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Roy Loney/Cyril Jordan — Flamin’ Groovies Burn Up Hoboken, Brooklyn

Posted by on Jul 30, 2009 in Music | 0 comments

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Cyril Jordan (left) and Roy Loney (right) throwing off some heat at Maxwell’s. A-Bones pounder Miriam Linna flails away in the background.

I was so bummed that I couldn’t make the Ponderosa Stomp back in April in New Orleans for a number of reasons but most of all for missing the reunion of Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney, who hadn’t shared a stage since 1971 when Loney left the Flamin’ Groovies and Jordan carried on.  (For quite a number of years, actually — the last studio album was 1993’s Rock Juice, which I like a lot, but I’m incredibly biased.)  So when the two New York-area shows were announced, I shook some action and got my credit card out like so fast.

Who else but the ragged and righteous A-Bones could back these two?  I don’t know how the Ponderosa shows were, but you have to give it up to them for opening both Maxwell’s and Southpaw shows and then backing Cyril and Roy.  And give it up big time for Cyril and Roy for reuniting!  In the time they were apart, the Ramones got together, had their entire careers and then passed away.

The A-Bones slug it out. Left to right, Marcus the Carcass, Miriam and Billy Miller.

Up first at the Maxwell’s show were the A-Bones, who have a new album out, Not Now, I guess a play on Flamin’ Groovies Now.  If you want to party hardy but don’t want to wait for the Sonics to come back out east, hey, this band is your only shot.  The dirty grinding music was so good, I picked it up on vinyl at the show.  Yeah!

They brought up a special guest to introduce and sing along with “The World’s Greatest Sinner” — Romeo Carey, the son of Timothy Carey, one of the most distinctive actors ever.  When they finished their set, the room was completely packed and the anticipation had reached a sweat-dripping-off-the-walls quality.

Down in F-L-A!  Cyril, Roy and A-Bones’ Bruce Bennett.

Cyril and Roy were low-key about walking through the Maxwell’s crowd to get to the stage.  Cyril was eerily youthful-looking — he could pass for a man in his 30s. Roy looked like a carny with a mischievous swagger who would toss out expired candy to passersby. Both still had an unsettling amount of hair — one of the perks of being groovy!

They wasted no time before ripping into “Second Cousin.” With hardly a breath, “Can’t Explain” was next, with Cyril noting, “We always used to warm up with this.”  Cyril’s hands seemed as fast as ever, playing leads like the band had never taken time off. Roy still has the menacing growl that all school principals seem to put on when they know they can’t legally hit you.

Introducing “Golden Clouds,” Cyril explained they were doing the song because A-Bones’ keyboardist/guitarist Ira Kaplan loves it. “We haven’t done this song since ’68. What is that, 50 years or some shit? Argh, I’m getting old. I still feel like I’m fucking 17.”

“You look like you’re 17!” countered Roy.

“Maybe 117!” replied Cyril, adding, “Be prepared for a disaster that might be kinda OK.”

Of course it was more than OK and, like the entire night, great.  Not tight, as beginnings and endings of songs were fudged a bit, and “Shake Some Action” fell out of sync on both nights, but hell, great in the way that rock and roll should be.  Loud, dirty and jumpin’.

Cyril shared the story of how his dad liked to listen to classical music on the radio and that one day Cyril tuned in to a rock show and was blown away by the opening to Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon‘s version of “Tallahassee Lassie.”

“I think that’s the reason why I ruined my life,” he confessed, chuckling.

If that’s the case, the Groovies “ruined” many lives, judging by the sold-out Maxwell’s crowd and the packed house at Southpaw in Brooklyn the next night, which looked like it was sold out if it wasn’t.

“Damn, Cyril, we’re playing Southpaw together!”

One senses that Roy’s departure from the band in 1971 may still be a bit of an issue. At Maxwell’s they mentioned the split twice briefly and it wasn’t mentioned at all at Southpaw. The set list only had a few songs from the Cyril-helmed Groovies era, nearly the opposite of the 1989 compilation Groovies Greatest Grooves, the last major-label release for the band in the U.S. that cut down Loney’s contributions to only two songs out of 24.

In fact, at Maxwell’s while introducing “Jumpin’ in the Night,” the regular set closer, Cyril said with a degree of contrition, “I wrote this about 10 years after Roy had left the band, but I was thinking of Roy when I wrote it. I was trying to go back to the old style we were doing and I hope I kinda got close.”

Also, about a decade ago Roy said in an interview that he and Cyril were “pretty much incommunicado.”

In any case, I’m glad they were at long last able to rejoin their considerable powers and blast the hell out of Hoboken and Brooklyn. Different encores each night, so you really did have to go to both, natch!

Pretty early into the Maxwell’s show. Roy’s jacket came off about three songs in! That’s Ira Kaplan on the far right yowling into his mike.

The A-Bones more than held up their end.  Miriam Linna bashed away like her spring had been wound too tightly and Marcus the Carcass on bass was nimble in a way that would have made Groovies’ bassist George Alexander proud.  Bruce Bennett was game enough to play slide guitar on “High-Flyin’ Baby.”  Singer Billy Miller came up and throttled “In the U.S.A.” while Ira co-sang “Shake Some Action” with Cyril, yelling out the “Make it all right”s on the chorus along with the whoops.

In the U.S.A.!  Billy Miller guests on lead vox while Lars Espensen wails it out at Maxwell’s. Bruce Bennett in the back.

Some fans may consider this desecration, but I now consider the live “Teenage Head” and “Slow Death” with Lars Espensen on sax and Miller on maracas to be the definitive versions of those songs. “Head” simply had a more-threatening edge with Espensen but “Slow Death” built up to a five-minute maelstrom not unlike the Stooges’ “L.A. Blues.”

During their set at Southpaw, the A-Bones brought up Wreckless Eric to sing a spirited rendition of “Wooly Bully.”

There was a third band at the Southpaw show that opened the night, the Underthings. They didn’t play very long, but their bluesy rock (somewhere, Johnny Thunders is smiling) struck some pretty good sparks before the flames later that night.

Set list:  Second Cousin / Can’t Explain / Sweet Little Rock n Roller / Comin’ After Me / High-Flyin’ Baby / First One’s Free / Golden Clouds / Have You Seen My Baby? / Road House / Tallahassee Lassie / Evil-Hearted Ada / In the U.S.A. / Shake Some Action / Teenage Head / Slow Death

Maxwell’s encores: Round and Round / Jumpin’ in the Night

Southpaw encores: Doctor Boogie / Johnny Bye Bye / Jumpin’ in the Night

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