GINO WASHINGTON at The Horseshoe, Saturday (January 11). Rating: NNNN
I missed openers Pins & Needles and Two Times, but, lamentably, arrived at the Horseshoe last night just in time to catch The Honeyrunners. A Motown-influenced awful-rock outfit whose excruciating alchemy of OAR and Steve Ray Vaughn has already caught the attention of such big-name music influencers as Bacardi and Coca-Cola, the band proves that being able to play an instrument well doesn't mean you necessarily should. It is evil. And not in a cool way. May they be banished for a thousand eternities to some exurban Southern Ontario band shell, where their nauseatingly posi, sub-Umphrey's McGee improvisations may fall upon the deaf ears of the undiscriminating. Toronto's BB Guns managed to restore something of the authenticity of a Motown-ish soul bill, with their catchy, fuzzy, albeit a bit one note, fuzz rock.
Around midnight, Gino Washington took the stage, in a brown gold-suit, looking like a flamboyant evangelical preacher moonlighting as a used car salesman. Opening with Love Bandit, the forgotten legend of northern soul was fine form. An up-and-comer in Detroit's R&B scene in the early 60s, with two top-charting singles (Out Of This World and Gino Was A Coward, the latter sometimes covered in concert by Bruce Spingsteen), Washington's career was cut woefully short when was drafted to serve in Vietnam in 1964. Upon his return, he released several more records, and hosted a local TV show. But his legacy was largely unheralded until Norton Records released a two compilations of his work, in 1999 and 2002.
With a backing band led by Jeff Meier (aka "Mr. Detroit," of Detroit Cobras, Compulsive Gamblers, etc.), the set felt like reawakening, with Washington finally receiving the respect, the audience, the applause, he deserved. Working through his catalogue (Gino Is A Coward, Around Town, Come Monkey With Me, Out Of This World, Puppet On A String), Washington was in fine form. He lead the crowd through extended call and response sections, and frequently broke into Ilsey Brothers-styled "hey-hey-ay-hey" chants. Now in his late 60s, Washington relished in entertaining the captive crowd, making a point to plug websites selling his compilation discs. He even gave out his e-mail to audience. How often does that happen?
Sadly, he didn't play Do The Frog. But then, "Sadly, he didn't play Do The Frog" is a pretty awesome complaint to have about a concert.