McCabe’s Guitar Shop, a bastion of acoustic music where performers are often jolted by the undivided attention of audiences, added a new wrinkle with four weekend shows by the esteemed epitome of bar bands, NRBQ. Saturday’s early set found the Q delivering a tight 75-minute set that emphasized instrumental prowess over comic hi-jinx.
The fabled quartet of the Northeast, touring in support of its new live disc, “Gotta Turn You Loose” (Rounder), turned to its ’70s incarnation for much of its inspiration. Upbeat dance tunes with musical themes rooted in ’50s rockabilly and ’60s Southern soul ruled the roost, especially in a host of instrumentals.
Guitarist Johnny Spampinato, who joined in 1994, felt fully assimilated during last year’s appearance at House of Blues; here he emerges a star with guitar riffs on par with pianist Terry Adams’ unique and mesmerizing meshing of Thelonious Monk, James P. Johnson and Chico Marx.
Of course, melodic faves were the highlight: “Little Floater” from their one album for Virgin; “I Want You Bad” from the overlooked gem of the ’70s, “Live at Yankee Stadium”; and a rip-roaring “Ain’t It All Right.” Evening concluded with a military marching chant and a bad trumpet duel, proof positive that they’re nutty as ever.
The room, which seats about 100, is certainly capable of handling rock ‘n’ roll, and this event should open a new door for McCabe’s already excellent and eclectic booking practices.