Anthony Fama & The Redemptions

So it’s no secret that I sorely missed Anthony Fama’s presence on the stage after his departure from Doctor Bones. Now, it’s nearly a year later from that departure and ironically Doctor Bones is no more, but Fama is back. The last couple weeks I’ve been checking out his sets during his Tuesday night residencies at Long Wong’s an I’ve been duly impressed by what he has going on. I’m not honestly sure why I missed the first week, but that trespass was unforgivable, though I don’t think it was until the second week that I figured out I could make his set immediately after work until his second show. The Redemptions are Anthony Fama on vocals and electric acoustic guitar, Danger Paul on bass and D.L. Harrison on drums, which is like a match made in heaven. The first week I caught them, Cailin Gross was playing lead guitar and the second they were just a trio, which I’m glad I got to see those variations, I don’t know what the formula will be tonight. They’ve got a set of seven tight and growing tighter originals that usually finishes off with an impressive cover. It turns out that even when Fama is not flailing around like Iggy Pop, he still has amazing stage presence, which had been an unknown quantity to me, but the man is a born performer,

Ah, yes, but what about the songs. Clearly, Anthony is pursuing a different path and evoking an early rock’n'roll/Americana vibe that suits his vocal range well, but he still has a few songs in the canon that would lend themselves to a previous Doctor Bones incarnation as well, so there is a touch of a schizophrenic vibe going on which actually works well. One of the things that’s nice is that the Redemptions play the same set each week in the same order, so you can get perspective on the whole thing and they can get better at what they do. Though they didn’t have a bitchin’ lead guitarist like Gross on week three, it helped make it clear where they didn’t need one and on week three of the residency, they were MUCH tighter. The set opener “These Walls” is one of my favorite songs with it’s loping Americana feel (by the way I’ve discovered recently that when I say “Americana” it means country music that doesn’t suck), Anthony uses his deep voice an it has a great Southwest vibe that comes off as gritty road music–a bit like if Nick Cave sang Johnny Cash songs. “What We Do Is Secret” has a bit more of the old Bones feel to it, with Fama doing his punk crooner voice and its more straight out rocking, one thing I did notice about this song between the two nights is that this song definitely needs a lead guitar that shreds during it, it needs it for lift off sake alone. The bass work of Danger Paul really shines in “Call Me When (You Want)” and it’s one, perhaps because of the combination of Paul and Harrison, that no lead guitar is necessary in any way, while once more Fama croons his way to brilliance.

Before I ever heard this new incarnation of Fama’s he had sent me two demos. One was amazing and the other was fucking terrible. The demo of “My Body Wakes”was goddamned amazing and it is one of my favorite songs in the set, that being said it’s probably a rare occasion where compared to the demo the live version is horseshit. It’s not for the obvious reasons though. It doesn’t rock out harder, there isn’t better musicianship, it’s that it’s more authentic. In the case of “My Body…” I love it live…it “pops” from the set, but upon hearing the demo after I got home I realized that while it was great, so much of it was lost and the initial vulnerable vision of it was gone. The “Stage Anthony” took over on the song and buried the guy that wrote and sang on the demo. I want him to listen to the demo again and try to gain that back, then even more importantly, display that vulnerability, nay, that tender fragility on stage.  You can hear the amazing demo of this below by clicking on the link. I honestly have no opinion about “I Made It Rain”, it doesn’t make that much of an impression, but it may need to be elsewhere in the set, but I could take it or leave and that was true of both weeks, it seemed more like a pause between two amazing songs than anything else–maybe this one just hasn’t clicked with the band yet, I’m not sure. The note for both weeks are sparse on this one and I can remember nothing about it other than a country vibe.

Anthony Fama – My Body Wakes

“Seventeen” on the other hand is a completely different story and it is a rollicking rockabilly number that is just pure perfection with a bass, drum kit and a rhythm guitar. I don’t want Fama to get formulaic, but the way they play this and the joy they seem to have doing it, this seems to be the actual direction they want to go in. It’s a perfect song, fresh out of the box, not because it’s trying to prove anything, far from it–it’s just simple concise and everyone’s part is perfect for them.  “A Little Bit More” is the finale, well for originals anyway and goddamn it is a stunner. This is the other demo that Fama sent me and in this case the demo is fucking trash and the live performance is brilliant. It has a very Bones feel to it and the bass/drums on this number are astounding, here to it benefits from a scorching lead guitar and it wouldn’t hurt to have a keyboard part I hear when they play it. It is probably their best song live an it had people dancing both nights I saw them, plus there is a great socio-political lyric that’s awesome. Seriously, Harrison’s drums are phenomenal here and so is Paul’s bass and Fama just rages through the vocals the way you remember he used to, honestly, he could throw away the guitar for this one and leave it to whoever is on lead so he can just go nuts. You would never know this song would emerge from the demo it came from, which was thin, transparent and barely a song in sensibility. You can listen to the completely horseshit demo of this song by clicking on the link below. Luckily, it’s a much different beast now that it has a band to play it and practice it, because it’s one of their best.

Anthony Fama – A Little Bit More

Tonight Anthony Fama & The Redemptions will take the stage one last Tuesday. This time they will be joined by Day Before Plastics, Sister Lip and The Woodworks, so its going to be pretty off the hook. If you haven’t seen this yet, I would highly recommend you get to Wong’s by 11pm to catch the set, but I would also recommend you get their earlier to catch everyone else as well. The last two weeks Fama has closed with a different cover each week, maybe he’ll have another surprise for us, the first week he did Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” and last week he did “Stand By Me” and both were phenomenal. Let’s see what he has in store for us tonight!