This article originally appeared in the 4.18.13 issue of Metroland
Graham Parker and The Rumour
I won’t go
into the strange fable about how Judd Apatow got Graham Parker and the Rumour
back together after 30+ years, nor the long, strange history of Parker, one of
our more prolific, accomplished, and cerebral songwriters, nor why he’s been
relegated to obscure troubadour status for much of the last 20 years.
I will tell
you that last Wednesday’s show in the Swyer Theater was one of the most
breathtaking concerts I have seen in my life.
Last November, I caught their 2nd
reunion show in
Poughkeepsie; less than 30 seconds in I realized I was weeping, overwhelmed by
the truth of the sound. Last week’s show had that and more; to paraphrase Mike
Eck, it was like riding in a car with a extremely skilled driver going very,
nothing that in their heyday (1975-1980) GP & The Rumour were often
compared to The Band and The Rolling Stones, or that Bruce Springsteen famously
said that this was the only band he’d spend money to see.
that good. And, despite the fact that
they now look like a bunch of retired college professors, they still are. The rhythm section of drummer Stephen Goulding
and the incredible bassist Andrew Bodnar were locked down, especially on the
shuffles and those white-boy reggae beats that they simply own. Guitarists Brinsley Schwartz and Martin
Belmont and keyboard Bob Andrews all spent as much time listening as playing,
but when they each played it counted, and what they played was delicious. This was a perfect team of master craftsmen
doing things better than anyone else.
brings us to Mr. Parker. First of all,
damn, what songs he’s written. Daring,
poignant, blunt, beautiful... Second, having this band behind him and playing
on larger stages allows Parker to be not just a singer, but an artist, a true artiste
, maybe for the first time in his
long career. And he wears it so very
well. The one-time angriest of the angry
young men still spits fire, but now it’s more directed, more knowing, and more
tempered with wry humor and compassion.
And when the anger and indignation are turned toward society’s foibles,
nobody does it better. On two of his new
tunes, Parker turned actor with a laser-like focus: stalking the audience on
the Winston Churchill-quote inspired A
Lie Gets Halfway ‘Round The World
, or repeating the ominous phrase “we got
a reader here...why you readin’?” in Last
Bookstore in Town.
The audience could have been a
bunch of long-of-tooth freemasons—overwhelmingly male, white and old, like me. And that’s too bad. The new “traditionalist” singer-songwriters
and their fans, with all their affectations and studied brooding, could learn a
lot about a lot from this guy and this band.