J. Roddy Walston and the Business blows up at the Biltmore
At the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday, October 5
J. Roddy Walston deserved more business than we got at the Biltmore on Saturday night (October 5). You can probably blame an 11 o’clock curfew for the so-so attendance, but still, Walston and his three-man crew did what any self-respecting travelling band does when you roll into a sleepy Canadian hamlet and less than a third of the room turns up to see you; they blew the fuck up.
The hyper-animated shuffle of “I Don’t Want to Hear It” set the pace from the very top of the set, with guitarist Billy Gordon’s solo (on a Gibson SG he used for the entire show) conjuring a little Angus Young inside an already intoxicating mix of southern revival stomp and vintage British glam, kind of like the Smith Westerns but more likely to explode in your pants, make you quit your job, and start your own hard luck band of longhaired road freaks, praise God.
With no set list visible anywhere, Walston switched between piano and guitar as he led the Baltimore-based group through a mix of old numbers and material from the band’s new Essential Tremors album. If you need an indication of how much the Business has matured since it released its second self-titled full-length in 2010, listen to “Don’t Break the Needle”—delivered tonight with a maniacal, sulphur-infused laugh from the frontman in the last ecstatic chorus—and then compare it to the new record’s “Marigold”. It’s basically the same song, but the Business circa 2013 sounds like a band that has graduated into the next league, and maybe even the one after that. In a perfect universe, these guys would be replacing Kings of Leon on those arena stages.
You’d be hard-pressed to pick a highlight from the too-short and encore-free set (“We got a hard curfew so we’re gonna blast through this,” said a game Walston at one point). Pretty much everything went into orbit, including ‘quieter’ numbers like “Take it as it Comes”, which kinda recalls the Stones whenever they tried to do reggae—awesome, in other words—and the penultimate singalong that came with “Midnight Cry”. New single “Heavy Bells” might have brought the biggest roar of approval, partly because it’s such an outrageously powerful three minutes of Southern unholy roller dementia, although you could probably say the same thing for closer “Used to Did”. But it’s irrelevant, really, since Walston was airborne from the first minute and the Business—tossing around T-Rexstatic falsetto back-ups all over the place—were a couple of groovy notches above perfect.
The image that remains is Walston caressing his piano top tenderly with one hand and pounding the keys with his other, hair flying and his face contorted into a grimace while a grand mal seizure seemed to localize itself entirely in his right leg. This is a band that authentically taps into whatever holy-evil spirit has been animating American music since Jerry Lee Lewis incarnated before the world’s terrified eyes over half a century ago. But who cares; rock ‘n’ roll is dead, right?