I Can’t Stop is the title of the latest album by a band that knows a thing or two about perseverance: BoDeans. This Wisconsin-based band emerged with a fair bit of Next Big Heartland Rock Thing hype in the ’80s, and had some minor chart successes in its early years, but has not really received a lot of mainstream attention since then. The 2011 departure of co-frontman Sam Llanas, whose distinctively grainy voice added a lot of character to the songs, was a big blow, but singer-songwriter-guitarist Kurt Neumann has kept the group going, and there they were, onstage at the Newton Theatre in Newton on Friday, playing for a modest-sized but enthusiastic crowd of true believers.
It was my first time seeing them live in many, many years. And I wasn’t disappointed.
They performed as a quintet, with Sam Hawksley on guitar, Stefano Intelisano on organ and accordion, Eric Holden on bass and David Sierra on drums, and played songs from all stages of the band’s career. (The great Kenny Aronoff played drums on I Can’t Stop but is not on the current tour.) Crucially, they couldn’t have seemed more happy to be there, or more committed to the material, than if they were playing at Madison Square Garden. Songs like “Dreams” and “Fadeaway” built to feverish finales, “Good Things” was a genial singalong, and the band seemed to transform into a young, hungry, sweaty garage-rock group for encores “Good Work” and “Closer to Free.”
Singer-songwriter-pianist Bob Malone, a Jefferson Township native who has been living in Los Angeles for the last 25 years (and is now a member of John Fogerty’s band), opened the show. I’m going to be interviewing him this week — about his career and his new album, Mojo Deluxe — so I’ll just say for now that his set was very good, too, with wildly energetic piano playing and a solid batch of original songs, including one, “Home to Me,” about his Jersey roots.
BoDeans and Malone will team up for shows at the New Hope Winery in New Hope, Pa., at 8 p.m. tonight, and the City Winery in Manhattan at 8 p.m. Aug. 27. Malone will also perform on his own at the Minstrel Acoustic Concert Series in Morristown on Sept. 4.