The Agit Reader

The Liza Colby Sound
The Barbary, Philadelphia, January 18

January 29th, 2018  |  by Brian O'Neill

It was a bit surreal to see Chuck Treece open the show at 7pm sharp still wearing his coat and Eagles toboggan hat like he was out on a winter walk and he decided to pop in and plug in. He’s a bit of a local legend, a founding member of early ‘80s skate punks McRad before becoming a session musician who played with The Roots, Schooly D, and Jazzy Jeff, as well as spending time with Bad Brains. He is likely the only person ever to appear on the cover of Thrasher and on a Billy Joel album. His versatility allowed him to assimilate onto a very rocking bill with 20 minutes of upbeat, riff-centric punk ‘n’ roll.

The Tip was the polar opposite of Treece’s down-to-earth style and presentation. The band looked like glam rock gods on a thrift store budget, and proof in advertising, proceeded to play like it. The singer took three takes to get a jump just right at the end of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” and it really didn’t matter that the music was all done in one. In fact, it was kind of cool.

Hailing from Nashville, just being a rock band makes them outcasts; throw in their unmitigated love for pre-sobriety Aerosmith, David Lee Roth stage rants, and un-ironic coke binges and you wonder if they fit in anywhere circa 2018. But you realize they don’t care and that’s the charm, even more so than the way they turned Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green–penned “Oh Well” into Led Zep. They do this because they love it. It probably doesn’t hurt that they keep getting older but their fans stay the same age.

The Liza Colby Sound (pictured top) had more of a national reputation than local headliners Hellings, but they supported here, ceding to the locals. (They would switch spots and close the next day when back home in New York City. Such show trading is a bit of a lost art and more bands should do it.)

That said, going on after any band led by Liza Colby is an unenviable task. Not just content to lend her name to her band’s moniker, Colby commands attention by writhing and contorting on and off the stage like an R-rated gymnast wearing nothing but a leotard and lipstick. She might have molested the Agit Reader’s photographer.

Sex sells, but there’s a lot more than eye candy here. Colby is five feet of bawdy, sassy innuendo, but she belts out songs in the Gospel tradition, fuel-throated and with genuine passion like a tiny Tina Turner showing Mick Jagger who the real vocalist is. The Stones reference is apropos given the rock band behind her. Blues-based hard rock might seem easy to pull off, but if you’ve watched a bar band mangle barre chords, you know that the good ones make it look simple even though it’s not. The Liza Colby Sound makes it look damn near effortless.

Hellings knew. The singer thanked all the bands and, still stunned, “whatever it was (he) just saw,” calling her a rock and roll goddess and conceding his ass simply didn’t compare.

Being attractive is a prerequisite for glam rock but you don’t need to be pretty to sing the blues. The Philly group is young-ish, yet remain a time capsule of the exact moment Jimmy Page asked Robert Plant if he wanted to join the band. They employ harmonicas, acoustic guitars and a healthy love for the female form like every decade since the ‘70s never happened.

There’s a refreshing honesty to Hellings, a throwback to a simpler time when men where men, even the androgynous ones. Some may call ‘em dinosaurs, but with the recent success of Greta Van Fleet Jurassic rock ain’t a bad thing to play.

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