Nick Waterhouse at the Barboza, Seattle | 29 May 2012
Nick Waterhouse doesn’t like it when you call him retro and he doesn’t like it when you say he looks like Buddy Holly. He prefers you reference Bill Evans and doesn’t buy the retro tag. He does kinda look like Buddy Holly, and I agree with him that he does look like Bill Evans too, but the jazz pianist is a reference many people will not get. As for the retro thing, bands apeing My Bloody Valentine could be called retro since that was over 20 years ago. He just chooses to go back a little further for inspiration like Stax Records (Booker T!), Jimmy Smith and Them.
Waterhouse who is from southern California, dresses the retro part so it’s no wonder he gets the comparisons. He weighs in at a buck-twenty-five, but the guy’s style and showmanship makes him seem much bigger. Appearing in slacks, dinner jacket, loafers and horned rimmed glasses in Neumo’s basement last night, to the passer-by he looked like Buddy Holly. If you stayed, you quickly found out he sounds nothing like that rock and roller from Lubbock, Texas. He brought with him a six-piece band, the Tarots which included a saxophone, bongos, keyboard player and girl back-up singer. All of them looked dapper, which you immediately notice, since most bands these days appear on stage looking like they just got of bed.
The Barboza, the new space under Neumo’s that opened a couple weeks ago, has a cool ‘retro’ ambiance itself (I thought for a moment I was walking onto the set of the Sting when I walked through the door.) and was the perfect place for this gig. The band was super tight. No weak links at all. Saxophone and girl backing vocals featured prominently in every song and Waterhouse’s vocals were a little smoother, than the slightly blown out takes that appear on the LP. He may disparage the retro tag, but he sure acts like he’s in a time warp. Introducing the band, using period jargon calling the audience ‘fine folks’, and just genuinely being an all around cool cat.
Raina, my favorite song from the record sounded great, but it was Is That Clear (#3 single of 2011) that blew the roof off the place. It was the final song in the set and it rumbled and raged. I would have left totally satisfied, but the audience wanted more and Waterhouse obliged. He and his band came back out and provided the perfect encore. It was Waterhouse doing a narrative over a mean groove. It seemed off the cuff, as he described being obsessed with 45’s, assembling his band, quitting his 46 hour a week job and going for it. Call him retro if you want, but I haven’t seen a show this hot in a while.