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Story and photos by Gypsy DaveyGreeting Milwaukee by calling out Governor Scott Walker, front man/founder of The Blasters Phil Alvin didn't curb his feelings one bit regarding the political battle currently being fought in our state's capitol, saying of Walker, "I know a scab when I see a scab."
For those in attendance that lean left and back unionized labor, they were treated to a rally with musical host duties conducted by The Blasters, rabble-rousing along the way with the pro-union/anti-Walker tween-song banter. Fat chance for those that lean right seeking respite from the week's rhetoric in the escapism of some Americana Rockabilly.
Regardless of one's leaning, Alvin and crew delivered in a huge way and rocked the house. A week away from turning 58, Phil Alvin hasn't lost a step. He may be slower with his step but he sounds the same today as when he and brother Dave founded the band in 1979. Leaving the band in '86 for a modestly successful solo career, Dave left Phil to tour under The Blaster's name, pulling together various incarnations ever since. Tonight however, all was intact sans Dave. In his stead, Cleveland's Keith Wyatt filled his shoes more than adequately. Original members, bassist John Bazz and drummer Bill Bateman (quoted as being one of the best drummers there is, by Henry Rollins of Black Flag), were reunited along with Phil, and truly exceeded expectations. New material has waned since the songwriter's exodus, but the material left behind would prove to be timeless, and what hasn't waned is Phil's showmanship. Tightly rehearsed and honed, yet loose in stage presence in his steady jawing with the crowd, taking song requests, shooting humorous quips between songs, Phil's charisma contains the paradox of carrying both genial qualities while maintaining a subtle edge of hostility, albeit a warm edge. The warmth was picked up in the dedication to brother Dave, with "Dry River." Inspired by the waterway that once flourished through Downey, CA - hometown to the Alvin's - the song is less about the now dried-up waterbed than it's about the return of lost love: "Someday it's gonna rain / Someday it's gonna pour / Someday this old heart of mine will fall in love once more..."
Accommodating a hand-delivered request turned out to be one of the night's more notable moments. An impromptu segue with the hauntingly brilliant "Dark Night," into the stirring vocals of the James Brown cover in "Please, Please, Please," where Phil came as close as anyone in transcending the irreplaceable Brown with his rendition. Simply brilliant!
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