Amid a multi-week tour outside of Texas, Reckless Kelly's Northeast run took them, and their brothers Micky and The Motorcars, from Delaware and Massachusetts to Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as New York City, Washington D.C., and Maryland in support of their latest album Sunset Motel.
It’s always special when Reckless makes it to the Northeast, which they do about once a year, but this run was doubly so as Micky and The Motorcars, who haven’t been to NYC in a few years, were along for the ride. Rather than playing general admission standing room only venues, this trek found them in restaurant/listening room environments beginning with their show on Tuesday, October 25th at NYC’s City Winery which hosted a sell-out crowd in its cozy quarters. Micky and his Motorcars were up first kicking things off with three tracks from their 2014 album Hearts From Above including the title track, “Long Road To Nowhere” and “Fall Apart.” They dove into the catalog a bit for “Rock Springs to Cheyenne” and covered Merle Haggard’s “The Fugitive” before brother and guitarist Gary took over lead vocals on a song he wrote with Josh Grider, a ballad, “Run Into You.” The five-some finished out their all too brief set (thirty-five minutes – which was just enough time for them and the audience to get into a groove before they had to exit) with “Carolina Morning” and “Tonight We Ride.”
With just a dimming of the lights, Willy Braun began Reckless’ set with a solo acoustic performance of “Alberta” which segued into “Detroit or Buffalo” as the remaining members of the band entered the small stage to cheers and applause. For over an hour and a half they pulled from older tunes like “Mirage” and “Black and White” (with its humorous back-story) to new ones from Sunset Motel including “The Champ,” “Moment In The Sun,” “Volcano,” and their recent multi-week number one “How Can You Love Him (If You Don’t Even Like Him)”. In a nod to the upcoming election, they did the song Braun commented was one, “You’ll be humming in the shower tomorrow” - “Pennsylvania Avenue.” Mid-set saw drummer Jay Nazz’s father Tom join the band onstage to sing “Kansas City” which was greeted warmly not only by the audience, but by Reckless themselves who beamed as he sang and played guitar. They rounded out the night with fan favorites “Ragged As The Road,” “Crazy Eddie's Last Hurrah,” “Nobody’s Girl” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” – all of which proved incredibly difficult to remain seated for – before bringing the Motorcars out for a familial sing-along and sending everyone off for the night.
A few nights later, they were in D.C for another sold-out show this time at the Hamilton, which similarly to City Winery, is a seated dining venue except this time with a small standing area in front of the stage that soon filled with eager fans minutes before the Motorcars began. This time, the Motorcars had a full hour to play and from the minute they stepped out and into “Long Road To Nowhere” there was a vibrant energy and enthusiasm that permeated the set which included their new #1 (knocking Reckless out of the top spot) on the Texas charts, “Sister Lost Soul” as well as favorite, "Stay With Me." The five are a team who feed off one another onstage, exhibiting a camaraderie as friends and musicians who shine independently and as a unit. Front man Micky is energetic and humorous; Joe Fladger (bass) and Bobby Paugh (drums) keep the beat while brother Gary and talented new addition Josh Owen draw you in whether they’re playing guitar, harmonica or pedal steel.
Braun opened Reckless’ show with a low-key version of Springsteen’s “No Surrender” keeping the mood somber with “God Forsaken Town,” and “Wicked Twisted Road” before brother Cody took the lead on the Bluegrass inspired “Wild Western Windblown Band.” And while things started out quietly, a standing audience, even a partial one, changes the mood of a show and tonight was no different. With ardent fans front and center the energy was taken up a notch from the NYC show to hands in the air dancing during “Seven Nights in Eire,” “I Still Do” and “Crazy Eddie’s.” One of the highlights of the night was a version of recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan’s protest song “Hurricane,” which Braun noted that he forgot the words to the night previous, but he seemingly nailed them this night....which is commendable as it’s an incredibly long, detailed song that doesn’t repeat a chorus. (Listen here). After ramping the energy back up with “Vincent” and “I Hold The Bottle” the Motorcars came out and joined in on a well-loved rendition of “Highwayman” to close out the night.
October’s three night trek concluded in Annapolis (which as a total aside is a lovely little town, I highly recommend visiting) at the Ram’s Head, a seated venue, that, despite its small stage, didn’t hinder the Motorcars (my most seen band in 2016) from delivering an energetic, electric set from start to finish. Gary once again took lead vocals, this time on “Big Casino” as well as “Run Into You” while the band roared through “Naïve,” and “Ain’t In It For the Money” before closing with “Bloodshot.”
Braun once again began RK's set with “Alberta” and the band soon followed joining with “Wicked Twisted Road” followed by Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway.” They took the audience to Ireland with “Seven Nights in Eire”, tipped their hat to Pinto Bennett with “You Cared Enough To Lie” and reached back into the catalog with “Desolation Angels” and “California.” Previously done solo acoustic, the entire band beautifully rendered Dire Strait’s “Romeo and Juliet” which Braun said took forever for him to learn, while noting with a laugh that “those assholes learned it in five minutes.”
Like the Motorcars, each member of Reckless is undeniably talented, contributing something unique and special to every song. Willy is an engaging, charismatic front man and storyteller whose vocals deliver grit, warmth, and honesty; brother Cody is always in the moment providing emotion and nuanced touches whether taking lead vocals, playing mandolin, fiddle or harmonica; Dave Abeyta, whether he’s quietly playing on “Mirage” or showcasing his awe-inducing skills on a solo, is arguably the best guitarist in the business, and Joe Miller and Jay Nazz are always phenomenal, providing the backbone and keeping it all running smoothly.
One of the many great things about a Reckless Kelly, and a Motorcars, show is that you're never going to see or hear the exact same thing twice. While some bands keep everything the same from night to night where you can memorize the set-list and know what’s coming before they even start playing, these guys do things differently. While they have the requisite songs, the other dozen or so (and the order they’re in) are always sure to surprise.
Both bands always more than deliver on all counts, which is why their fans have stayed around for years and continue to return for more. In addition to their skilled musicianship, true story songs, and an unmatched versatility, they genuinely possess a love for what they do which always makes for an evening of great music and a good time whether you’re in a quiet listening room, outdoor festival or a rowdier bar. If you have yet to see them live, make it a point to do so next time around. I'll be there.
RK posts their set lists on Facebook, so make sure you check them out not only to see what they played, but also for Willy’s artwork which is show specific.
To keep up with Reckless and the Motorcars visit their official websites.
Micky and The Motorcars
Photos Courtesy C. Stefi