off a few rounds of sweet soul and classic R&B.
Clemmons is Costello to Bruce Springsteen's Abbott. With the Boss on the road as much as he is, it's a wonder the Big Man hasn't gone out on his own before. He's doing it in style, with nine solid musicians and a supplementary vocalist. The center is Clemmons' classic rock 'n' roll saxophone, which he plays straight from the heart. Last night's best moment, in fact, was a loving tribute to King Curtis in which Clemmons skillfully expanded the late saxophonist's gruffy lyricism and breathy exultations.
On the whole, the show failed to take flight, even on obvious crowd pleasers such as Wilson Pickett's "634-5789" and "Wait Till the Midnight Hour," Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" or Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music." The vocals were competent but never charismatic, and that's a crime in soul music; J.T. Bowen and Clemmons gave it a shot, but Sam and Dave they're not. Things did end on a sly instrumental version of Springsteen's "Fire." King Curtis would have appreciated that one.