Jay N. Miller
There’s excitement in the air with the acknowledged titan of blues and boogie George Thorogood headed to the area to cap off the summer music season with three shows over Labor Day weekend.
But if those concerts feature a guitar dynamo in his fifth decade of providing the kind of insanely high-energy performances that made him a legend, they also include one of the young talents hoping to carry on that tradition.
When Thorogood headlines The South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset on Friday night (and then moves on to Indian Ranch in Webster on Saturday afternoon, and then hits The Cape Cod Melody Tent on Sunday night), his opening act will be Australian singer/guitarist Hamish Anderson.
You might think opening for someone like Thorogood would be a daunting proposition, but setting the table for guitar legends is kind of old hat for Anderson. He’s spending most of this summer opening for either Thorogood or Gary Clark Jr., and he’s worked with both many times before.
Since coming to the United States about a decade ago, Anderson has opened for a wide array of famous names, including even B.B. King’s final tour. Anderson told us his last performance in the Boston area was opening a tour for The Rides, the super-group that included Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
“I opened what was actually quite a big tour of Australia by George Thorogood last year,” Anderson pointed out, when we reached him by phone at a California tour stop. “I know how lucky we are to be part of this amazing tour, and I’ve known George and his band for a long time. They bring us out every night to do the encore with them, and they treat us so nice in every way. Their audiences are also very much into the type of music we do, so it’s been wonderful.”
Anderson, 32, had gone home to visit family when the pandemic struck, so he was stuck there during the lockdowns while his band was in Los Angeles. That threw a monkey wrench into his plans, so these summer tour dates are Anderson’s first U.S. shows since 2019, when he was promoting his sophomore album, “Out of My Head.”
In the meantime, Anderson’s latest three singles (and their videos) are out, and “Morning Light” is a treat, a sort of chugging midtempo, spacey-side-of-the-Beatles tune. “Everything Starts Again” is a philosophical ballad, pondering the yin and yang of life and the need to press onward. One video shows Anderson playing it solo on a rooftop, while another shows a woman working out alone to it, and both evoke images of the lockdowns’ isolation and doubt.
“No one saw it coming when the pandemic hit, so I was just home for the holidays,” Anderson recalled. “I’d had plans to come back right away, but I was stuck in Australia, and Melbourne was very locked down. It was a ‘Twilight Zone’ sort of time, and I did a lot of soul-searching, as so many of us did.
“It’s horrible that it happened, but I think it reminded us all of what we were missing, and so now the music scene is rejuvenated. This year audiences are so excited to be back, and able to hear shows again, that every show I’ve done has been incredibly well received.”
Anderson is far from a Thorogood clone, or someone hoping to emulate guitar aces like Clark, and critics have compared him to rockers like Tom Petty or The Rolling Stones as often as they have to blues rockers. The latest singles would support that impression that his original material is classic rock as much as blues-rock.
“I think ‘Morning Light’ is an example of all those influences I have,” said Anderson. “It’s based in blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and I’ve always had a real affinity for the music of people like Tom Petty, T-Rex, David Bowie and, of course, The Beatles. You put it all in a blender and it comes out, hopefully, as your own original sound.”
With that second album about to drop, Anderson has also just finished his third album, due out in 2024.
“I think my third album really bridges the gap between my blues and rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “Like George Thorogood took the sounds of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and channeled it through the rest of his influences, my music takes all of my influences and turns them into something new.”
Anderson and his band use their opening set to prime the audience for the Thorogood fire to come.
“Opening for George, you always want to keep it uptempo,” he chuckled. “We have one soul ballad, and all the rest is uptempo, and we’ll be doing some new stuff too. But since George’s set is all very uptempo, we try to fit into that kind of energy level every night.”
Concert review: Alvin and Gilmore at The Narrows Center
These two kids are going places! That was the overwhelming impression music fans got Saturday night when the potent roots duo of Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with the Guilty Ones band, turned in a 2-hour, 15-minute barnburner of a show at the sold-out Narrows Center in Fall River.
Alvin, 67, and Gilmore, 79, performed 20 songs in all, from their 2018 album “Downey to Lubbock,” to some new tunes from their forthcoming second album together, and other cuts from their lengthy careers.
Alvin had been battling cancer since 2020, and began playing out again in April. The group’s weekend in Massachusetts − they played City Winery in Boston on Friday, and were headed to Northampton for a Sunday show − concluded a 20-date Eastern swing. The Guilty Ones include guitarist Chris Miller, bassist Brad Fordham and powerhouse drummer Lisa Pankratz.
As Alvin joshed at one point, the style of music the duo plays has been called many things, from punkabilly to contemporary folk, but Americana seems to fit best. Alvin has mainly played in roots-tinged rock bands, from The Blasters with his brother Phil to his own solo bands, while Gilmore has been seen as somewhere between country and folk, with his solo work and his legendary work with all-star quartet The Flatlanders.
The combination of the two American roots music giants makes for some heady blends, but almost all of it carried a bluesy weight and subtle fire. And their witty repartee and song intros made it all seem like a cozy night in your living room with 475 friends.
The night began with their signature “Downey to Lubbock,” a gritty blues-rocker that works off their disparate musical backgrounds and is named for their hometowns. Gilmore took the lead vocal on the Flatlanders easy rolling favorite from the 1970s, “Tonight I Think I’m Going to Go Downtown.” Alvin had the spotlight for his dark tale of a ‘50s singer, “Johnny Ace Is Dead,” where the heavy bass tones reflected the true tragedy of the young man dying while playing Russian roulette.
The duo unveiled a tune Alvin had written with Terry Allen. Gilmore noted beforehand that he knows Allen well, and believes it is the first song he’s done that is not sarcastic. “The Death of the Last Stripper” was in fact a poignant ballad about a forgotten woman, with the pair trading verses starkly.
Gilmore provided another rambling but hilarious intro to “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,” a Flatlanders light-hearted romp that he admitted he didn’t write (Butch Hancock did), even though fans through the years − including poet Allen Ginsberg − have assumed it was his.
Gilmore did write “Borderland,” the pair’s new single. He has a home in Terlingua, Texas, right on the border, and the reality of life there is much different than some slanted news channels portray it. The tune itself was a soaring rocker with twang and added impact from guitarist Chris Miller’s slide work.
Opening act Dead Rock West joined the band with stellar backup vocals for “Get Together,” the old Youngbloods’ hit, which is transformed into a rootsy anthem by Alvin and Gilmore. Alvin’s best-known hit, “The Fourth of July,” got a rousing rendition, with some of the guitarist’s most incendiary-yet-heartbreaking lines.
Gilmore turned the 1972 Flatlanders staple “Dallas” into roadhouse fun. And then the two delivered a new song, reflecting how both of them defy mortality and intend to keep doing so, and “We’re Still Here” was a triumphant mission statement.
The homestretch included a couple of tunes from the 2018 album, with “Surfer Girl” turned into a soothing ballad, and Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” getting Gilmore’s rowdiest vocal. A charge through the old Blasters hit “Marie Marie” featured Alvin on an extended guitar break that included an instrumental side trip to his own “Goodbye Baby So Long,” and expressive Gilmore harmonica accents. A brief “Downey to Lubbock” reprise ended the night in a gritty celebration.
Dead Rock West − Cindy Wasserman and Frank Drennen − did a sublime 45-minute opening set, from their dazzling take on the Everly Brothers’ “Kathy’s Clown,” to the duo’s stunning a cappella “Chained to a Memory.” Gilmore joined them for the quirky “When I Leave, I’ll Be a Long Time Gone,” and later Alvin and his band joined them for a rowdy “Burning House of Love.”
Upcoming concerts on the South Shore and beyond
THURSDAY: James Taylor opens two nights at MGM Music Hall. Club Passim opens the four-night Campfire Fest, with various performers and a near-constant schedule. Club D’Elf visits Soundcheck Studios, with guest star Lyle Brewer. Jazz and pop singer Samantha Farrell at The Lizard Lounge. The Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage, debuts at Big Night Live. The Porch Party Mamas, four standout female songwriters, get down at The Fallout Shelter.
FRIDAY: Blues-rock legend George Thorogood at The South Shore Music Circus. Country singer Jake Owen has sold out his Cape Cod Melody Tent show (tickets remain for his Saturday stop at the Music Circus). Booty Vortex revisits the disco era at Soundcheck Studios. Zach Nugent’s Dead Set jams at The Spire Center. Thai singer Phun Viphuret headlines The Paradise Rock Club. Souljaboy raps at Big Night Live. Kevin James Thornton brings comedy to City Winery. The swamp-soul of Shinyribs at Brighton Music Hall.
SATURDAY: South Shore favorites Fat City return to The C-Note. Li’l Baby gets down at TD Garden. Korean pop quartet Aespa at MGM Music Hall. Superb guitarist Tim Gearan leads A Band of Killers into Soundcheck Studios. Folk-rocker Melissa Ferrick at City Winery. Folk singer Suede at The Spire Center. Heritage brings reggae to The Paradise Rock Club. 22-year-old pop singer and Tik Tok sensation JVKE headlines The House of Blues.
SUNDAY & BEYOND: Get an early start Sunday for the Manomet Family Day, free at the John Alden Sportsmans Club, with music from noon to 6 p.m., featuring Sam Gentile and Basic Black, and the Jody Moore Band. Sunday night, One Night of Queen is at The Music Circus; George Thorogood moves on to The Cape Cod Melody Tent; City Winery has Total mass Reclaim, a Yes tribute; Arctic Monkeys rock the TD Garden; power pop with Smoking Popes at Brighton Music Hall; and New Orleans funk-rock with Dumpstaphunk at Soundcheck Studios. Tuesday, look for Maria Muldaur at Club Passim; Double Vision, a Foreigner tribute, plays City Winery. Wednesday, Duran Duran takes over the TD Garden. Sept. 7, guitarslinger Joe Louis Walker at City Winery. Sept. 8 is packed as comic Steve Sweeney headlines The Spire Center; the Celtic tones of The High Kings envelop Memorial Hall in Plymouth; folk icon Iris Dement comes to The Narrows Center; and Kenny Garrett does two nights as Scullers Jazz Club reopens for the fall. Sept. 16, Memorial Hall in Plymouth welcomes folk legend Judy Collins.