Andre Williams and The Goldstars, The Rubes @ The Garage 06.07

Posted June 10, 2013 in

Andre Williams ignites fires that are both literal and metaphoricalluckily, only the latter was ablaze last Friday. Photo: Doug Coombe

Almost exactly a year ago, Andre Williams was in Salt Lake City to play two nights at the Garage on Beck Street. He set the place ablaze—literally. The patio and back section of the bar caught on fire at some point between the first and second nights, but it wasn’t really Williams’ fault. It did result in a frazzled fanbase and a mad scramble to find a proper venue for the second performance. So now, on the anniversary of the fire that almost ended the Garage, and in one of the most brazen acts of tempting fate that I’ve ever witnessed, Andre Williams took the rebuilt patio stage behind the bar and poured out his soul. And the crowd at the Garage was ready to receive him.

Local openers The Rubes had done their part to set the tone. I’ve seen this four-piece band play many times in the past, and they always deliver the goods. Tonight, they had a strange Captain and Tennille ’70s beach party wardrobe thing going on, but once they started playing, the shtick wore off and the music rang true. They played for a solid hour as the crowd filled in, got liquored up and started to buzz with anticipation that the Black Godfather would soon be among them.
These days, when Andre Williams tours, he brings along the Chicago-based garage rock band the Goldstars. The “Boys,” as he calls them, serve as both a light warmup act and a backing band. Friday night was no exception. The Goldstars came out and played a handful of original songs to set the mood of things to come. They started with “It’s All About You” before transitioning to “Babbling Brook” and finally to “Hot Coffee.” They then bantered a bit with the crowd, launched into a surf-instrumental number, and then used the momentum to introduce the man known to some as simply Mr. Rhythm.
Andre Williams was escorted to the stage by a trio of voluptuous women in tight fitting clothing. In a shout-out to the great Garage fire of 2012, Williams was dressed like a gentleman in a sleek red suit with a silk tie and matching fedora. One of the ladies in his entourage was even carrying a fire extinguisher. As the crowd processed the reality of being in the presence of a legendary soul singer who’s pushing 80 years of age, he belted out three songs in rapid succession: “Agile, Mobile, Hostile,” “Car With The Star (I’m a Bad Mother Fucker)” and “I Wanna Be Your Favorite Pair of Pajamas.” The second song is a perennial crowd favorite, with everyone with a voice parroting back the “bad mother fucker” part of the chorus. After this opening missive, Williams slowed down enough to talk to the audience about his love for SLC—the only city in the world that consistently books him for more than one night. He then slowed down a little and delivered an inspired performance of my favorite of his jilted lover ballads, the classic “I Can Tell.” So fucking good.
Next, Andre and the Goldstars were joined onstage by local bluesman and KRCL DJ “Bad” Brad Wheeler. Wheeler added background vocals and harmonica to the classic Williams songs “Bacon Fat” and “Pray For Your Daughter”—bringing down the house and inspiring even the whitest of white concert goers to shake their ass.
The rest of the set continued to lift up and entertain all who were in attendance. The crowd favorite, “Let Me Put It In,” was met with enthusiasm and wolf calls. The old-school dance tracks “Goin’ Down to Tijuana” and “Lily White Mama and Jet Black Daddy” harkened back to a time when black musicians had to play less “black” music when they played venues in the South. As the band went into an extended version of the mostly instrumental song “Pussy Stank,” Williams left the stage for a costume change. He returned a few moments later with a new hat and an even more pimp-inspired overcoat to deliver the song “She’s a Bag of Potato Chips.” He ended the set with “Mustang Sally,” a classic rock tune that he had a hand in producing for Sir Mack Rice in 1965. Then, to shouts of hallelujah, Williams took a bow and left the stage. He was soon followed by the band. Within a few minutes the band came back out and started to play some more intro music. As calls for the Black Godfather became louder, he made his way back to the stage and belted out a scathing rendition of his original hit, “Jailbait.”
This, my friends, is how filthy soul music should be done. The performance was dirty and sleazy, yet still somehow dapper and prim. The songs were authentic and heartfelt, and the crowed was hanging on every word. This, like every Andre Williams performance, was genuine and true. When Andre Williams is on the stage, he gives you everything that he has. As a man in his late 70s, he still has a surprising bit to give. This is guaranteed to be one of the best shows of the summer, and I imagine that the second night will also go down in SLC soul music history. Here’s hoping he’s got enough left in the gas tank to make his pilgrimage to the Garage an annual event for years to come.
Andre Williams ignites fires that are both literal and metaphoricalluckily, only the latter was ablaze last Friday. Photo: Doug Coombe The owners of The Garage are charmingly humorous about last year's fire.