Health & Happiness Show is now a quartet, formed by singer James Mastro and several other musicians best known (if at all) for their work with early East Coast “new wave” bands. Current touring personnel includes ex-Bongos drummer Vinny DeNunzio and guitarist Richard Lloyd, a founding member of Television and most recently a Matthew Sweet sideman.
Mastro original “Anytime” is closest to pure country that the group performed Thursday night, and even that sounded as if co-written by John Lennon, with bass lines of various songs sounding like they’d been pulled from “Lady Madonna” or “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
Like many great ’60s bands, Health & Happiness have a good song based on “La Bamba” chord changes; theirs is “Don’t Have Far to Fall,” which also bears a passing resemblance to “Like a Rolling Stone.”
For all of their good ideas, Health & Happiness sounded unfocused, overarranged and under-rehearsed compared to their strong, simple and confident backing of Hancock, reshaping older tunes by the singer (who usually performs solo with acoustic guitar) into something as strong musically as they are lyrically.