Hot Stove delivers another memorable show

A review of Hot Stove, Cool Music at the House of Blues on January 9, 2010

, Staff Writer

For ten years, the annual “Hot Stove, Cool Music” benefit concert has delivered a memorable evening for both baseball and music fans, and, since it’s Boston’s, that crowd is generally one and the same. It’s been said that athletes want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be athletes. Hot Stove gives both sides a night to meet in the middle and raise money for a great cause.

On Saturday Hot Stove celebrated their tenth anniversary by moving from the usual intimate confines of the Paradise Rock Club to the more expansive and swanky House of Blues. Organizers also enlisted a pair of new headliners for the new room: Boston’s State Radio and power-pop supergroup Tinted Windows. Both were attempts to shake things up in year ten, giving Hot Stove a re-birth of sorts while also expanding the annual show to a new (and younger) audience. For the most part it worked well; the room was packed, the music sounded great, and they raised over $300,000. The highlights, however, still came from the usual suspects.

After opening sets from former Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo and rising stars The Low Anthem, Hot Stove veteran Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo fame took to the stage. Her quick set was a crowd pleaser highlighted by a rousing collaborative effort with Ken Casey and Jeff DaRosa of the Dropkick Murphys on their song “The Dirty Glass”. It was the first time that they had played the song together since recording it for the Hot Stove benefit album and, despite never making it through the whole way during soundcheck, they nailed it for one of night’s best moments.

Local favorites Buffalo Tom were once again dubbed “Buffalo Theo” thanks to the inclusion of guitarist and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. They rocked through “Taillights Fade” and “Treehouse” before remaining on stage to join Peter Gammons and his Hot Stove All-Stars, which included The Figgs guitarist Mike Gent, J. Geils Band keyboardist Seth Justman, The Gravel Pit bassist Ed Valauskas and other local notables. Gammons set included covers of John Hiatt’s “Perfectly Good Guitar” and the Blues Project’s “Wake Me, Shake Me” which were carried by his talented bandmates and buoyed by the joy visible on Gammons’ face.

The best – and most surprising – highlight of the night came courtesy of emcee Mike O’Malley. The comedian, who recently guest starred on Fox TV’s Glee, has been hosting the benefit and leading auctions between sets for years but has never performed. On Saturday he channeled his inner Peter Wolf to deliver a spot-on cover of the J. Geil’s Band’s “Musta Got Lost” with the All-Stars.  To the shock and delight of he crowd, he sounded nearly perfect on the classic. As the last chorus came to an end, O’Malley walked off the stage with a rock-star swagger giving high-fives to anyone on the side of the stage.

Gammons’ set was followed by Tinted Windows, a band that seemed a little out of place for the Boston benefit. The new power-pop outfit is comprised of guitarist James Iha, previously of The Smashing Pumpkins, singer Taylor Hanson of Hanson, bassist Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, and drummer Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Hanson described the group as a “new band with a long history” and, as odd as the lineup sounds on paper, it’s even more odd to see in person. That said, their set was quick and painless, though unremarkable straightfoward power-pop filled with hooks. Hanson’s vocals hit the spot and a few tunes like “Kind Of Girl” and “Nothing To Me” stood out as highlights.

Headlining the show was Boston’s own State Radio, who brought their high energy politically-charged tunes to night. The trio opened their set with “Knights of Bostonia” off their latest album, Let it Go. The band, who made it known how special it was to play the show given the fact that they live within a mile of Fenway Park, rocked a set that hit all the right notes despite its disappointingly short length. It was a well balanced mix of their more rocking songs like “Camilo” and jam/reggae tunes like “Right Me Up”. State Radio closed with a thrilling rendition of “Gang Of Thieves”.

Somewhere the message to leave all the amps that covered the stage setup for the whole night got lost and thus the usual concluding jam session featuring all the Hot Stove performed was restricted to Epstein, who channeled his inner Peter Townshend, joining State Radio for a cover of “Rockin’ In The Free World” with Arroyo on lead vocals. Red Sox all-star Kevin Youkilis, O’Malley and handful of the performers joined in by providing backing vocals with a mic on the side of the stage and providing some good ole tambourine playing as well.

It was another great night for the same great cause, and BMS is happy to wish Hot Stove a happy 10th Anniversary.

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