Roy Wood is the very model of a vintage British pop loon: Gnome-like and garishly attired, bagpipe-toting and firmly ensconced in the music hall tradition of his grandpa’s generation. Wood kicked off his first Gotham show in 28 years with typical flair — a mock heroic entrance in which he was flanked by the seven uniformed women that make up the Army’s crack horn section.
For non-initiates, Wood rose to Euro stardom with ’60s cult legends the Move before going on to found worldwide hitmaker ELO — a band that sacked him after just one album. His career has been erratic since — a bit of art-rock here, a smidgen of ’50s revivalism there — but he managed to weave all those loose threads together at this two-hour unreconstructed lovefest.
Wood and company hit the ground running, tearing through a frenetic version of “California Man” (popularized in the U.S. by Cheap Trick) and a suitably hackle-raising take on his psychedelic-era chestnut “Fire Brigade.”
He carried off a passel of tunes from that era with a fine balance of genuine menace and wacky-uncle tale-telling, darting madly on the bad-trip meisterwerk “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” and skipping daintily through the happy-hippie ditty “Blackberry Way.”
His oversized band, however, was better suited to the more Vegas-ized vamps Wood drew from his post-ELO years. The swinging “See My Baby Jive” — which trumps Brian Setzer in the rock/big band department — was transcendently fluffy, while “Ready to Rock” (introduced by a blast of bagpipe from the leader himself) exuded a friskiness belying Wood’s 56 years.
In the tradition of a rock revue, Wood ceded the spotlight to his compatriots from time to time, with largely positive results. The Naylor Sisters clambered down to centerstage for a sweet if trifling version of Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me,” while all hands pitched in on a set-closing — and season-blurring — sing-along through “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.”
For most in attendance at this perf, stockings could not have been stuffed more pleasingly.