Bobby Messano has a long and well travelled career where he has worked with the likes of Steve Winwood, Jimmy Wayne, Rodney Atkins, Joe Lynn Turner, Fiona, Clarence Clemons, and Lou Gramm. He served as the Music Director for Steve Windwood on his UK and European tour, and has made every bit a name of his own carving through the years!
Touring with his Broken Toys, you get the fun and personal experience of someone who has not only seen some great musical history, but has helped create it along the way as well!
One of my favorite parts of live shows is when we are gifted with stories that might not otherwise make it to the light of day. Especially when it involves the passion and influences that helped shape the artist and their style. For example, getting to see Hendrix for less than $2.00 a ticket!
A New Jersey native, Bobby has toured the world bringing great live music to 1000's with his intensly rocking guitar and soulful voice.
Backing Bobby are The Broken Toys! And these guys are anything but broken!
Edmond Canova, bass/vocals, has recorded with Bobby, Todd Wolfe, and Leslie West. And he has also toured with a who's who list of artists. Bringing the bass alive across the beat and the funk, he brings his full heart into the music. His rendition of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" will raise the hair on your neck. All the more powerful when you know that he himself is a Vietnam Vet. That experience surely has put the fire into his performance of this iconic song.
Brad Clancy, on drums and vocals, is originally from the DC and Baltimore area. Having cut his teeth in the club circuit he then began to reap the benefits of paying those dues. Working with The Drifters, Steve Allen, Marvelettes, and Little Anthony & The Imperials; his work continued to progress until an auto accident interrupted his career. After a lengthy recovery and a stint in Nashville working the Country Music scene, including appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, he returned to the Blues. (And I, for one, am glad to have him back!)
One of the things that people sometimes don't realize is that when these great bands tour and travel, there are no giant buses or roadies. The band are their own drivers and roadies.
Coming into Chan's on the first night I was privileged to see these artists, it was a sight to see that amongst the patrons already in the venue and eating...these guys were hauling their equipment in and setting up with practiced speed and skill. A quick sound check right there in front of the room, and they were off and running!
At both Chan's and 9 Wallis the sets were started with an acoustic treat moving through stirring ballads and fun acoustic rock. For me, it all fell into perfect groove with the start of the "electric set". I'm slightly biased as I'm more of an electric junky.
Breaking into their hit, Bad Movie, it was something truly wonderful to hear and see. I'd heard the song through a lot of radio play on XM, but for some reason I'd never made the connection to the artist, and I was surprised when I heard it kick off, which I quickly followed up with a big silly grin of happiness.
It was truly studio quality with live passion and freestyle improvisation. A combination you don't always get to enjoy at the same time. Especially when all you've heard leading up to it has been the studio CD version.
Bobby and the guys spent a good part of each show workin' the music, and making each other laugh. Something that belies a calm and comfortable state when up in front of a room full of people. And that energy hits the audience which makes the night all the more fun for everyone!
The only downside that I noticed, and it was of no fault of the bands or the venues, was that at one show... the audience was rather small. Now part of that just happened to be the date and what all was going on around it with other summer events too. But in a way it also lead to one of the most enjoyable nights I've had. The guys got to just kind of do things that they might not have normally done in front of a larger (and more appropriately filled) room.
They took something that could have been rather disconcerting for themselves and the audience and made it truly into an intimate and professional experience all the way through.
This is one of those things where it really shows through that no matter where they play or what size venue they play, Blues musicians give it their all for every single person in the room. It doesn't seem to matter if it's 20 or 2000 or more. It's a respect for the audience and for the music, and it comes through loud and clear.
Honestly, one of the most unexpected and wonderful moments was when Bobby told the story of wanting to write a song for his father who fought in WWII. And that in a round about sort of way he did just that without intending to. (I'll leave that story for Bobby to tell.)
Pride of The Cockney Rebels is one of those songs that if you've any sense of history, and especially if you've family who served in the military and saw active duty during combat, it will give you chills. I found myself transfixed and in tears. A song that you honestly wouldn't expect to hit you that way in the middle of an electric blues set, just walked up and slapped me right upside the feelings.
It's hard for me to overstate this, but Pride of The Cockney Rebels may well be one of the finest songs for our family members who've served and are serving to protect us. Not just in the US military, but all of those militaries that are fighting for freedom and human rights, equality and safety, and so that the world is a place where civility can be the norm.
Bobby Messano and The Broken Toys brought their A game to both shows where I had the delightful chance to see them perform. One of the reasons I like to try and see a band multiple times, even in a short date span, before I review is that I like to see how consistent they are and to determine if it's just a one off instance. And in both cases here, there was consistency without complacency with style and talent on full magnificent display.
Make sure you check out the tour dates and go out for a delightful evening of traditional acoustic and rock Blues with contemporary Blues mixed in for good measure!
I also highly recommend the Bad Movie album. There's a reason it's won awards!
*This review was not solicited by the musicians or venue.