Brian Capps and the True Liars | 06.02.07

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live_cappsOne highlight was Capps' signature cover of "Walk the Line," which fans of his shows are certainly familiar with. But this time, upon completing the song, Capps exclaimed, "Okay, now let's turn the record over," and he imitated the sound of a scratchy 45 ending.





Off Broadway, St. Louis

It's hard to imagine having a more rocking good time at a nightclub than when Brian Capps and the True Liars are in town. Brian and his ace band—D. Clinton Thompson on guitar, Lou Whitney on bass, and Ron Gremp on drums—are one of the authentic musical treasures in the Midwest, and word is starting to get around what a killer show these guys put on, time after time. The quartet made their first appearance at the venerable south St. Louis venue Off Broadway on June 2, and if the crowd wasn't huge, the heart and impact of the music sure were.

One of the many worthwhile things this band offers is an absolute master class in doing classic covers with style and wit. In their two-set concert, they effortlessly ran through tunes by Gene Vincent ("Lotta Lovin," a tune that Capps and his boys kick absolutely serious ass on), Merle Travis ("Dark as a Dungeon"), Ray Price ("Crazy Arms"), Eddie Cochran (a blistering take on "Nervous Breakdown" that Whitney sang lead on), Hank Williams ("My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"), Merle Haggard (a soulful "Good Hearted Woman"), and of course the expected Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry covers that always make their way into a Capps set list.

Capps is a master at erasing the boundary (if one even exists) between vintage country and classics from the rock 'n' roll template. Anyone hearing staples of his live show such as Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak," Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business," and The Beatles' "Run For Your Life" (all performed at this show) would have to be impressed at the consistent punch of the arrangements and the perfect suitability of Capps' smooth voice for these tunes. "It's like they all get Brian-ized," said one enthusiastic fan, explaining how the songs sound in Capps' hands. One thing is for sure: this band doesn't do covers perfunctorily—they love these old songs madly, and they've a knack for injecting fiery new life into them.

One highlight was Capps' signature cover of "Walk the Line," which fans of his shows are certainly familiar with. But this time, upon completing the song, Capps exclaimed, "Okay, now let's turn the record over," and he imitated the sound of a scratchy 45 ending. Without missing a beat, the band then jumped into "Get Rhythm." It was a moment of wit and utter musical delight clearly beyond the abilities of most bands, and the audience responded with appropriate enthusiasm. Another pair of sublime Cash covers performed were "Folsom Prison Blues," on which Johnny Vegas made a guest appearance to sing lead vocals, and "25 Minutes to Go," which Capps sang with absolute relish, despite a slight hint of hoarseness. There may be singers that sound more precisely like Cash when covering songs like this, but few are better than Capps at channeling Cash's warmth and emotional directness. "Here's our message song," Capps said at one point, and the band launched into a stirring version of Henson Cargill's "Skip a Rope."

Although the show was heavy on covers, Capps served up a good helping of his peerless originals as well, and it's a measure of his songwriting chops that these tunes stand proudly among the old classics. "Next Time" and "I Wouldn't Say That's Living" are faultless rockers, and "Walk Through Walls" may be one of the best songs ever written on the subject of feeling unappreciated by a lover. Capps is gearing up for his second album; he performed several promising tunes that will presumably be on it such as "So Long Midnight," "Smoke and Mirror Show," and the melancholy but melodic "The Coldest Summer."

Domino Kings fans were treated to "Ride Ride Ride" and "Tied to Trouble," and even a few Morells favorites made the list ("Hair of the Dog," a wryly amusing drinking song that Whitney put across in his inimitably unique manner, as well as "Hot Rod Baby," one of several songs on which guitar maestro Thompson tore up the fretboard). Attentive to the audience throughout and flexible enough to handle plenty of requests, Capps showed he is a thoroughly professional front man and a truly gifted singer. Catch him and his killer band the first chance you get if you missed out this time. | Kevin Renick

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