On stage, former Blasters guitarist and songwriter Dave Alvin contributed a lean intensity to the band's rock 'n' roll fundamentalism. Lean is the last word you'd apply to his replacement Hollywood Fats, who lived up to his name as he made his debut with the band in two weekend shows at the Palace. Though he's not exactly Mr. Personality on stage, Fats delivered the riffs on Saturday and occasionally livened things up by charging toward the crowd like a berserk snowman.
It was Blasters business as usual--basic, sanctified, unpretentious and invigorating. Presumably, Fats eventually will grow into his role (no cracks, please) and develop a stage persona to complement leader Phil Alvin's increasingly suave and cordial host. But the real effect of Dave's abdication will be measured in the long term, when it's time for the band to come up with fresh material. It's easier to replace a good guitarist than a great songwriter.