in performance: bodeans

Sam Hawksley, Kurt Neumann, Kenny Aronoff and Eric Holden of the BoDeans during last's night's rain-abbreviated set at Christ the King Oktoberfest.

Sam Hawksley, Kurt Neumann, Kenny Aronoff and Eric Holden of the BoDeans during last’s night’s rain-abbreviated set at Christ the King Oktoberfest. Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

“I’m all for rockin’,” remarked Kurt Neumann as the BoDeans’ performance at the Christ the King Oktoberfest was halted last night due to rain. “I just don’t want to get electrocuted. I mean, I got kids.”

Such was the farewell as a forecast that had all but ensured falling temps and precipitation for the annual outdoor soiree came true. But it was a valiant try for Neumann and the latest quintet lineup of the veteran Midwestern band, even if what they were able to squeeze in was ultimately (though quite unintentionally) a teaser for the kind of Americana smarts the band has possessed, processed and fashioned into striking rock and pop adventures over the last three decades.

The first few tunes, undertaken with the rains at bay, stressed the strengths of the current BoDeans lineup – a troupe that regularly exerted rootsy ingenuity through the colors of guitarist Sam Hawksley, the accordion runs of Bukka Allen and tunes from the band’s new I Can’t Stop album that regularly suggested The Band.

But the celebrity of the evening, maybe even more than Neumann, was all-star drummer Kenny Aronoff. Exhibiting abundant muscular drive, technical precision and performance joy, Aronoff confirmed his status as of the true greats of rock percussion. Having him as part of the BoDeans as they played what amounted to a block party in the suburbs was a true coup for Oktoberfest. He was dressed for the occasion, too, wearing a Drum Center of Lexington t-shirt. Talk about a generous plug for the locals.

You quickly sensed Neumann and company were working at what is often termed “rain pace.” With the threat of a washout at hand, the band reshuffled its setlist so a pair of defintive (and vintage) BoDeans tunes could be squeezed in before the weather won out.

The first was Still the Night, a carnival like party tune with a touch of Tex Mex thrown in. Originally featured on the band’s 1986 debut album Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, this streamlined arrangement placed Neumann front and center (the original split vocal duties with co-founder Sammy Llanas, who left the band in 2011) but kept the song’s tropical groove intact.

The set shut down with Closer to Free, the BoDeans’ biggest commercial hit. The 1993 tune was similarly set to an affirmative, anthemic stride and a leaner, looser groove that had Neumann, Hawksley, Allen and bassist Eric Holden crouched together in line formation at the front of the stage, all but daring the rain to advance.

Unfortunately, advance it did. Despite a hint from Neumann that the band might return if conditions improved, this fine teaser of a rock show was complete. Let’s hope Neumann is already planning a Lexington return somewhere in the great indoors so the BoDeans, in the most complete performance sense, can go to town.

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