Some might note how far the mighty have fallen when Graham Parker must play the Lion's Lair, as he will tomorrow night (and it's not the first time), but in this case, it's actually the perfect place for Parker to perform: grungy, low-rent, patently sharp-edged and designed for drunken debauchery. Parker, who no doubt played a lot of those places back in 1970s Britain, was a little bit better known when he burst onto the scene back then, a pub rocker contemporary with the young Elvis Costello, who eventually eclipsed him. Some say it was because he was so angry, with none of Costello's romantic edge to temper his vitriol.
His first album, Howlin' Wind, tore through my soul from the first groove to the last, driven by the Rumour, a crack collection of pub-rock veterans under the influence of The Band, and Parker's raw, cutting vocals when it rocked my world in 1976, but it was the stellar Squeezing Out Sparks that sealed the deal for me, from the topical title song to the soaring "Discovering Japan." From my point of view, he was one of the few names on a short-list of artists who saved me from the era's famously mediocre music. All I can say now is: Thank the Lord for Graham Parker and the Ramones. Bless you, Joe Strummer. Thank you, Miles Davis and Hank Williams.
This show was, for lack of a more perfect descriptor, hair-standing-on-end electric. We had seats in the seventh row, which was probably a good thing, because the sparks that were flying off the stage were positively dangerous. Brinsley Schwarz's guitar sliced through the room in a jangle, and Parker was on fire. Everything anyone ever said about the guy was on view up there for all of us to see: Juiced on bile and whip-thin, Parker held nothing back, and the audience responded in unison, standing on the seats, moving like a wave, shouting the words right back at him. Best damn show I think I ever saw.
I leave you with this:
Perhaps he's mellowed now. I don't know. He's never really gone away, and I'm glad of that. He doesn't play with the Rumour anymore, and hasn't for decades, but that's no reason not to go see him: Tomorrow night, Lion's Lair, twenty bucks. Call 303-320-9200.
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