SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – It has been 38 years since Graham Parker and the Rumour recorded their first album, and 32 since they broke up, but in those six years together, the band made quite an impact and left a recorded legacy that stands the test of time, including the “Squeezing Out Sparks” album which is rightly considered a classic. After reuniting last year for their first album together since 1980 (“Three Chords Good”) the band has been touring and made a stop at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) on Saturday night.
While both the band and the sold-out crowd were showing their age, they also showed that they could teach the youngsters a thing or two about how to rock. They opened the show fittingly with “White Honey,” the R&B tinged rocker that had been the first track of their first album. That was followed by two more early favorites, “Fool’s Gold,” and “Howlin’ Wind,” with Parker in fine voice and the band proving they have not lost a step.
Parker told the SOPAC crowd, “New Jersey has always been one of my best markets,” as a solo artist, and he was glad he had the chance to bring The Rumour here as part of the reunion tour.
The three early classics that led off the show were followed by three songs from the new album, which were also featured in the recent Judd Apatow film, “This is 40,” in which the band performed and Parker had a small role playing himself. The new material is a bit mellower than what the band produced back in their “angry young man” days, but the lyrics still have plenty of bite and the music is a great example of rockers aging gracefully.
The set continued with many crowd-pleasing favorites from the band’s catalog. Throughout, the band displayed time and again why they were such a special unit. Guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont played well off each other trading leads, with Schwarz providing sophisticated fills and fleet fingerwork, while Belmont brought a gruffer, stinging attack to his lines. Drummer Steve Goulding and bassist Andrew Bodnar set up a rock-solid foundation for the group while keyboardist Bob Andrews brought elements of swing, soul and honky-tonk to the mix.
It wasn’t until the final three songs of the regular set that the respectfully enthusiastic but reserved crowd really started showing signs of life. An intensely rocking version of “Protection,” was followed by two of the group’s largest commercial successes, “Stupefaction,” and the set-closer “Local Girls,” which finally brought the crowd to its feet.
For encores, the band started with a new track, “Last Bookstore in Town,” and then launched into the stomping reggae of “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” from 1976, which had the crowd dancing and singing along, displaying the energy that was typical of a GP & The Rumour show back in the seventies. After leaving the stage again, the still-shouting crowd insisted on another encore, which brought the band back out one more time for a spirited run-through of “Soul Shoes,” ending the show where it began, with the swinging R&B that may have been the group’s first love.