Review: The Godfathers at Off Broadway, Tuesday, February 22

When we interviewed lead Godfather Peter Coyne, he spoke of possessing a spirit of "revenge." But revenge, though sweet, is not always easy. The band, which recorded its best-known hits in the 1980s, was scheduled to play the first show of its American comeback tour at Off Broadway. However, unspecified visa issues kept bassist Chris Coyne from entering the country. After securing a substitute bassist, the rest of the band - Peter, drummer Grant Nicholas and guitarist Del Bartle - came over about a week late. This meant that Off Broadway would now be their last show. Blame Homeland Security all you want, but judging from the rousing, no-nonsense set the Godfathers gave a small but fervent Tuesday night audience, I'm not so sure they lost the battle.

Dressed in matching Mafioso-style suits, the band took the stage like boxers with scores to settle. Peter Coyne is no longer an angry young man; these days he looks like a cross between Richard Nixon and Silvio from The Sopranos.  However, this doesn't mean he's mellowed with age. Indeed, middle age suits him well, and adds an extra dose of conviction to his stage presence. Coyne stalks the stage, scowls at the crowd, and shouts his way through hook-ridden songs old and new in his oddly ingratiating Cockney growl. You get the impression he'd slap the Gallagher brothers and Pete Doherty upside the head given the chance. But he doesn't come off as a hard man - he's genuinely appreciative of his audience and remains a music fan at heart. Throughout the evening, he offered shout-outs to the Ramones, Johnny Cash and openers Warm Jets USA, offered well wishes to Chuck Berry's continued recovery, and even shared a Willie Nelson dirty joke that he heard in Cleveland.

Del Bartle's guitar playing was consistently interesting, with hints of Berry, Johnny Thunders and Link Wray thrown into a post-punk blender. Although he joined the Godfathers late in their career, he and Coyne have a long history. They played together in Sid Presley Experience back in the early 1980s, and tonight covered that band's "Hup 2 3 4." The old songs came alive, and the new songs, including "Back Into the Future" and "I Can't Sleep Tonight," suggested a return to form and a quality comeback album later in the year.

After the set-ending singalong "Birth School Work Death," the band reconvened onstage for a spirited cover of Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac" (made famous by the Clash on London Calling), their own "I'm Unsatisfied," and a version of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" that actually managed to amp up the original a few notches. It may have been a cold weeknight in St. Louis, but the Godfathers kicked it out like they were playing for a rabid audience of fanatics at the 100 Club. 

Set list:
1) Public Enemy No. 1
2) I Want Everything
3) Cause I Said So
4) I Can't Sleep Tonight
5) Love Is Dead
6) Paranoid
7) Can't Leave Her Alone
8) She Gives Me Love
9) When Am I Coming Down
10) This Is War
11) I'm Branded
12) Back Into the Future
13) Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues
14) How Low Is Low
15) Hup 2 3 4
16) This Damn Nation
17) Birth School Work Death

18) Brand New Cadillac
19) I'm Unsatisfied
20) Cold Turkey
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