Sammy James Junior of The Mooney Suzuki, is a true Rock ‘N’ Roll front man, the likes of which you just don’t see on the indie circuit. He does the rock kicks, rock jumps, and The Pete Townsend windmill. He rocks on the stage, in front of the stage, and wherever his guitar leads him. Sure, he can be a bit of a ham, and Thursday night, he sure liked saying “Cleveland,” (my final count was in the 20’s) but the young Sammy James Juniors in the crowd and the old Sammy James Juniors in the crowd ate it up. When he said “Clap your hands!” They clapped their hands. When he said “Have Mercy!” They said have mercy. And when he rocked out, they followed his lead.

The Mooneys early set drew heavily from their back catalog. Witnessing the band rip through numbers like “Electric Sweat” and “In a Young Man’s World,” it was easy to see how they earned considerable buzz during the leading edge of the garage rock revival. If I would have seen that type of performance five years ago, I surely would have been on that buzz wagon anointing the Mooneys as the next big thing. Yet, history (and critics) haven’t always been kind to them. First there was the major label disappointment of Alive and Amplified, followed by the forever in the waiting, Have Mercy. When you consider that Have Mercy was intended to be released some nine months ago, it’s understandable that James introduced the band’s new songs as being from a soon to be released album instead of one that’s out now. Admittedly, the middle of the set lost a little of their opening energy. “Ashes,” “Adam &Eve,” and “First Comes Love,” all from Have Mercy, couldn’t match the intensity of their older material. Later, “99%,” and the Have Mercy bonus cut, “You Never Really Wanted to Rock ‘N’ Roll,” both bigger, beefier, and a couple beats faster than their recorded counterparts, fit in perfectly along side the more raucous numbers “Turn My Blue Sky Black” and “Alive and Amplified.”

It was that last number, “You Never Really Wanted to Rock ‘N’ Roll,” that really summed up the band and their performance the best. Those that were there Thursday night, who wanted to Rock ‘N’ Roll, surely left the Beachland Tavern with their faith in music restored. Conversely, those that have no time for old fashioned Rock ‘N’ Roll would have been unmoved. That seems to be quite fine with Sammy James Junior and the rest of the Mooneys. At this point in their career, they’re playing rock music for fans of Rock ‘N’ Roll and they’re no longer concerned with the buzz of the next big thing.


Singin’ a Song About Today
New York Girls
Electric Sweat
In A Young Man’s World
This Broke Heart of Mine
Adam & Eve
First Comes Love
Shake That Bush Again
Turn My Blue Sky Black
Alive & Amplified
Good Ole Alcohol
You Never Really Wanted to Rock ‘N’ Roll