Monday, February 11, 2019

Concert review: Dramarama in Riverside, Calif.

photo: Ida Miller
Dramarama was nearly halfway through a powerful performance at Romano's Concert Lounge on Saturday night when singer John Easdale mentioned they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of Stuck in Wonderamaland this year.

That fine album is one of the New Jersey-bred rock band's more nuanced studio efforts and contains the Top 20 alternative radio hit and live staple "Last Cigarette." In Riverside, Calif., the 1 hour, 45-minute, 23-song set contained four strong selections from it: the aforementioned, always rousing rave up; acoustic-based slow build rocker "Wonderamaland," jangly, should've-been-a-hit (and rarely played) "Lullabye" and "Would You Like," where guitarist Mark "Mr. E-Boy" Englert impressed mightily on slide guitar and Easdale's lyrical sense of desperation was palpable.

Opening with a hard-hitting triple dose of songs off 1985 debut Cinema Verite (in the same order), Dramarama immediately delighted the large group of fans in attendance. During "Scenario," Englert's blazing guitar work was intense as ever (many more examples would come later).

The quintet - rounded out by co-founding guitarist Peter Wood, plus longtime members Tony Snow on drums and Mike Davis on bass - easily proved its mettle during the moody-to-frantic "Steve & Edie." Easdale paced the stage as the tempo increased and Snow bashed away. Brawny fan request "Out in the Rain" was followed by the harrowing cautionary drug tale "Prayer."

Another radio hit, "Haven't Got a Clue," was a highlight. Following a second fan request in the subtle "Emerald City," Dramarama played a clutch of songs that could end up on a long-gestating studio album: the bluesy "Swamp Song" (recently made available to download and stream along with "It's Only Money"), A Cassette," "Had it Up to Here" and the promising "You You You," boasting a slight early '70s Stones vibe.

Finally, Dramarama stirred fans into a frenzy with signature song "Anything Anything (I'll Give You)." All told, it was another memorable gig from the veteran band.

Upcoming California shows: March 2, Quiet Cannon Event Center, Montebello; May 18, Garden Amp, Garden Grove

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