Robert Gordon & The Men They Couldn’t Hang, January 16, 2010, Lee’s Liquor Lounge

Posted on February 11, 2010 by

At Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, January 16, 2010

I was driving the artery between the Twin Cities, channel surfing between three stations trying find a passable excuse for music. In my mind I was singing the Springsteen-penned number, “Fire” that Gordon covered on Fresh Fish Special. I settled for Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion.”

I arrived just as the second band was just leaving the stage and I worked my way through an aging crowd of rockers I recognized from some 30 years of clubbing. The sea of people parted as Brian Setzer walked through the crowd, dressed like a gay biker in Napoleon’s court, probably there to see Gordon’s drummer, ex-Stray Cat, Slim Jim Phantom. If anything, It caused a little buzz in the crowd as they awaited Robert and the Men They Couldn’t Hang to take the stage.

The 62 year old Gordon opened with the Jack Scott number, “The Way I Walk,” followed by “Loverboy” from the Are You Gonna Be The One LP, and then the Eddie Cochran cut, “C’Mon Everybody.” Gordon sounded great but Matlock was missing the stops in the Cochran cut. I was told the band hasn’t played together for about six months and they rarely rehearse. Whether that was true or not, there was ample evidence.

After “C’Mon Everybody” Gordon did a fine job on “Suspicion.” One song later, he broke into “Fire.” That slight coincidence with my car radio made me think the night could be something special. I was forgiving some Phantom miscues and revving up for the night.

After another cut, Gordon took a break while each band member performed two songs. Spedding’s “Guitar Jamboree” is a tribute to axe slingers from Albert King to Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Keith Richards and so on, where he mimics their riffs. Spedding is a fine guitarist but it brought hints of an oldies circuit show instead of a group of vets who like rock and roll. “Motorbikin’” was a blast to hear with about half of the crowd singing along. It was a nice glam blast in a night of rockabilly.

Matlock covered Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right” with Slim turning the “Hey Hey Hey Heys” into a call and response and then realizing it was wrong. Glen followed it with a track from his days with the Pistols, “God Save The Queen.” It was rather eerie seeing a  crowd of 50-plussers singing, “No Future! No Future! No Future!” I stepped out for some air while Slim Jim did his two numbers, one of them being, “Rock This Town.”

Gordon took the stage for part two with a nice little Elvis tribute, appropriate to Lee’s decor which has numerous Elvis liquor decanters on the shelves. “Mess of the Blues” came off really well. Dion’s “The Wanderer” did not. “Rockabilly Boogie” was too slow and once again, Phantom was having a bad night. Overall, the second set was a let down.

Gordon closed with Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” It is a showcase for Gordon’s voice which is still strong after all these years. I was disappointed with the rather pedestrian second set song selection. There were none of the Crenshaw-penned numbers performed and songs like “The Wanderer” tend to lean toward the oldies-circuit crowd, instead of the aging punks and revivalists. Looking over the Gordon records in my basement, there are other tracks from his catalogue that harken Johnny Burnett and Gene Vincent and the edges of rockabilly that would have presented Gordon in a better light. Maybe it’s time for the band to rehearse and revamp the set list.  Gordon’s still got it and Spedding has the chops. Let’s put them to better use.

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