The Fabulous Thunderbirds at Crescent Ballroom, 3/9/12

Fabulous Thunderbirds Crescent Ballroom Friday, March 9, 2012

Last night, Crescent Ballroom officially was broken in. Forget the too-cool-for-school crowd. Once a bunch of ladies exiting middle age get drunk and dance at the front of the room, you no longer have the shiniest new venue in town. And, yeah, that now makes the place that much more awesome.

As you probably know, all it takes for those ladies to lower their inhibitions is three Michelob Ultras and music they can swing their hips to. Last night, they met an excess of both in the form of Paul Gurvitz and The New Army, along with Texas roadhouse rockers The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Local by way of England, Gurvitz and his band played a truly solid opening set, featuring originals from the singer-songwriter's catalog. Gurvitz's claim to fame is the he used to play with former Cream drummer Ginger Baker in the blandly named Baker Gurvitz Army.

Bland band name or not, the caliber of Gurvitz's talent is high. Rarely will you see an audience allow a three-minute drum solo from an opening act, but Gurvitz's band was that tight, playing a balance of harmless adult pop rock and pure, sexified rock 'n' roll. Not only did the crowd put up with The New Army, but it requested an encore.

That marks the second time I've ever seen an encore requested from any opening band. Ever.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been around for 38 years in some shape or another, but this particular lineup features only one original member: singer and harmonica player Kim Wilson. I'm not entirely sure that Wilson's backing band has one member old enough to remember the T-Birds' original rise to fame.

And, being that Wilson is still the only member still going strong nearly four decades after the band's inception, you can imagine that its performance is Wilson-centric. Rightfully so, to a degree. There's no denying that Wilson's gritty voice still has its place among their blues rock sound. It's just that seven minutes into a harmonica solo, any sane person kind of wants to kill themselves. Not because it didn't sound great, but because blowing a harmonica directly into a distortion-laden mic for longer than 30 seconds is enough to drive any sane person to their brink.

And I fucking love the harmonica.

That said, is I'm not sure it's fair to call this particular band The Fabulous Thunderbirds. While great, this incarnation of the group seems like Wilson's twilight grab at fame. Sure, plenty of bands go on without its original members, but without a horn section (or even a keyboard to mimic a horn section), some T-Birds classics like "Wrap It Up" and "Tuff Enuff" fall flat.

Of course, the major problem with blues rock is that its basslines are extremely repetitive. Without brass, it makes it difficult to differentiate one song from another. Even if the band sounded tight and together, you can't help but crave variety, but then you remember -- this is blues-rock, not the other way around.

Critic's Notebook:

Last night: The Fabulous Thunderbirds at Crescent Ballroom.

Better than: A 10-minute piccolo solo.

The crowd: My dad, plus 200 other carbon copies of him.

Personal bias: I can't help liking these dudes. Kim Wilson still seems like he's having a great time on stage.

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Christina Caldwell