BY FRANK DE BLASE
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to meet and play with some of my guitar heroes. Some of them are original cats from rock ’n’ roll’s first wave, like Ike Turner, Ronnie Dawson, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and Friday night’s star attraction at Water Street Music Hall, surf-guitar innovator/godfather/legend Dick Dale. It’s been a trip meeting all these guys, but over the years I’ve noticed a disconnect. You tell one of these guitarists that he’s a hero, or how you wore the grooves off his record and off your fingertips — until both melted and bled — learning how to play like them, and inevitably they just kind of look at you. I mean, they’ve all been cordial and appreciative. But they don’t quite get it. You see, in many cases, these guitarists were the creators of their style and its sound. Whether by accident or out of shear genius, they created it without outside influence. These heroes had no heroes.
Dick Dale is one of those hero-less heroes, and he stands majestically as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Last Friday, Water Street Music Hall was packed and electrified by the time Tombstone Hands finished its rough and trashy set. Dale’s guitar reverberated loud and urgent from off stage like a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a hard-on. By the time he was on stage, he and his band (including his son Jimmy Dale on drums) were full bore into a full-tilt, breakneck version of “Nitro.” The crowd went wild, and stayed wild. Dale still amplifies through vintage Fender tweed, and his sound was magnificently huge. Punctuating his set with stream-of-conscious standards like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Summertime Blues,” Dale tore up and down his neck like a rabid surfer. Or like the guitar player he is, and the hero he never had.
I first saw The B-52’s at the Dome Arena 30 years ago. Thirty years ago! But as much as you may think the band’s show at CMAC this past Saturday was a revival, I’m here to tell you, there is still no one that brings the party like this band. The music is trademark 1950’s sci-fi, surf-a-go-go made into a bunch of hits that the band whipped out and set down. The band was tight and fun, working the crowd to its feet. Squeeze closed the show to a lesser crowd. The B-52’s are a tough act to follow, especially when you got me and bagman Tim Brown singing all the wrong words — loudly — to “Tempted.”