There’s a moment in Almost Famous (the greatest movie of all time) where William Miller tells Russell Hammond, lead guitarist of Stillwater, that his guitar sound is “incendiary.” That’s kind of how I felt watching Blitzen Trapper at Paradise Rock Club Tuesday night. The sound was something I couldn’t quite find the right word to describe, but William’s word was the closest fit. And it also didn’t hurt that lead singer and guitarist Eric Earley looks and dresses a bit like Hammond.
Blitzen Trapper brought their live show to Boston despite the fact that all their gear was ruined the day prior thanks to Hurricane Sandy. But the storm didn’t damper their performance, or deter the packed crowd that turned out to see their signature brand of folksy bluesy roots rock that combines jangling tambourine and wailing harmonica in a sound that harkens back to 1970s Americana nostalgia.
The group opened with “Might Find it Cheap,” a Southern rock jam off their latest album, American Goldwing, showcasing the group’s pitch perfect harmonies, which give bands like Fleet Foxes a run for their money.
Crowd favorite “Furr” off of the band’s breakout album of the same name showcased just what these guys do best— tell stories. The tune’s lyrics tell the story of a man who turned into a wolf and then back into a human again. The four-minute metaphor involving religion, love and domesticity is one of the better songs of the last decade.
“Black River Killer” also drew a cheer from the crowd upon the opening notes of its haunting melody. “Girl in a Coat” showed off the band’s softer side, while “Street Fighting Son” proved that they could jam with the best.
A highlight of the show was the first song of the encore, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” off American Goldwing. Earley played the song solo, with only an acoustic guitar and harmonica accompanying his vocals. The song was so good that it didn’t matter that he stopped playing twice— once because he was using the wrong harmonica, and again because he forgot a verse. After all, he warned us before he started it that he didn’t remember how to play the song. Instead of being annoyed or disappointed, the audience was empathetic and encouraging— and the song, with its finger picked guitar and poetic lyrics, was good enough to survive anything.
When the band rejoined Earley for the rest of the encore, their chemistry was reminiscent of Stillwater at the end of the movie, when William’s article gets published and they all become friends again. At the end of the day, Blitzen Trapper is a feel-good band. They bring you back without feeling stuck in the past.