Spin Doctors at Town Ballroom (2011)


Promoters estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 funk-hungry souls came out to bask in the 20th anniversary of the Spin Doctors’ 1991 album, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite,” but the band seethed as if they were playing in front of 60,000 at Pinkpop.

The tracks were fresh, the sound was flawless, and the rhythm section of Eric Schenkman, Mark White, and Aaron Comess asserted itself as one of the most scorching combinations around, let alone one that is currently confined to the club circuit.

Hearing “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” and “What Time Is It?” to start off the evening was all the evidence I needed to confirm my conviction that this band should’ve been bigger.

They exude an ideal fusion of charisma and “A-Team” musicality that lifts the crowd and satisfies anyone who questions why a so-called “90s band” still warrants attention of any kind. Singer Chris Barron’s quirky songwriting and fun-loving personality permeate the material in so many ways that it’s impossible not to have a blast watching the band operate.

Then again, when their definitive album is released just prior to Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” the fact that they achieved any commercial success at all in the Grunge era is a triumph in itself.

In my opinion, Schenkman is the ace in the hole for the Spin Doctors in 2011.  He flat-out shreds on both a Stratocaster and an SG with a luscious guitar tone worthy of any old-school rock player. His extended solos on “Refrigerator Car” and “Shinbone Alley/Hard to Exist” were among the highlights of their nearly two-hour set.

Signature hits of “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” were played in all their sing-along-inducing glory, but the finest moments were delivered during songs that lend themselves to easily to the jam-band mentality.

Opening act James Manning attempted to rile the crowd with his brooding, Dylan-esque cadence, but his acoustic vibe appeared more suited for a coffeehouse open mic night than a barroom setting.

Had it not been for someone in the back asking what his name was, he most likely would’ve left without ever saying it, so, while he sang with passion, the overall intimacy of his show appeared lost on most people looking to groove to the music.

In a sense, his style served as the perfect warm-up for the Spin Doctors, because, following his solemnity, a little playful energy was just what the crowd needed.



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