Friday September 4th I was working my day away, as normally I do Monday through Friday. I had it in my head I was staying in and catching up on typing reviews from shows I’d seen. Around 2pm, Ricky Valente gave me a call, I assumed just to check in and talk about the concluding night of his tour in Philly, but Ricky had a surprise for me. Mike Levesque, Ricky’s friend and drummer for more then a half dozen years, had a gig in Somerville that night at Sally O’Brien’s with one of his other many bands, and secured Ricky a closing spot for the evening. If they could make it from Philadelphia to Somerville in time. An impromptu tour finale show, within reasonable driving distance, I was so there. Throughout the rest of my work day I sent a few texts and general social notifications around to gather some company. Ultimately able to persuade my brother Tim to come for the ride, we took off north towards Somerville around 7:30 and made some decent time, we arrived in time to catch a bit of The Callous Stars set, and the entirety of The Montgomerys.
Playing when we arrived, The Callous Stars were providing an interesting blend of indie, Brit, pop-rock with Bilvox on guitar and vocals, Michael Isbert on lead guitar, Bryan Murphy on bass guitar and Anthony Amedel on drums:
“Lips Like Sugar,” and Echo and the Bunnyman cover was the first of two songs I had the chance to capture. Michael lead in with a few slow melodic riffs before the rest of the band joined. Bilvox’s voice and the accompaniment of the entire band certainly gave the song an oldie rock feel. Playing their original next “I Feel So Alive,” I was reminded of early The Who recordings. I dug Bryan’s bass line and Anthony’s fills on this number. The dual guitars were a great compliment to the catchy song. It was a pretty good showing from The Callous Stars, I’d be interested in checking them out again to see a bit more of a set, and see how their live show is growing. You can check them out live in Somerville again on November 6th at PA’s Lounge for their next show.
The Montomerys were next to stage, featuring Pete Montgomery on guitar and vocals, Sal Clemente on bass guitar and vocals, Tony Savarino on lead guitar and Mike Levesque behind the kit, and an un-named female harmonizing vocalist, provided a set of power pop also with hints of the British Invasion:
Pete sang his well written original, “The Splendor That Is You,” with conviction. Sal’s Hohner bass made me smile as he played a good basic bass line. Mike provided a steady back beat complimented with his quick fills. “Flat on My Back” was their next number, another good poppy rock song, with had a good slow build generating a head bobbing tune. Tony had some cool string scrapes into good rocking riffs. Pete’s lyrics were helped with a stronger presence from the harmonizing singer on this number. I put away the camera and conversed with some of my friends that had come to the show while The Mongtomerys rocked out a spirited cover of The Who’s “My Wife.” My brother and I instantly looked at each other and broke into air guitar and singing along evoking fond memories of road trips from our youth. Good showing from The Montgomerys, if you are in the Boston area, you can check them out Twice in November. Your first chance is on the 17th at Pine Manor College, which may be a students only gig, but November 21st they’ll be at Church on Kilmarnock Street for an open to the public show, as long as you are over 21.
Ricky Valente and Mike Levesque were the final act for the night, fresh from a two week tour, they were ready to rock the house. The the set consisted mostly of newer material on Ricky’s 7th release, “The Bull and The Butterfly,” an EP due early 2010, a few of his earlier material’s crowd favorites and a couple covers for good measure:
Beginning the night with the soulful “Jezabel,” Ricky started slowly playing rhythmically and singing with heart, biding his time before howling during the bridge. Halfway through the song Mike began to build momentum behind the kit as Ricky started to set the frets afire during a sizzling solo. Following up with another new tune, Ricky played “You and I,” with an even newer introductory verse, which showcased further, his vocal range, before tearing into the furiously familiar riffs of the song. Ricky dropped to his knees utilizing the feedback while laying into the bass pedals as Mike began literally knocking the cymbals off their stands. Rising to his feet Ricky raised the bar with a melodic bluesy rock solo you could feel in your bones before belting out the concluding chorus “You and I are on the rise”. Slowing the pace a bit Ricky reached back in his catalog and pulled forth “Borderline,” the opening track to 2006’s “Loveless Letters.” With its stirring and deliberate introduction, evocative lyrics and blazing guitar work, it stands as one of Ricky’s most epic songs to date. So in the zone were Ricky and Mike, Ricky merely shot Mike a glance to signal the next series of songs, before ripping into a killer version of “Chasing After You,” so energetic a version, I was surprised the stage could contain them. After a quick adjustment to dropped D, Ricky broke into a fantastic cover of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams.” Slowing the pace again and bringing the set back more modern, Ricky and Mike played “Juliet,” the first single from “The Bull and The Butterfly” currently available on the “Local Flavors – Fall 2009” download. Another superbly written song with heartfelt lyrics, soulful vocals and intricate rhythmic guitar work. Ricky announced a Neil Young cover and played a great version of “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” from Young’s 1969 release of the same title. Not one with which I was familiar but this performance certainly made me want to check it out. After some cheers and prompting from the crowd, Ricky and Mike broke into the oldest original of the night, “Consolation,” the title track to Valente’s 2003 release. It had been years since I heard Ricky play this classic of his, again showing his lyrical, vocal and guitar prowess, he kicked out his final jam of the evening to an appreciative crowd. Always a fantastic show, Ricky and Mike seemed even more on point than usual after an extensive tour and constant playing. I’m certainly looking forward to the CD release party, whenever it may be.