In his suit jacket and cool fedora, Jim Keller presents a decidedly adult look. But put a guitar in his hands and a great band behind him and out comes the young rock ‘n’ roller, once a member of famed ’80s pop band Tommy Tutone. That transformation was on display when Keller played songs from his new album, Heaven Can Wait, for an enthusiastic crowd, assisted by many of his A-list musician friends. There were so many of these–19 altogether—that they couldn’t all fit on the stage, so singers and horn players set up at the bottom of the stairs. In varying combinations, they played a dozen songs, more than half from the new record and only one a cover.
Whether singing or playing guitar, Keller held the spotlight, showing what maturity and experience can add to youthful energy. Standouts in the uniformly excellent band were hot young guitarist Rich Hinman, who shone on “Top of the Bottom,” and organist Glenn Patscha, whose soft, sad solo on “My Baby’s Gone” mirrored all the emotion in the lyrics. Keller is generous with solos and credit for his musicians and near the end of the show, he found a role for every associate who showed up at the gig. Singing drummer Rich Pagano contributed backing vocals on “Modern Girl;” Shawn Pelton replaced Yuval Lion on drums and Andy Hess subbed for Adam Minkoff on “Sweet Lorraine;” and Jon Cowherd replaced Patscha on organ for “867-5309,” Tommy Tutone’s big hit. Guitarist Jon Graboff joined the ensemble for the rave-up finale, “Mystery Train.”
– Kay Cordtz