There isn’t a single band on earth like Low Cut Connie and that’s an amazing thing.
When frontman Adam Weiner, whose presence electrifies fans before he says a word, takes the stage and asks if everyone’s ready to get weird, you know they are. And those who haven’t been christened in the aforementioned, beautiful “weird” that this band conjures still get a pretty clear sense that they’re in for a transformative experience.
A few recent lineup changes, notably the departure of founding member Dan Finnemore earlier this year, might have caused some anxiety among fans of the Philadelphia-based band. But when they kicked into breakneck rocker ‘Back in School’ to start things off on Friday, the faithful were assured they have no reason to fear; Connie is still Connie and still does what it does better than anyone.
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Tried and true numbers from the band’s small but rich catalogue like ‘Pity Party,’ ‘Scoliosis in Secaucus,’ ‘Rio’ and ‘Shit, Shower & Shave’ sound better than ever and it’s great to hear shouts of recognition for songs from their first couple of albums, relatively underground affairs.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been changes, though. ‘Boozophilia’ has become their most popular song since its inclusion on President Obama’s Summer Playlist and has traditionally (and logically) been placed late in their sets, but it appeared second on Friday night, a ballsy move from a band that knows it doesn’t have to lean on their best known songs to deliver. That said, the forceful rhythm and great lyrics that everyone sings along to by now ensure that it remains a highlight.
Another guaranteed stunner was ‘Shake It Little Tina.’ Beginning with the hushed intro known on record as ‘Who the Hell is Tina?’ the band coaxed expecting fans into a calm that doesn’t appear often in their show. When the song’s signature drum and bass groove kicked in, the tension shattered, everyone got to dancing and Weiner triumphantly stood on his piano bench, plucked a hair out of his chest and blew it into the crowd.
If the previous sentence isn’t evidence enough, Weiner is a frontman unlike any other. He is also peerless in contemporary rock music. He works his trusty piano/sidekick “Shondra” (essentially the band’s sixth member) with the fire of early rock and rollers like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. He plays with his feet; he plays with his mic stand; he plays while standing on his bench; he kicks his bench away and kneels, head tilted skyward, in moments of euphoria that the audience can’t help but share.
But in addition to the old tricks, Weiner has an idiosyncratic humor and ability to connect with a crowd that is truly rare. He animates every line he delivers and his finger is always pointing around the room as he meets fans’ gazes and offers personal invitations to the band’s joyful peculiarity. He’s absolutely magnetic.
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But this isn’t a one-man show and, crucially, he is more than matched by the rest of Connie. One wouldn’t guess that Larry Scotton was the group’s bassist as recently as last year, so natural and powerful was his drumming all night. Bassist Lucas Rinz, though maybe the least animated of the band members, ably fills his shoes, keeping things rock solid and groovy. The guitar team of James Everhart and Will Donnelly bolstered each song with their sleazy tones and compact solos, avoiding indulgence of any form. The two match Weiner for showmanship, kneeling as they tear it up, mounting and leaping off Shondra, and leaning into each other during their dual assaults. The shared passion is palpable. Everhart took a turn at the mic for ‘Am I Wrong?’ from the band’s upcoming fourth album and got people singing along to something they had likely never heard before by the end.
That wasn’t unusual, though. The set was packed with new tunes, some which played to the band’s well-established strengths and others that showcased new directions. The sentimental ‘Revolution Rock ‘n’ Roll’ fit strongly into the latter category, lovingly paying tribute to what Weiner called “America’s greatest invention” and displaying more sincerity than the boys are known for. But across the board, the new songs got people singing, dancing, and anticipating what 2017 has in store.
The band closed the show with a stunning cover of Prince’s ‘Controversy,’ showing off their funk chops and offering one of the better and less expected tributes to the late icon since his passing. But more interestingly, earlier in the five-song encore was a take on Iggy Pop’s ‘Success,’ featuring the repeated refrain “Here comes success.” Low Cut Connie’s growing popularity despite their oddball sensibility is a small miracle in itself, but if they keep doing what they do, that line will prove remarkably prescient in the years ahead.