A Thursday Night Rock Show

December 2nd, 2011

J. Roddy Walston and the Business – Mercury Lounge – December 1, 2011

If you go see enough music, occasionally you get lucky. I don’t mean “see a great show” lucky, I mean you get to witness a band at the right time in the right room on the right night with the right crowd and can almost literally feel the slope of the upward career trajectory. Last night—J. Roddy Walston, Mercury Lounge, sold-out crowd all in perfect resonance—was one of those moments. Indeed, it’s shows like these, with Walston and band laying down no-frills rock and roll like they invented FM radio, that rooms like the Merc were built to house.

Walston’s band is called the Business, and watching them play is to realize how perfectly they’ve been named. There’s a multiple entendre at play. And whether it’s “giving them the business” or “now we’re in business” or “none of your [bleeping] business,” the band encompasses them all. Opening with “Don’t Break the Needle,” off last year’s eponymous album, the band wasted no time getting down to business. When Walston, sitting stage center at a piano, reached the chorus of the opening song, the crowd joined in, totally in unison, as if they were a backup choir filling in on cue. Guitar riffs were short and vicious, spicy condiments on Walston’s songs. His voice was a nice now-we’re-in-business blend of classic rock staples: a little Browne, a little Plant, a little Joel. He introduced several tunes as “some rock and roll” in an endearing, redundant way … well, duh!

The set had a lot of forward momentum, slight shifts in tempo and tone along the way, with the crowd totally in tune. Of all the bands to cover, perhaps my last guess would have been the Flaming Lips, but they gave the business to “She Don’t Use Jelly,” fitting it into the set quite nicely. Before the last song, Walston announced there would be no encore and those in the audience moaned briefly before getting their last raging fist pumps in for the evening. Why wouldn’t they consider an encore for the rabid, NYC crowd? I guess that’s none of our business. —A. Stein