Tonight, Dave Alvin looks like a man out to settle an old score. With his gunslinger necktie and low-slung guitar, he fires off endless streams of ballistic invective, mostly aimed at Phil, his big barrel-shaped brother and Blasters frontman.
The fabled legend of Dave and Phil Alvin and the band they formed in Downey, California is straight out of the sibling rivalry rock’n’roll handbook that stretches from Don and Phil Everly all the way up to Noel and Liam Gallagher. It is a mere 17 years since Dave and Phil Alvin put aside their differences and took to the London stage.
In the intervening years, Phil has studied mathematics rather than the intricacies of bar band boogie and atomic blues. Dave, meanwhile, has raced ahead?his solo albums have mapped out the hinterland of roots rock Americana in a way that The Blasters never could. But it takes little more than the opening salvo of “Red Rose” to hear what brought the Alvins back together. Something bigger than brotherly love, that’s for sure. Something like the combined mind-boggling beauty of howling-at-the-moon blues and hell-for-leather rocking glory.
The years may have gone by but the dynamic charge of the original Blasters?take a bow, please, drummer Bill Bateman, bassist John Bazz and veteran pianist Gene Taylor-has not diminished. Songs like “Long White Cadillac” and “Dark Night” may be rooted in the Cold War cultural terror of ’50s America, but they made perfect sense in the ’80s punk era when The Blasters came of age, and there’s been nothing that’s happened since to render them out of time.
Phil’s ability to summon the ghosts of such departed holy terrors as Sonny Burgess, Big Joe Turner and Howlin’ Wolf remains undimmed. But alongside the lightning-strikes telepathic jams there is a cold-hearted ruthlessness.
The recent live comeback album Trouble Bound has old favourites, played better than ever but nowhere left to go. Like a bunch of hired killers they came in cleaned out/up the town and just as quickly as they arrived they were gone. At close, Dave delivered a warning to those awaiting their return. “It’s 17 years since we last played here and after tomorrow night it will be another 17 years until we play here again.” Now you know.