Corky Laing & The Memory Thieves: New York, NY, September 14, 2011
BB King's Bar & Grill
New York, New York
September 14, 2011
"Music doesn't have a memory. You can do anything to it." These were the words of drummer Corky Laing, as he addressed an enthusiastic B.B. King's crowd in New York City on Wednesday, September 14, 2011. Quite a bold statementand quite true. Though Laing attributed the statement to his friend Levon Helm, he was using it to illustrate a pointthe fact that he and his new band, The Memory Thieves, have chosen to rearrange some classic, and topical songs ("Eve of Destruction," "Ring of Fire" and "Sinner Man"), mix in some well-known Mountain and West, Bruce & Laing songs ("Nantucket Sleighride," "Mississippi Queen," "The Doctor," and many more), as well as a number of their original songs into their live performances.
The evening began with an acoustic performance by Bobby DiBlasio, whose straightforward guitar style, soulful voice, introspective lyrics (about love, relationships and life) and playful stage banter immediately energized the crowd.
Next up was Six Foot Sissy, a slightly off-beat party band whose style is reminiscent of both The B52s and Cake. Like both of those bands, Six Foot Sissy's sound mixed and matched a number of genres: funk, rock, pop, a touch of jazz, late '70s/early '80s new wave, mid-'90s alternative, hip-hop, indie rockeven a bit of country. Using props like a curly wig and while lab coat, lead singer Dan Dolce immediately grabbed the crowd's attention. Upon first look it would seem that this band was style over substance, but this was definitely not the case. Mixing staccato rhythms, thumping new wave beats, irony-drenched spoken word lyrics, call-and-response choruses and an innovative electric violin/bass/drum rhythm section, the band proceeded to deliver a set worthy of any headliner.
After a short intermission, the headliners took the stage. Corky Laing & The Memory Thieves is composed of former Southold, NY Town Supervisor Josh Horton on vocals and guitar, Matthew Read, also on guitar and vocal), guitarist Denny Colt, bassist/vocalist Bonnie Parker and well-known drummer, producer and songwriter Laing.
The group's performance was absolutely infectiousat once charming, rocking, riveting and absolutely incandescent. The show opened with the Horton-sung boogie rock tune "5,000 Miles' (which features the lyric "Cinderella's no Rockefeller, spending the money of love"). "House of Thieves" and "Promised Land" followed, two songs that were heavy, melodic and very contemporary in their arrangements, lyrical content and presentation. Mixing together a re-imagined, rockier and sped-up version of Barry McGuire's 45 year-old protest-song, "Eve Of Destruction," as sung by Parker, with "Nantucket Sleighride" (Laing's homage to his friend, band mate and mentor, the late Felix Pappalardi), and "Roadkill," another Memory Thieves original, the band had the audience whipped into a frenzy.
Led by Laing who acted as both bandleader and master of ceremonies, Horton explained that each of the well-chosen covers, originals and songs from band members past had "a significant meaning to (at least) one of The Memory Thieves." The awestruck audience whistled and cheered with delight as "For Yasgur's Farm," Laing's solo composition "Jupiter" and the traditional "Sinner Man" all found their way into the set.
Revving the engines and putting the pedal to the metal, the band roared into the home stretch with Bonnie Parker's rave-up "Black and Blue," and note-perfect renditions of "The Doctor," "Mississippi Queen"featuring the signature riff that continues to resonate and sound as fresh as it was when Mountain first released itand "Silver Paper."
The night ended with The Memory Thieves' take on Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," beginning as a mournful hymn but soon exploding into a ferocious, hard-rocking cow-punk anthem. The stage was metaphorically set on fire, for a fitting end to an amazing memorable performance.
All Photos: Christine Connallon