Given that they are from New York City, that they are young and white and they rock as hard as some punks, it would be easy to write the Nitecaps off as an ersatz soul band. After all, lead singer Jahn Xavier has none of the expressiveness of a great soul man, nor does the six-piece band have the control of a great soul band. But the Nitecaps show at the 9:30 club Saturday night proved that they had a great gut-level feel for soul dynamics and enough energy to turn an initially passive audience into a sweaty, contorting mob.
Especially impressive was their own "Go to the Line," a song that synthesized the furious emotional charge of a Four Tops classic with the strangled throat singing of Mitch Ryder. The band also turned in a clever reggae interpretation of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and closed with an extended, show-stopping version of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love."
The opening act, Chris Moffa and the Competition, turned in an extremely physical set of hard pop that established the evening's theme of high energy. This New Jersey trio's fusion of strong melodies and explosive rock dynamics was strongly reminiscent of England's Jam. The band's music also had the clamorous political urgency of the Clash, and when it tore into a galvanic rendition of John Fogerty's anti-elitist "Fortunate Son," it brought the music and the politics back to the USA.