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Live Review: Tommy Tucker & The Supernaturals, The Bellevederes @ the Windup Space (2009.12.31)


Photo credit: Frank Hamilton (The Bellevederes)

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MP3: Tommy Tucker – Keep Good Time from Green Is Gold (2009)

Can we talk about how wonderful the Wind Up Space is for a moment? An awkwardly placed bar area lies on the right side of ten feet’s worth of concrete; everyone seems to be gravitating between the bar and three black support pillars acting as a not-so-arbitrary boundary linking the bar discussion with the art gallery/venue space on the opposing wall.

This is a perfectly designed space.

It offers a wealth of readily available mingle topics–the bar, the art, the space, the band, etc–in perhaps four or five semi-secluded areas. I walked in with time enough to hear the MC for the evening, a well-dressed, sunglasses-wearing man, announce Tommy Tucker’s (or Tucker Mayer’s) upcoming set.

Even though his folk-based 2009 release, Green Is Gold, scarcely shows it, I now know for a fact that Tommy Tucker has got some soul in his blood. One finds a faint indication of this in album standout, “Keep Good Time,” where Mayer’s astounding falsetto leads a bedroom percussion ensemble to glorious heights. His New Year’s Eve set at the Windup demonstrated to everyone that Tommy Tucker is unquestionably a soul man nowadays. His backing band The Supernaturals (which happens to feature both members of Wye Oak), compares favorably with any typical backing group–to be on pitch, on time, and to contribute a dependable foundation for Mayer’s irreplaceable stage exploitation proves itself a faultless backing design. Oh, and how precious his antics are: Mayer’s frenetic dancing is, like his voice, the absurd extension of a soul stretched to its limit. The spirit of pain channeled through Tommy Tucker’s very embodiment (Andy and Jenn from Wye Oak also performed their own adorable take on the Talking Heads’ classic “Naïve Melody,” perhaps to catalyze the evening’s climax).

“I want to know for myself that when I look back, and when I tell my children what I was doing in the first second of the ‘Tens–what I was doin’ when those ‘Tens started–well, I was dancing.” At that point, the night of had been stolen by Tommy Tucker.

Later on, after everyone in the crowd had downed a few glasses of champagne, Baltimore’s resident 9-piece soul/funk outfit took the stage. Fronted by two women so dainty that I’d never even guess could sing well, much less belt, the Bellevederes were surprisingly tight given their large numbers. Their lyrical matter may be in dire need of improvement, but musically the band need not change a thing. The Bellevederes represent in themselves a funk-for-funk’s sake sort of aspiration. That is, I’m not quite sure about why they’re playing soul and funk–other than to get funky, of course–but I’m not rightly going to criticize such an objective. Plus, they’re a riot live which is justification enough. Do yourself a favor and be sure not to miss The Bellevederes next time they play in the area.