Terry Adams Rock ‘n’ Roll Quartet, Bobby Houck & Friends
The Pour House
Jan. 23

With his mane of light gray hair, sneakers, and an oversized shirt, keys man Terry Adams looks like your typical rock ‘n’ roll wild man. On stage, behind three keyboards and a battery of vintage gear, he resembles a mad professor on the loose, ready to pounce on a rhythmic groove with an evil grin on his face and ants in his pants. Three songs into a show, Adams’ persona morphs from on-stage weirdo to musical genius

Revered by superfans and rock critics as the longtime keyboardist for legendary bar band NRBQ (a.k.a. New Rhythm and Blues Quintet), the zany Adams led his solid Rock ‘n’ Roll Quartet to the Pour House for an animated and memorable Sunday set.

A small crowd of locals was on hand for opening act Bobby Houck, the lead singer and acoustic guitarist of local roots band the Blue Dogs. Houck welcomed two bandmates onto the stage during his set. Guitarist Dave Stewart added a few loose licks and chords to Houck’s opening songs before they really got things rolling with two Beatles covers, “Only Sleeping” and “Hold Your Hand.” Bassist Hank Futch joined in on acoustic guitar, too, singing harmony on a few old Blue Dogs fan faves and a nice version of Lyle Lovett’s “L.A. County.” It was a laid-back warm-up for a hot headliner.

Adams and his three bandmates — electric guitarist/vocalist Scott Ligon, bassist /vocalist Pete Donnelly, and drummer Conrad Choucroun — wasted no time kicking things off. Situated on a backless roller office chair, Adams switched from keyboard to keyboard, tapping his feet with high bounces.

A funny-looking assemblage of young hippies, veteran musicians, and old-school “Q” fans crowded near the stage. Some shuffled around like expert shaggers. Others nodded and wiggled to the rhythms with cans of PBR in hand.

The first few tunes mixed elements of New Orleans-style boogie, soul, blues, and vintage rock ‘n’ roll. They touched on a few newer originals, including the hooky, harmony-filled “She’s Got Everything” and the rousingly funky “Start It Over.” While Donnelly and Choucroun locked in on the bottom end, Ligon, standing tall with a Byrds haircut, embellished the songs with a slew of tasteful solos and reverb-laden Fender twang via a beautiful old Telecaster and Twin Reverb amp. Ligon’s musical vocabulary was broad enough to allow a few Chuck Berry, Scotty Moore, and Chet Atkins moments to shine through.

Judging by the staccato thumpiness, Donnelly’s Fender Jazz bass must of had some flat-wound strings, which allowed plenty of sonic space for Ligon to interact and play off of Adams’ keyboard work. The band’s instrumentation benefitted from a nearly perfect mix out front.

The band played extremely well together. There was a consistent sense of balance, modesty, and flow. Despite Adams’ occasionally frantic, Thelonious Monk-esque flourishes (his “wrong” notes sound terrific), there was nothing fancy, forced, or pretentious about. From song to song, the vibrant musical chemistry, technique, and feel between the musicians impressed the audience more than anything. Some of most enjoyable moments were simple grooves that stretched out for a few extra bars (see the video clip below).

Other highlights included the melodic “A Girl Like That,” several power-pop gems written and sung by Donnelly, a droning song about space travel that sounded like the Blues Brothers doing Pink Floyd, and a nasty version of NRBQ’s “Flat Foot Floozy.” The rockabilly-accented “She Knows How to Rock Me” helped close the set.