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Tommy and the Tigers Black Betty, Williamsburg 30 August 2005
Just when I think I'm doing something pretty damn novel--seeing a band I've never heard of, at a bar I originally thought was an adult book store--within seconds I find out how wrong I am. Turns out not only are Tommy and the Tigers a band I've heard of, but the bassist has a party shirt and a bucket hat, the drummer was in Skull + Bones with me, and at the last S+B Halloween party (Skulloween) I watched the guitarist slow-dance with an ex-gf to Bach organ music.
Which leaves Tommy. All you British rifft raffters out there, take note: Tommy is Tom Lowe, who was in all-boy pop group North And South. "We didn't write any of our songs," says Tommy.
Tommy and the Tigers write all their songs now. In fact, they write a lot of things. Like "City on a Hill," a jingle jam in praise of Boston they've sold to the tourism office of Boston for several million dollars. Tuesdays are rough nights for the Riff Hut, but if you can find me something funnier than a British person singing how much he loves the city that shamed his country forever, forward away. Keep in mind I already have the picture of the guy wearing a football helmet eating a giant cheeseburger.
Otherwise Tommy's a virtuoso, a stagesman, a Man of the Stage, an actor who sings, a singer who acts like he can sing (and he can). He talks down to this skirts and boots crowd, shoves them and pushes them around and the bartender, DJ, and drummer's girlfriend all sorta dig it. Tommy asks his guitarist to pick the next song, then calls him a "rocking finger-licking genius"--the guitarist hasn't even picked the next song yet.
Are they a rock band? Pop? No, they are entertainers, like a freakshow, or a good wedding band--talented musicians who have the looks down, have been through this biz hard and long, been kicked to the ground only to have the ground kick them back off the ground and then start the whole process again. They play cocktail jazz and the drummer busts out his brushes. They change keys just because they can.
You want rock? Take the "Swan Song"-- "We like Swans, but it's a song." The song has nothing to do with swans. Then there's a song called "Evil Things." It goes like this: "Always doing sacred things / Think I need my evil things." Yes.
Then comes the rap.
"Foreign rap," explains Tommy, lest we think he would do anything less. "Not too fast, guys. I have to rap in French." And then I get five minutes of the best British mimicking French mimicking G. Love and the Special Sauce I've ever seen.
Are Tommy+Tigers prima donnas? Hardly. When the DJ says, "I'll give you 30 to 40 minutes," then says "last song" after only give them 15, these guys sure as hell listen. And during that glorious last song, the bassist and the guitarist stare each other straight in the eye for ten straight minutes, their tongues begging to touch but never, ever doing so.
You missed it.
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