Graham Parker was deservedly mentioned in the same sentence with Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello back in the late 1970s when Parker was accompanied by the Rumour.
After a 30-year hiatus, Parker has reunited with the Rumour for an album and a tour. The final night of the tour was Wednesday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
True to his reputation, the ever surly and sarcastic Parker, 62, chided Garrison Keillor for turning down Parker’s pitch to play on “A Prairie Home Companion” at the Fitzgerald. He mentioned his many gigs at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis and even recalled his Twin Cities debut when GP & the Rumour were traveling in a station wagon with wood-paneling sides and luggage strapped to the roof.
Although Parker clearly still has bite, his 115-minute performance lacked the burning intensity of his 1970s concerts with the Rumour. His new material was convincing (“Coathangers” stings) but Parker can’t summon the consistent urgency and passion of Springsteen and Costello, who remain among rock’s most compelling live performers. Parker isn’t the angry man anymore, he’s lost his ferociousness.
However, he’s grown more versatile over the years. And, by the end of the night, he was squeezing out sparks for the encores, whether on the Everly Brothers-evoking “That Moon Was Low” or the impassioned “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.” The emphatic “Don’t Ask Me Questions” suggested a Dylan tune delivered by Costello. Then Parker and the first-rate Rumour (featuring guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont) rocked out on “Soul Shoes” and the pop-soul groove of “New York Shuffle.”
Hardcore fans were left pining for “Heat Treatment” and “White Honey.” Most concertgoers yearned for a better sound system because the sound faded in and out of the speakers like there was a short in the set up.
After the concert, keyboardist Bob Andrews told me in the lobby that the band worked up 30 songs for the tour. They played 24 on Wednesday – including a spontaneous extra encore of the Jackson 5’s always-fun “I Want You Back,” which was part of GP & the Rumour’s repertoire back in the late 1970s.
Here is Wednesday’s set list:
Fool’s Gold/ Hotel Chambermaid/ Snake Oil Capital of the world/ Coathangers/ I’ll Never Play Jacksonville Again/ Thunder and Rain/ Get Started, Start a Fire/ Old Soul/ Long Emotional Ride/ Howlin’ Wind/ Live in Shadows/ A Lie Gets Halfway Round the World/ Watch the Moon Come Down/ Discovering Japan/ Nobody Hurts You/ Protection/ Stupefaction/ Local Girls ENCORE 1 That Moon Was Low/ Passion Is No Ordinary Word ENCORE 2 Don’t Ask Me Questions/ Soul Shoes/ New York Shuffle/ I Want You Back (Jackson 5)