Backed by an Anglo-American quartet of pub-rock semi-legends and session heavies, veteran British keyboardist-vocalist Paul Carrack kicked off his first U.S. solo tour before a full house at the Palace on Friday with a raucous, rock-kissed soul number ("Fire With Fire") that was about as good as such things get.
A rather unprepossessing performer, Carrack is nevertheless a supple, soulful vocalist who's racked up five hits as the lead singer for four different acts over the last 14 years: "How Long" (Ace), "Tempted" (Squeeze), "Silent Running" (Mike + the Mechanics), "I Need You" (recorded under his own name) and his latest, biggest chartbuster "Don't Shed a Tear" (likewise).
Carrack did 'em all, fleshing out the hour-plus set with the best half-dozen tunes (Chris Difford's biting "One Good Reason," Huey Lewis' greazy "Here I Am," Jackie DeShannon's dazzling "When You Walk in the Room") from his current LP. Strong songs, strong voice, strong band--especially Andy Newmark. What more could you ask for? More heat, more hysteria, more personality, more ambition, for four.
Still, Carrack was gracious enough to turn the spotlight over to his former employer, bassist Nick Lowe, who led the lads through hair-raising versions of a pair of his own three-chords-and-a-pint-of-Guinness classics, "I Knew the Bride" and "Half a Boy and Half a Man." It might have been a band of lows--guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low was also aboard--but Carrack's show was mostly a night of highlights.