photo by Dylan Reynolds
Nick Moss (left) and Dennis Gruenling perform with their band at House of Bards Sunday, June 11.
The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling brought their powerful Chicago blues style to Tucson’s House of Bards Sunday evening, performing almost three hours for a crowd that warmed up as the show progressed.
The band is touring in celebration of their new album The High Cost of Low Living
released in March as their first CD on Chicago’s famed Alligator Records. At Sunday’s show, the group impressed with their blend of technical musicianship and energetic showmanship.
Gruenling, in particular, energized the crowd with his wailing harmonica, swaying and dancing as he displayed the musical skill that’s earned him nationwide acclaim. His appearance — the patterned jacket, long hair, sunglasses indoors look— complimented his blues prowess.
The band's music is rooted firmly in sounds of the past, but they haven’t distanced themselves from the present. At one point in the middle of a song, Gruenling reached for his smartphone and started filming the performance while simultaneously playing harmonica. It was a symbolic reminder that blues still has a place in the 2018 music scene.
At several points during the show, audience members approached the stage to snap pictures of the band, and Gruenling obliged them, moving and posing for the photo-seekers.
Moss, for the most part, let his guitar do the talking. At 6’2” with a gruff blues voice, he doesn’t have to work too hard for attention. Dressed head-to-toe in black, he entertained with his expressive guitar work and vocals.
Whether it was Howlin’ Wolf covers (Sunday would have been the blues legend’s 108th birthday) or original material like the new album's “Tight Grip on Your Leash,” the music was performed with soul and power. The addition of long solo sections in the middle of songs had some of them reaching towards ten minutes, but the band’s virtuosity kept the performance interesting.
As the show went on, the largely middle-to-older-aged crowd became progressively more energized. A group of a dozen people started dancing beside the stage, several others stood up and clapped, and a few shouted affirmation during particularly skillful instrumental solos.
Perhaps that energy came from a combination of the music and the alcohol being served all night at the bar.
“Drink up," Moss joked early in the show, "and we’ll be the best band you’ve ever heard.”