NRBQ at B.B. King's on Jan. 2 (Photo: Antone DeSantis)
As any fan knows, NRBQ’s band name is an acronym that stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. At B.B. King’s Jan. 2, though, there was enough country music included to have merited at least a temporary “C.”
Country-related songs included the Everly Brothers “Poor Jenny,” Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm,” and Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely,” which is on the group’s new Happy Talk EP. It was sung by guitarist Scott Ligon in a straight-ahead country voice to match a production that, while lacking the drama of Orbison’s original, retains its beauty as a song.
Also performed from the EP was lead track “Yes, I Have a Banana,” the ‘Q’s new “answer song” to the novelty song hit of 1923, “Yes! We Have No Bananas.” Other songs in the set, including “Get Rhythm,” keyboardist/band founder Terry Adams’ 1972 “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Workin’” hotel/motel chain tribute, and 1985 “Captain Lou” salute to the late wrestling star Lou Albano (here borrowing the end of The Beatles‘ “She Loves You”), are featured in last year’s five-disc NRBQ box set High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective.
As ever, the well over two-hour set was also an insane mix of music genres, with covers of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” Georgie Fame’s “Yeh, Yeh,” Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” Shirley and Lee’s “Feel So Good,” Lonnie Mack’s “Wham!” and The Tams’ “I’ve Been Hurt.”
Other NRBQ faves included their cover of Leona Anderson’s novelty hit “Rats in My Room,” their cover (with their lyrics) of The Rebels’ instrumental “Wild Weekend” ( their version titled “It’s a Wild Weekend”).
The show ended with the new EP’s titletrack cover of the 1949 Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune from South Pacific. Adams has said that he’s loved the singular song since he was a kid—long before he discovered it was from the musical—and had always wanted to record it.
After such a dreary year, “Happy Talk”’s closing lines served to set an encouraging tone for the new one: “If you don't talk happy and you never have a dream/Then you'll never have a dream come true!” But it also rings true for Adams, who continues to keep his dream of performing pop music of all genres, at the highest level of musicianship and entertainment, alive and well, well into his band’s sixth decade.
NRBQ's version of "Happy Talk"