Show Review: Torn & Frayed Channels the Rolling Stones, May 18 at Off Broadway
To celebrate the reissue of the Rolling Stones' revered album, Exile on Main St., a hodge-podge band of local musicians calling themselves Torn & Frayed convened to pay tribute to the dirty, swaggering, heroin-fueled, Southern-fried boogie of the '70s Stones. To call it a "supergroup" may be a reach, but the band consisted of four fine front men: Andy Shadburne (Via Dove), Jimmy Griffin (the Incurables), Dave Grelle (the Feed) and solo artist Caleb Travers. All four men all got in the spirit of the evening, from the faithfulness of the licks right down to the costumes.
Shadburne, playing Mick Jagger, preened and strutted in white pants and a sash-turned-belt; there may even have been eye make-up involved. Travers, in Mick Taylor mode, sported a foppish scarf. Guitarist Jimmy Griffin is no stranger to tribute acts (having played with Led Zep act Celebration Day), and luckily he always has the bedraggled good looks of a young-ish Keith Richards. Even drummer Reid Burnett (also of Via Dove) got in on the act, though his shiny Union Jack tank top may be better suited for "I Don't Wanna Touch You Too Much, Baby: A Tribute to Def Leppard." To Burnett's credit, he did play snare drum in the traditional-grip style of Charlie Watts. Attention to detail counts with these boys, so much so that one was tempted to look for track marks on their forearms.
I had initially thought that the group was going to run through the entirety of Exile in order; in hindsight, that would have been folly. (Though it would have been interesting to see how they handled the voodoo gospel of "I Just Want to See His Face.") Instead, the band powered through eleven prime cuts, kicking off with the Sticky Fingers classics "Brown Sugar" and "Bitch."
Exile is split pretty evenly between themes of debauched sin and regret-soaked redemption, though last night Torn & Frayed wisely focused on the sin. The heart of the set focused on such songs, from the steely riffs of "Rocks Off" to a triumphant "Loving Cup," which featured some fine gospel piano from Grelle. Shadburne nailed the twanged-up vocals of Exile-era Mick, both in the more nuanced, soulful moments (as on "Tumbling Dice") to the house-rockers ("Rip This Joint"). In true Stones fashion, he handed the mic to Griffin to for the Keith-led "Happy."
The conundrum of Exile is that, while it has become regarded as the band's masterpiece, it isn't exactly brimming with recognizable singles; it's a front-to-back album of the highest order. So to end the set, Torn & Frayed dusted off two of the Stones' more famous tunes, the disco-flecked "Miss You" and the sing-along "It's Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)." Not a bad way to end a faithful and fun salute to rock's most enduring bad boys.
1. Brown Sugar
3. Rocks Off
4. Tumbling Dice
6. Loving Cup
7. Ventilator Blues
8. All Down the Line
9. Rip this Joint
10. Miss You
11. It's Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)