One of the most creative foursomes ever to take to the stage, NRBQ is truly singular in a world of copies. You might even say they are - O.K. I’ll say it - a transcendent force of nature. Keyboardist Terry Adams, bassists Joey Spampinato, guitarist Johnny Spampinato and drummer Tom Ardolino are as comfortable in an arena as they are in a roadhouse and can make you dance like the devil or glue you to your seat with a ballad. They term their original blend of hard rock, blues, country, pure pop, jazz, traditional rootsrock, and folk as “omnipop”. An astute fan calls it “music about music”. This is the key. Where the pop phenomenon of the moment - whoever he or she may be - is frequently the creature of the music industry marketing mogul, a sort of Frankenstein of the focus group, NRBQ simply goes out and plays the most heartfelt rock and roll that will ever grace your ears.
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And on top of everything else they are funny. That manic I dare you twinkle, that wry, sly humor, that wonky sideways, close to the edge of the goneosphere Moe Howard meets Marcel Duchamp and who knows what will happen next aspect may not be for the faint of heart or the overly anxious, but antic wackiness is an essential part of what makes an NRBQ show an event. When the band takes the stage, there is never a set list. Instead, they draw from an amazing repertoire of more than 500 songs. Leader and founding member Terry Adams finds inspiration by scanning the audience looking for “the guy in the hat”. Terry may start banging something on the keyboard, or Joey may call something out, but it’s anyone’s guess what they’re going to play next. On standards like “Me And The Boys”, :”I Want You Bad”, and “You Can’t Hide”, NRBQ display their distinct ability to write serious, great pop songs while “Wild Weekend”, “Get Rhythm” and “Hey Doll Baby” showcase their command of the rock and roll vernacular. “Little Floater” could just make you weep with that insinuating bass line weaving around that sweet melody and those clumps of dissonant break-your-heart chords. And some nights if you are very, very lucky you’ll get a meandering shaggy dog intro that wanders around “Auld Lang Syne” and “arividerchi Roma” before barreling into a “Don’t She Look Good” that takes the roof off the house.
It’s not just the common man and woman who has raved about NRBQ. Many famous musicians count themselves fans of NRBQ, including Paul McCartney, the Replacements, Tbone Burnett, R.E.M. and Elvis Costello, who once said, “I’d much rather any day go see NRBQ playing than any of our illustrious punk bands in England.” Keith Richards was so taken with Joey’s bass playing that he asked him to join the band backing Chuck Berry in the classic film “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N Roll.” Bonnie Raitt has sat in with the band many times and the Q classic “Green Lights” was the title cut of her 1990 C.D. In 1982 Dave Edmunds had a hit with the “Q” classic “Me And The Boys.” In an industry where image and fashion generally supersede talent and originality, it’s reassuring that a band like the “Q” continues to survive. They are simultaneously the loosest and tightest band extant, meaning they are so accomplished on their instruments that they can play raggedly but never lose that binding musical mesh that only the tightest bands have. Check out NRBQ and savor all of the elements that went into making American music. And then be prepared to answer the question that will be asked of you for the greater part of next week. “What are you grinning about?”
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