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Review: The Radiators at Revolution Live

At 8 p.m. on Friday night, Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale was just opening its doors. A line of folks waited with their tickets in hand to one of the final Radiators performances in Florida.

The Radiators, one of the longest running rock bands in the states, hail from New Orleans. They made their mark by bringing their unique brand of bayou-infused rhythm and blues across the states and around the world for over 30 years. Wherever they went they brought the essence of the Crescent City along with them, and tonight was no exception. Some folks wore Mardi Gras beads. Some wore Saints apparel.

It even smelled like New Orleans. A makeshift Cajun kitchen provided by Shuck and Dive Cajun Café served jambalaya and crawfish by the pound beneath a canopy tent just outside the entrance to the club. Chef Staz of Shuck and Dive has catered at numerous Radiators concerts in Ft. Lauderdale as well as The Meters and Better than Ezra.

“I’ve been to probably 30 Rads shows in my life,” said Staz. “They don’t owe anyone any more shows. Nobody has played as long for as long.”

Inside, the Roy Jay Band got things going at about 8:20 p.m. They played their Grateful Dead inspired blues-rock to a virtually empty club. Their music was great, rife with groovy original tunes and including a great rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha,” but the pit was bare save for one man grooving at the foot of the stage.

The people didn’t start rolling in until about 9 p.m. By that point, the line for the box office and will call had spilled out onto the sidewalk. It was a distinctly older crowd this night. The average age at the club was probably about 35 to 40. It’s no surprise considering the Radiators, who have played over 4,000 concerts during their career and garnered a faithful following without traditional commercial support or success.

By the time the Radiators took the stage at 9:45 p.m., it was as if a crowd had materialized out of thin air. The catwalks were full and the pit was crowded with fans wearing all sorts of tie-dyes and fish-head apparel. Though they were clearly older, they sounded like a mass of youths at a pop concert. The Radiators brought that youthful flare back into the older faces. They brought everyone back to the late seventies and early eighties when they embarked on their musical trek.

The Radiators opened with a funky, swampy version of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61.” Now, I know it could be blasphemy, but there was something about this version that resonated with me more than Dylan’s original. Maybe it was the slower, steadier pace of the music. Maybe it was just the way keyboardist Ed Volker sang it. Whatever it was, it set the tone for the night. Guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin took turns ripping up and down the neck, playing to the audience with a cool expertise only attained through years of development and audience interaction.

The first set grooved on and on until it climaxed with an extended version of “River Run.” This was probably the apex of the night, at least for me. Wild guitar work from both Baudoin and Malone drove the audience up the walls with excitement.

After the guitar madness with “River Run,” the band took a short break. Folks flowed out onto the front patio area for a breather and some Cajun snacks. Half an hour later, the Radiators picked up right where they left off.

They brought up those bayou grooves for another hour or so, including jams like “Papaya,” and “Light Up My Pipe,” before calling it a night, but not before a great encore for the fans. That’s one thing about the Radiators. They always give their fans precisely what they want. It’s how they’ve garnered such a following over the years. It’s how they’ve managed to stay around for so long. And lucky for the Radiators, what their fans want is precisely what they want as well; a great jam.

In case you might have missed their performance last night, you’ve got one more chance. The Radiators will be playing along with Roy Jay and Bobby Lee Rodgers tonight (4/9) once more at Revolution Live.

I highly suggest you head out to this one, people. Fish-head music won’t be around for too much longer.