"Thanks a lot," BoDeans co-lead singer Sammy Llanas said softly into the microphone just before the Wisconsin-based rock group went into the first of its two encore numbers Thursday night at the Roxy. " Don't forget about us ," he added.
It was a nice, endearing remark that suggested the quartet isn't about to let the enormous critical acclaim for its debut album go to its head. These guys know they still have to prove themselves on stage.
Still, it's hard to imagine anyone at the sold-out Roxy for the group's first L.A. show letting a band this exciting slip from memory.
The BoDeans deal with such familiar and prized themes as "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams" (which is also the title of their Slash LP) with the raw, convincing edge that reminds you just how inspiring great rock 'n' roll can be.
The group's 80-minute show, which introduced a half-dozen promising songs that will presumably be on the group's next album, employed and examined these sure-fire concepts with skill and a sense of history that make it easy to think the band really did--as some critics have mistakenly assumed--adopt its name as a salute to roots-rocker Bo Diddley and quintessential teen rebel James Dean. Actually, Llanas simply liked the sound of the name, which he heard on the "Beverly Hillbillies" TV show.
"Ultimately Fine," which conveys the simple, party-minded side of the band, echoes the good-natured vitality that has surrounded rockabilly ever since Jerry Lee Lewis proclaimed there's a whole lot of shakin' goin' on.
At the other extreme is "Looking for Me Somewhere," a song whose delicate melody and simple yet wistful lyrics remind you of the evocativeness of John Prine's best work.
The title suggests the lonely, uncertain tone of a young man searching for his own identity. But the tune is really a tender daydream about finding someone who cares about you--almost a prayer to rekindle your innocence and optimism. The song's chorus seems to summarize the BoDeans' philosophy: "To live and die it seems / Is a waste without a dream."
In between these extremes, the material ranges from "Misery," a statement about an unfaithful girlfriend that is so angry that it almost laughs at its own intense emotion, to the innocent romanticism of "Still the Night."
When handling lead vocals, guitarist Kurt Neumann sings in an understated everyman manner, while Llanas' odd, nasal twang gives the music an eccentric accent that makes the lyrics seem all the more urgent. The pair--both are in their mid-20s--have been pals since junior high school and in bands together for about six years. They are joined in the BoDeans by drummer Guy Hoffman and bassist Bob Griffin.
There are so many traceable elements in the group's music--there's a spirit flowing through a song like "That's All" that runs straight from Buddy Holly to Bruce Springsteen--that trend-conscious rock fans may tend to dismiss the BoDeans as simply revivalists. But Llanas and Neumann are much more than that.
They bring their own experience and artistic sensibilities to the field, and there's a sense of renewal to the music that makes you see all the things you've taken for granted with a new freshness.
During an interview at the band's afternoon sound check, Llanas and Neumann seemed to be handling well the sudden attention--and acclaim. They remember the moments of frustration getting to this spot; times when they couldn't seem to find anyone else for the band who shared their vision and determination.
About those days, Llanas said, "In some ways, it seems like everything has happened real quick (for the band). But there were times when we were real discouraged. I'd sit up in my room wondering if anything was ever going to work out. But we never thought about giving up because there was nothing else we could imagine doing.
"Music really did change my life. It was like there was something buried inside me my whole life and I never really felt it until I started singing. I could finally look at myself and feel like somebody."
Added Neumann: "It's hard when people ask us about all the success we've had because we really are just starting out. This is our first tour. . . . We just put out our first album. But we are really happy and feel grateful."
LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale today for the Pointer Sisters' Sept. 25-28 engagement at the Universal Amphitheatre. Tickets will be available Monday for the Sisters' Pacific Amphitheatre date Sept. 21. . . . Tickets go on sale Monday for three Irvine Meadows concerts: AC/DC Aug. 13, a-ha Aug. 26 and the Smiths Aug. 28. . . . Tickets also go on sale Monday for a third Eurythmics show at the Greek on Aug. 7 and for George Thorogood's Sept. 19 date there.