Nick Moss & The Flip Tops remain the most versatile and among the most potent blues bands on the contemporary blues circuit. Both of those attributes were prominently displayed in Huntsville on Wednesday night over the course of two plus sets.
Versatility has long been one of the Flip Tops strengths as band members routinely swap instruments and lead vocal duties. Anyone concerned the departure of multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt and the addition of two new members would hamper that versatility can rest easily. Frontman Moss (guitar, vocals, harmonica) is still backed by veterans Willie Oshawny (piano, vocals) Bob Carter (drums, vocals) and that strong core has already meshed with new bassist Nick Skilnik and organist Travis Reed.
Instruments and lead vocals were still swapped and solos were traded between Moss, Oshawny, and Reed throughout the evening. Just about everything you've ever loved about watching and hearing the Flip Tops play was still in evidence, but like all great bands, these guys have upped the stakes. It's one thing to have the musical versatility to easily swap roles but another to achieve the performance art of Wednesday night. Whether by design or accident, each of the three show segments had its own distinct musical flavor and yet felt simultaneously connected.
The first set opened with a slow burn, kicking off with an instrumental jam before the first of seven songs from their latest album Privileged was performed. On the album, "Your Love's a Lie" is a passionate accusation and lament. On stage — and benefitting from an outdoor venue — it burns with yearning and seems to float into the boundless sky. The fuse was lit and from there the first set exploded into a raucous, loud, blues-rock jam.
A re-worked version of Howlin' Wolf's "Louise" and the scathing "Born Leader," both from Privileged, were powder kegs of energy. Oshawny took a lead turn and gave the audience some hard-boiled boogie-woogie, backed by the muscular bass work of Skilnik and drummer Carter.