Three decades later, Graham Parker remains fresh
Middle East downstairs, June 7, 2005
By Jeffrey B. Remz
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - Graham Parker was considered to be the young angry man about 30 years ago when he received much acclaim for his first two albums, the excellent "Howlin' Wind" and "Heat Treatment."
If not quite as angry as he used to be, time also has not diminished the skills of the British pub rocker, who has long made his home in upstate New York.
Parker is now considered a somewhat rootsy artist, although he's not all that different from what he has always done, and is touring for a very short while - about 10 dates - behind his brand new "Songs of No Consequence," which came out a day before the show. In fact, his previous album was a country disc, "Your Country."
The thin, graying Parker offered a mix of songs from his career, both new and old.
Truth to be told, Parker really hasn't aged all that much. While saying afterwards that he'd like to play weekends singing more takes its vocal toll, he sounded just fine. Parker has a soulful edge to his voice ("Hold Back the Night" was a standout), which often has served him well career-wise.
The new material stood up very well to the older songs (highlights here included "Nothing's Gonna Pull Us Apart" and "Get Started Starting a Fire)"). He still isn't afraid to dish it out. "Vanity Press" takes a big swipe at the press with "If you got any bright ideas/keep them in your head/cos you're working for the vanity press." "There's Nothing on the Radio" spells it out pretty clearly.
The bottom line is that Parker is only joking when he calls his new babies "Songs of No Consequence." It's clear he maintains a keen songwriting skill.
And perhaps no truer words were sung when Parker sang on "Bad Chardonnay," also from the new disc, "But you gotta do it your own way on cigarettes and bad chardonnay."
Parker was capably backed by The Figgs, who often back him on treks on the East Coast. They handled the same chores on "Songs of No Consequence."
In fact, it was quite clear from The Figgs' opening set just how much of a debt they owe to Parker musically. Until you saw who was singing, it actually did sound like Parker. The Figgs made good music in their own right.
Three decades into his career, Parker makes music that still sound fresh, with a bit of bite thrown in.