Swing has changed. The driving jitter-boogie of Royal Crown Revue isn't exactly what grandpa used to play, and the sainted Frank Sinatra was never known to repeatedly grab his crotch on stage. But at the Palace on Thursday, the band somehow made sense of its brand of neo-swing, playing with convincing charm and energy.
Royal Crown Revue isn't new at this. The septet began playing in 1989, long before the current swing fad reached the pop charts. Like others of its ilk, Royal Crown Revue's sound is often a closer cousin to rockabilly than to the visionary likes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. At the Palace, the band made simpler, horn-driven music that was aimed directly at the dance floor.
Singer Eddie Nichols shuffled across the stage like a boxer in his white double-breasted suit. When he drops the '30s gangster shtick, he can be a commanding front man. But the night's most interesting moments came when the players pulled back from their relentless party vibe, cooling down the testosterone for some long instrumental passages.
While the band has a handful of catchy, danceable tunes (none of which are destined to become standards), it was during the band's ample soloing that Royal Crown Revue showed it has the playing chops to grow. The health of its movement may depend on it.