Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

The Romantics
remind us what we
liked about them

The Romantics: Final performance at Gussie L'Amour's tonight. Doors open at 8. Opening band starts at 9. Tickets $13. Ages 21 and over. Call 836-7883.

Reviewed by John Berger

TAKE some charismatic musicians with a hard-edged guitar band sound, a dimly-lit stage with a few stark shafts of light stabbing through the darkness, a great song, and an enthusiastic crowd. Shake well!

The Romantics opened a three-nighter Sunday at Gussie L'Amour's, and when the quartet kicked in with "A Night Like This," there was no question that one of those great classic rock nights was in progress.

It's been 10 years since the Romantics last played Honolulu, and this latest version of the band -- Wally Palmar, Coz Canier, Clem Burke and Mike Skill -- were as good a combination as we've ever seen.

The 75-minute set on Sunday included the Romantics' biggest national pop chart hits, "What I Like About You" and "Talking in Your Sleep," but it wasn't just an "oldies but goodies" show by any means. The Romantics rocked hard and strong from start to finish, a vigorous performance that harkened back to their early years when they were a young, hot and hungry club band just on the verge of that first big hit.

The high spirits in the club were contagious. The crowd yelled in sync with Palmar's every "Hey!" and "Uh-huh" on "What I Like About You," and filled the dance floor for "Talking in Your Sleep." The band kept the energy high even on the darker and slower numbers.

And speaking of energy -- drummer Clem Burke is one dynamic showman! He struck poses, and twirled, tossed and caught his sticks without missing a beat. Burke delivered the goods as a one-man sonic assault team, with Palmar, Canier and Skill making the most of his solid rhythmic foundation.

Palmar and Skill traded instruments for several numbers without letting on that Skill was the Romantics' original lead guitarist before leaving the group in the early '80s, later returning to play bass. Canler, who originally joined the band as Skill's replacement, distinguished himself with a great performance, both musically and visually, and Palmar's aggressive, edgy vocals added the final component to a hot performance Sunday.

High energy guitar band arrangements of "Boom Boom" and "What'd I Say" paid homage to John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles respectively and reflected the type of roots music that the Romantics are exploring on their next album. Many Detroit rockers grew up playing rock arrangements of the blues and soul hits of the era, and the band hit that part of their musical heritage beautifully. Their reworking of "What'd I Say" turned out to be a great finale to a memorable show.

The Romantics are one classic rock act that doesn't show its age.

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