Nathaniel Mayer with the Shanks at Graffiti's, July 11. Tickets: pwyc. Attendance: 50. And at the Silver Dollar, July 11. Free. Attendance: 30. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
En route to ottawa, detroit r&b great Nathaniel Mayer made a detour through Kensington Market to play his first-ever Toronto gig at Graffiti's , backed by ex- Detroit Cobras guitarist Jeff Meier and the Shanks . For those familiar with Mayer's swinging Fortune-label jukebox faves like Village Of Love, Don't Come Back and Leave Me Alone, just seeing the contemporary of Andre Williams and Nolan Strong looking so fit and trim was a pleasant surprise.
But as we'd soon discover, Mayer didn't come all the way from the Motor City just to show off his flashy new silk shirt and matching socks.
Despite some microphone trouble, the old-school showman let everyone know he could still put across a song, growling the low notes like Frogman Henry and effortlessly swooping up to a piercing Clyde McPhatter-esque falsetto, all the while shifting between a knee-raising shimmy and a strutting camel walk. The well-drilled Shanks attentively followed Mayer's every hip-twist and shoulder shake, punctuating their raunchy garage grooves with righteous backing vocals and hand-claps.
"This next song is about a friend of mine who got caught stealing a car," shouted Mayer. "It's called I Want Love And Affection (Not The House Of Correction)," and with that he began to work himself into a sweat, belting and shaking like a man half his age before waving goodbye and swaggering out the club's front door.
Meanwhile, local promoter Dan Burke was busy hatching one of his typically crazy schemes. "Billy Bragg is playing a sold-out show at the club that was stolen from me," reasoned Burke, "and the Dirtbombs, who were also taken from me, are playing at the Horseshoe, so I have to do something."
Just as Mayer was taking a breather outside Graffiti's, Burke was passing out flyers at the Horseshoe that he'd just printed up at Kinko's announcing a Nathaniel Mayer and the Shanks show at the Silver Dollar later that night.
By the time Mayer and I walked over to the Silver Dollar, Burke was waiting at the door with a toothless grin, surrounded by 30 or so puzzled-looking moused-hair hipsters who'd come to hear the Hives and AC/DC at the Lipstick, Cherry night.
Fifteen minutes later, the Shanks were shaking and quaking on the dimly lit stage while the skinny tie crowd grabbed their knockoff Lufthansa flight bags, folded their arms and lined the walls. It took Mayer to break the ice. "You people are some beautiful damn people," he observed. "You like to party, and I like to party, too. Would it be all right if I party with you?"
After getting the go-ahead, the Shanks tore into Village Of Love, sending Mayer into a twisting frenzy that finally got the Lipstick, Cherry regulars clapping in time and shaking what their mamas gave them.
Before the night was over, Mayer was demanding Burke book him a follow-up gig in August. If it happens, don't miss it.