New Haven, CT, Toads Place
March 22, 1993

At Toad's, Baird Keeps Churning Out Back-to-basics Rock
April 01, 1993|By ROGER CATLIN; Courant Rock Critic

It is probably the success of the Black Crowes that is bringing all the clanging, basic guitar chords of rock 'n' roll back onto major labels and into barrooms. Or maybe it's just been a good spring.

But the back-to-basics rock sound can be easily traced back from the Crowes to the Rolling Stones and to Chuck Berry before them.

And while the Crowes were still taking a stab at becoming an alternative act in the mid'80s, fellow Atlantan Dan Baird was rocking it up as lead singer, writer and guitarist with the Georgia Satellites.

That band broke up after three albums, but Baird is still churning out good-time rock on his own.

Tuesday at Toad's Place in New Haven, Baird fronted a band cranking those timeless rock chords to his still-funny lyrics about teenage lust and ensuing problems.

And he had a surprise weapon in his group as well: the familiar visage of Slim Dunlap, who last graced Toad's stage as guitarist for the Replacements. Dunlap is the second ex-Replacement to play Toad's in less than a week; Tommy Stinson's new group, Bash & Pop, played last Thursday. (Baird's old Satellites guitarist Rick Richards was to have appeared at Toad's last week as well, as a member of Izzy Stradlin's Juju Hounds. The gig was canceled at the last minute, but this shows just how many of these rock bands have been booked lately.)

At any rate, Baird and Dunlap traded licks in the best Keith Richards tradition, although Dunlap tended to raise feedback as the rhythm section from Baird's recent album, "Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired" -- drummer Mauro Magellan and bassist Keith Christopher -- wailed away.

Kicking off with "The One I Am," Baird unloaded the big Satellites hit "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" two songs in, and then went on to play songs of "hillbilly lust" from his amusing debut.

There was time for cover songs, both planned -- a sharp medley of John Fogarty's "Almost Saturday Night" and "Rockin' All Over the World" -- and merely threatened: Snippets from bands as diverse as Led Zeppelin, KC & the Sunshine Band, Tom Petty and the Allman Brothers were played to punctuate their patter but quickly abandoned.

It was, as you could imagine, a fun night, during which the pretensions of rock were thrown out with the kicking rhythms. Not that the band wasn't accomplished; a couple of the slower songs built and exploded like the best of rock.

But there was a special lunacy Tuesday, the last date on the tour for the opening Poorboys, not a bad young quartet, which uses some of the same basic riffs with harmonies and has Bon Jovi good looks.

The Toad's audience witnessed probably the ultimate in good-natured band practical jokes. The Poorboys unleashed balloons during Baird's set, ordered a pizza for him delivered on stage mid-show and, most prominently, commandeered the video camera to show a member of the Poorboys entourage mooning the band -- and the audience -- throughout one song.

But they were playing catch-up. The most spectacular of Baird's gags during the Poorboys set was unleashing a dozen ping-pong balls on the drummer's head during one song; blasting a huge, obscuring smoke machine; and slowly lowering a cardboard cutout of an Indy 500 racer down from the rafters during the last song.

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