Review: Lucero at Off Broadway, Tuesday, December 7

When I interviewed Ben Nichols a couple weeks back, the singer recognized that St. Louis was due a proper Lucero show. After the band's LouFest set was cut short due to Nichols' health, and its previous Off Broadway gig was slightly interrupted with a couple of hair-pulling girl-fights, Nichols told me he was hoping this performance would be "just a good rock & roll show." True to his word, Nichols and the band -- which featured a two-piece brass section comprised of renowned Memphis players -- delivered in a serious way.

View a Lucero/John Henry and the Engine at Off Broadway slideshow

Locals John Henry & the Engine opened. The band slowly built momentum as frigid fans filed into the near-sold-out club and thawed out. Henry & Co stomped through some unassuming honky-tonk rompers with decent energy and plenty of gusto. While the crowd was mostly just ready for Lucero to come on, JH&TE did manage to move some hips when they tried its hand at a well-executed--yet slightly too aggro--version of Tom Petty's "Refugee."

After an animated introduction by the illustrious Beatle Bob, Lucero spared no time at heating up Off Broadway. The band's opening tune "The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo" from Lucero's 2009 full-length, 1372 Overton Park, served as the perfect tune to showcase the band's new-found fuller sound. The horns blared through the verses and chorus like sirens, as keyboardist Rick Steff came in at the bridge with a clinking E-Street-approved keyboard demo.

You could tell the band was having fun too. Nichols was appreciative of the turnout for a Tuesday night, aptly stating "Fridays and Saturdays are for amateurs... Tuesday night is the 'real drinker's' night." Nichols later took a break in the set to tell a story of how he was fined $100 by the band the night prior for puking on the tour bus. Apparently the band's sound guy gave Nichols the opportunity to decrease the fine by $20 if he was able to hit him behind the soundboard with a newfound hacky sack. No such luck for Nichols--he skied it into the balcony and found himself $100 poorer. Lesson learned? Doubtful.

Lucero, as a whole, has always been greater than the sum of its parts. And by adding more parts, the whole has certainly grown stronger. Guitarist Brian Venable's riffs bit harder with the wall of horns behind him. Drummer Roy Berry's sometimes confusing backbeats synced perfectly with Steff's impeccable chops.

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