with the Blacks and Barlo
The Covered Dish, Gainesville • May 14, 1999
Nathan T. Birk
You just knew the night was going to be good after seeing the Red Elvises’ custom van parked outside the Dish, the tour-mobile all painted red with yellow lettering proclaiming that the van, indeed, was the band’s, and its website, http://www.redelvises.com. Man…
Barlo played first, and for good reason. The trio played a musically uneventful set, even though you could probably call them the Pixies of bar rock. But, really, that sounds twice as interesting than it actually was.
The far-better Blacks were up next, and proceeded to swagger like nobody’s business, often walking a thin line between the Black Crowes and the Cramps, if you can imagine that. Rocking out was the order of the night, and rock out the Blacks did, their drummer taking the cake for a positively gonzo performance, no matter what the required tempo or volume was. But the Blacks weren’t all decibels and sweat: the all-white band even dropped some teary-eyed country in its drink and slowly stirred. Even then, you just knew they were working harder than you ever could. Still, the Blacks thankfully weren’t any of that dubious “Americana” shit.
Well, the night’s Russian ambassadors, the Red Elvises, played last, and held an enthralled audience captive ’til the final note. After seeing a Red Elvises set, it’s no wonder why the band’s made cameo appearances in a number of movies. Not only is the band diligently coifed and primped as only a rockabilly band can, but the bassist (beet-red hair, mind you) played a giant, red triangle of a bass that had to be three feet in width. Visual appeal aside, the Red Elvises spanked through a lengthy set of spy movie rockabilly, campily spiced with flavors of lounge, reggae, and country. From this vantage point, the audience really wasn’t listening, but rather, appeared awe-struck that four Russians would come to the States, audaciously wave a carrot in front of them as if they were donkeys, and forcefully compel them to bite, again and again and again. Yep, the Red Elvises definitely worked the crowd as only a good drag queen could, so in that sense, they were definitely a “live band.” Sorry y’all missed out.