Correspondent Scott McLennan was our man at the WBCN Rock ’N Roll Rumble Friday night:
The finals of the 31st annual WBCN Rock ’N Roll Rumble pitted polish, flamboyance, and grit against one another at the Middle East Downstairs Friday night, and in the end, polish conquered all as the Luxury took home the prize.
The pop rockers, playing in the wild card slot, faced off against the glam rock of Gene Dante and the Future Starlets and the guitar rock of the Dirty Truckers. A panel of five judges was left to decide which finalist, culled from an opening field of 24 bands, best played to its particular strength, and the Luxury left little room for argument.
The Luxury went on first, never the desired position in a battle of the bands. Yet rather than merely building up sandbags against formidable opponents, the band set a high standard with a wildly entertaining performance that never felt forced. It deftly deployed vocal harmonies and smartly employed keyboard-bolstered song arrangements to bridge arena bombast with club intimacy. Well-honed material such as the psychedelic “Malcontent” and gauzy “Rockets and Wrecking Balls” grounded the set, while new songs like the hard-charging “Next in Line” injected new energy.
The Luxury’s convincing Rumble win (one judge said the band was the runaway favorite) followed its selection to open for Coldplay last year at the TD Banknorth Garden, setting the stage nicely for a Luxury record release in July.
Singer Gene Dante and his Starlets offered a bit of lusty decadence that drew from such glam wellsprings as David Bowie and Duran Duran, while the Dirty Truckers kicked out old-fashioned rock bound up in roots and twang. Somewhere between the polar span separating the two, the Luxury found the sweet spot.
The Outlets, a Rumble band from the Class of 1981, performed a blistering special-guest set after the competitive rounds. The Barton brothers -- Rick on guitar, Alex on vocals -- expertly led their band through such past glories as “Knock Me Down” and “So Wired” that once defined Boston’s garage-punk-infused scene.
Witnessing the vets and aspiring Rumble participants together, it was easy to appreciate the expanse and continuity of the city’s vibrant music scene.
About Sound Effects
ContributorsSarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.