The reunion of Booker T & the MG's after 17 years really boils down to one question: Can a sound built on understatement and tasteful economy thrive with a generation bred on excess and accelerated, post-punk tempos?
Touring with Neil Young last year gave the original Stax Records house band a boost and the quartet's hour-plus set of instrumentals on Tuesday at the packed House of Blues did nothing to slow the momentum.
There was certainly nothing lacking on the musical end--new drummer Steve Potts (a Memphis veteran of Al Green's mid-'80s gospel groups) supplied a strong push to original members Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald (Duck) Dunn.
Booker T & company offered Memphis trance grooves old ("Hip Hug-Her," "Time Is Tight") and new ("That's the Way It Should Be" and "Cruisin' " from its upcoming Columbia release) at far less than 140 beats per minute.
So no flash, no front-man, the same economical mindset, several ballads, Booker T playing the old-fashioned but ever so soulful Hammond organ . . . in short, nothing trendy and nothing but pure music capped by the inevitable encore of "Green Onions" that . . . well, you can't argue with groove perfection, can you?
Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey, even with George Thorogood guesting on the encores, did little to disprove the notion that he's a blues-rock librarian, capable of researching and playing the appropriate licks but without the necessary feeling.