Opening night of a tour often finds a band extra amped or annoyingly distracted by technical glitches.
With JD McPherson and his group Friday night at sold-out First Avenue, it was more a case of taking too long to find their groove.
For the record, it wasn’t the opening night, though McPherson talked about how they had to begin their tour in Minneapolis, which is their biggest market. The band actually had its first gig in Iowa. Maybe they considered that a warmup show.
In any case, it took them too long to get warmed up at First Ave despite a receptive crowd who must keep their ears glued to 89.3 the Current. McPherson, the retro-loving 37-year-old Oklahoman, thanked the Current and DJs Mary Lucia and Bill DeVille more than once for their support of his music.
Lacking consistent intensity and animation on Friday, McPherson was good but not as consistently great as he’d been in previous Twin Cities performances. His patter made it sound like he was amped, with a brand new album (released on Tuesday) that he joked seemed like 17 years in the making.
The 85-minute performance – did it seem too short? – turned around when the group tackled the title track of the stellar new album, “Let the Good Times Roll.” It’s an electrifying good-time rocker, evoking Creedence Clearwater Revival at their partying best.
McPherson, the former punk rocker, gave a punkish vocal delivery on the ensuing “Wolf Teeth,” which he capped with a country-blues guitar solo before seguing into a hoedown stomp with a long instrumental jam. At that point, the band and its leader were tearing it up.
The rest of the night – which was the long encore – was consistently exciting, including the Twin Cities’ own Cactus Blossoms dusting off the Beatles slow-dance classic “This Boy” as they had on a recent tour of Europe with McPherson.
“Everybody’s Talking 'bout the All American,” from the new album, rocked with chiming guitars. “I Wish You Would,” a Billy Boy Arnold tune that McPherson put out on a digital EP last year, was a swampy success with a voodoo beat.
“Scratching Circles,” from the knockout 2012 disc “Signs & Signifiers,” was a surf-swing smash, with shades of Brian Setzer, Minneapolis' own vintage-loving hero. And the show closed with the explosive retro-billy “Scandalous” from McPherson's debut CD.
With the set list split between material from both of McPherson’s albums, the performance didn’t measure up to the excellence of either disc. But I’d bet that McPherson and his fine group will bring the consistent excitement when they return to their “greatest market” (his words) after they’ve had more time to live with these top-notch new tunes.