Steve Wilson. On music.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Me, the Fleshtones, Back to Rockville (the K.C. Star's music blog)

Review: The Fleshtones

Photo by Rick Hellman

New York’s Fleshtones call it “Super Rock.” It’s a high-octane mix of ‘60s rock (the Rolling Stones and the Swingin’ Medallions sharing a pedestal) and rhythm ‘n’ blues. It has thrilled the band’s devoted cult audience since 1976.

Opening with “Hitsburg” from the out-of print album Hitsburg Revisited the Fleshtones turned a quiet Sunday evening into a rock ‘n’ roll party, performing for about 90 people at Knuckleheads. Their Fabulous-Flames-meet-Paul-Revere-and-the-Raiders stage moves (part goof, all homage) unabashedly honor frat-rock traditions and old-school stagecraft. Rarely confined to the stage, the band spent much of their time in the audience, singing and playing from tables cheerfully surrendered by fans.

The Fleshtones’ set included selections from the new release Brooklyn Sound Solution, including a robust instrumental take on the Beatles’ “Day Tripper.” Other highlights of the band’s 80-minute set included “Whatever It Takes,” “Let’s Go” and an audience-engaging rendition of Billy Boy Arnold’s blues classic “I Wish You Would.” A rousing tribute to their pals the Ramones (“We Remember the Ramones”) was also an audience favorite.

Back in the 1980s singer/organist/harpist Peter Zaremba hosted MTV’s “The Cutting Edge.” It didn’t make him a star, but Zaremba remains an awesome entertainer. Skilled at engaging an audience, Zaremba brought folks on stage to dance and clap along -- even to play in the band -- that was Joey Skidmore on guitar – I’m pretty sure. Keith Streng drives the band with  his Johnny Thunders meets Steve Cropper guitar playing drives the band. Bassist Ken Fox and drummer Bill Milhizer are a powerful rhythm section and contribute back up vocals to Zaremba and Streng’s lead vocals.

As an encore the band stormed through Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and “Whole Lotta Love,” Streng’s strangulated tenor approximating Robert Plant. It was a true Fleshtones moment – maybe tongue-in-cheek but by no means ironic.

At its conclusion band members wandered into the audience, shaking hands with nearly everyone in attendance. The crowd left entertained, even uplifted. The missionaries of “Super Rock” may covet a bigger flock, but they ministered to Sunday’s in Kansas City like the true rock believers they are.
| Steve Wilson, Special to The Star

Reverberating: 8.9 (added for "Reverberations")

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