The Mooney Suzuki bring more rock, less talk

A Review of The Mooney Suzuki at T.T. the Bear

, Staff

What is missing in music today? Why aren’t people filling arenas anymore? A true rock show should be about energy, power, and most importantly, engaging the audience with every note, every beat, and every chord. The revitalized New York foursome, The Mooney Suzuki, re-awakened the rock ‘n’ roll work ethic of yore at TT the Bear’s Thursday night with plenty of good songs, intensity on-stage and, above all else, a real passion for rock music.

Sammy James Jr., lead singer and rhythm guitarist, admitted after the Boston show, “Yeah, it’s like we’re going through all the required stages of a rock band. When we were young kids, we played hard R&B and music with a lot of energy. But then like the Kinks or Rolling Stones or many other rock stars, you develop…and then you have all your chapters.

& “At first there’s really rough and aggressive R&B, then more songwriting folky stuff, and then they go psychedelic and so on.” said James. “We’re just following along the natural progression.”

It was therefore no surprise that people of all ages were out in force for the show. Hipsters stood shoulder-to-shoulder with gray beards and biker mamas; high school kids in hoodies swayed and pumped their fists in time with the young professional set. It seemed appropriate that The Mooney Suzuki should emerge from this audience (after two excellent 30-minute sets by local bands Township and The Konks) and take the stage with little fanfare. They got right down business, and their no-nonsense entrance set the tone for the evening.

A brief, guitar-heavy instrumental launched an unrelenting 19-song set that lasted just over 90 minutes. There was very little stage banter, save for briefly lamenting the state of their forthcoming album, Have Mercy (which has been delayed due to the dissolution of their label, V2). Instead, there was plenty of back-to-back soloing to be had; many Townshend-esque leaps and scissor-kicks; and plenty of hands a-clapping.

The band mixed in songs from all stages of their career. They started with two from their acclaimed Electric Sweat album: the title track and “Young Man’s Mind” before hurling headlong into “New York Girls”, a garage-rock gem from the underrated Alive and Amplified. They continued on in the mod/garage vein with three from their first album, People Get Ready. “Singin’ a Song About Today” seemed to sum up the evening with its chant, “…not tomorrow – TODAY!” By the time they got to “Make My Way”, the audience was cheering and then jumping for “Half of My Heart.”

The set was peppered with brief instrumentals, but the one that followed “Half of My Heart” heightened the crowd’s enthusiasm with Graham Tyler’s frenetic guitar solo. Before anyone could take a breath, the guys barreled into the first unreleased track of the evening, “99 Percent”, a mid-tempo workingman’s lament. “My Dear Persephone” was next, followed by the up-tempo “Oh Sweet Susanna”, and then another unreleased song, “First Comes Love”, a fun lil’ rocker about the awkward teenage years. A balls-out version of the rock-n-soul floor-stomper “Alive and Amplified” reminded many why the tune deserved more recognition than just “that song from the Suzuki commercial.”

A tired but happy Thursday-night audience mustered up enough cheering to bring the guys out for a two-song encore of more unreleased music from Have Mercy. “Good Ol’ Alcohol” was a country-tinged salute to the most popular mind-altering substance. In a stroke of pure rock theater, they ended with the Joe-Walsh-channeling-Chuck-Berry rocker, “You Never Really Wanted to Rock ‘n’ Roll”, during which Sammy ventured out into the crowd with his guitar.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was an evening of rock’n’roll with The Mooney Suzuki. Could someone fill an arena with that, please?

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