When Richard Barone and James Mastro released their Nuts and Bolts album in 1983, they were too busy with their band The Bongos to undertake a tour to promote it. And so the album’s songs have rarely been performed live. Thirty-five years later, though — Oct. 6, at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair — they presented a full-length set devoted to it, playing its 11 songs plus three more.
“This is the tour; this is it,” said Mastro, at Tierney’s, joking that this was the long-delayed Nuts and Bolts promotional tour. Both the opening and the closing night, Barone added.
The occasion was a benefit for NJArts.net that also featured the Glenn Mercer Band and Elk City. Mercer, best known as a member of The Feelies, was joined by percussionist Dave Weckerman (of The Feelies), John Baumgartner (of Speed the Plough and the Campfire Flies) and others, and Mercer also guested with Barone and Mastro on two songs. Elk City backed Barone and Mastro as well as opening the show on their own.
I’m not exactly impartial, since the show was a benefit for my website. But I hope you’ll still believe me when I tell you it was a stunningly good night of music. If you have any doubts, please check out the clips below.
Nuts and Bolts had an unusual structure, with Barone’s songs and vocals featured on one side of vinyl, and Mastro’s on the other. (The album has never been released digitally, though it’s possible that that could happen next year, Barone and Mastro say.) Instead of playing the songs in order, Barone and Mastro alternated between the two sides of the record. “Turn the record over, next song,” Mastro said after one of Barone’s songs.
Mastro’s material included the earthy ballad “No One Has to Know,” the punchy new wave-style song “Angel in My Pocket,” and a cover of Tommy Roe’s 1969 hit “Dizzy,” which he said was “the first song I knew all the words to … first grade unrequited love is a bitch.”
Among Barone’s numbers were the album’s purest pop song, “I’ve Got a Secret,” and the mystical, pulse-pounding “Flew a Falcon” (which Barone also has performed over the years as a solo artist.) The Nuts and Bolts portion of the show ended with “Jacob’s Ladder,” a Barone-written instrumental that gave him and Mastro an opportunity to engage in a fiery guitar duel.
Next came two Bongos songs, “Tiger Nights” and “Numbers With Wings,” the latter performed with Mercer on guitar. And the night ended with The Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On,” with Barone, Mastro and Mercer singing lead on one verse, apiece.
Mercer, one of the most routinely incendiary guitarists New Jersey ever has produced, didn’t disappoint with his solos during this portion of the show, or during his own set, which culminated with a explosive cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”
Elk City provided rock solid backing for Barone and Mastro and also captivated the crowd throughout their opening set. Singer Renée LoBue’s intense, almost theatrical stage presence gives this group something truly unique.
It was striking — and of course, I’m personally thankful for — how seriously the musicians took this show, and it paid off with a magic night of New Jersey rock that, I’m sure, everyone who was there will remember for a long time.
Barone will present a show titled “Music + Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s,” Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at Joe’s Pub in New York, with guests Marshall Crenshaw, Tammy Faye Starlite, Terre Roche, Steve Addabbo and others. Visit publictheater.org/Joes-Pub-at-The-Public.
Mastro produced Julia Greenberg’s new album, “Greenland.” Visit juliagreenbergmusic.com.
Mercer and The Feelies will perform songs by The Velvet Underground and other favorites at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. The show is sold out; visit whiteeaglehalljc.com.
Elk City performs at Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m., with Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help. Visit mancavenj.com.