“There’s a lot of style here tonight, Jack.” Telly Savalas was alive and well and talking to me. The long-presumed dead actor/director/interpreter/visionary was telling it like it is in front of a gangling, open-mouthed troupe of music fanatics. Dressed in a suit with more class than a Harvard graduating ceremony, and with the help of his be-wigged piano player, Telly cooed terrible truths out amongst the audience: “You kids are facing down a terrible form of darkness these days . . . no one can get a job . . . where’s the man with the guts to clear the path, find a way through to the end of the tunnel? . . . a man like Benny Franklin, Lenny Da Vince, and early Howard Hughes.” It’s hard to believe that the bald twirler of braggadocio is actually mild-mannered former quarterback Tom DiMenna. He’s that part of the American Dream that allows you to will yourself into a different, high-polished, pair of shoes.
The captivating climax of Telly’s act was his masterful interpretation of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” a song that the Righteous Brothers “almost got right.” That’s what the world is to Telly: a place with not enough music and too little love.
As if in answer, the Reigning Sound took the stage just ten minutes later. These magicians of confessional rock and roll have the power to answer Telly’s righteous indignation. When asked to describe Greg Cartwright’s merry band of tex-mex rockers, I usually tell friends the Sound are like a supercharged version of the Wallflowers, just much cooler.
They played that part with aplomb to the packed crowd at the Horseshoe. Opener “Your Love Is a Fine Thing” got everybody moving with affection. The material off the band’s newest LP, Shattered, had the Toronto folks swaying back and forth, especially the pumped-up chorus of “My My.” But for the true fan of the Deadly Snakes, the thrashing Toronto outfit that Cartwright produced and played with, only the heaviest elements of the Sound’s catalogue would do. The band was gracious, pulling out a majority of the hits found on Too Much Guitar, an album so gritty and intense, it is likely to spin on, played over and over, through eternity.
Cartwright even deigned to play “Bad Man,” a number by his seminal 90s garage group the Oblivians. Some daring fan had requested the song early into the Sound’s set, to which Cartwright had jokingly replied, “That’s a cover.” His heart was in the right place, and the song got the crowd roaring with appreciation. It was a night of bad men and good music — rock and roll.