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Reverend Horton Heat, Murder By Death, The Tossers
The Vogue, Friday, March 16

Led by an Irish version of Mike Ness, Chicago’s punk independents the Tossers welcomed St. Patrick’s Day early. Next came Bloomington’s sublime alt-country tricksters Murder By Death, standing out with ardent, angular melodies by platinum-haired electric Zeta cellist Sarah Balliet. Frontman Adam Turla poured dramatic balladry from the mic, playing at once a black and white flame guitar “pulled out of the lake, like the sword Excalibur.” Songs from Murder By Death’s new album, In Bocca al Lupo, entwined tango structures with western swings and rock beats, though the Vogue’s cavernous ceilings did not do justice to the intimate, orchestrated richness the band provides on its recordings.

Headlining, the Reverend Horton Heat animated the near full-capacity crowd, gung-ho with signature guitar lines and Jimbo’s classic stand-up bass renditions. Though singer Jim Heath struggled with a sore throat, his implied devil horns popped out a few times, curly triton tail whipping around licks like “Baddest of the Bad,” “Five-O Ford,” “Bad Reputation,” “400 Bucks” and “Wiggle Stick.” The band, true rockabilly icons, did not disappoint. The trio’s reliability as a token magnet for Betty Page gals and hotrod greasers was magnified, applause reinforced, by a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

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