Don Was boasts an astonishing legacy as a Grammy-winning producer,
working with everyone from Roy Orbison to Iggy Pop to George Clinton.
He also fathered Eve 6’s drummer and supervised the Thelma and Louise
soundtrack. But his crowning accomplishment remains Was (Not Was), the
nine-piece funk juggernaut he co-founded. During the 1980s, Was (Not
Was) released brazen tunes such as “Walk the Dinosaur” (fueled by the
caveman chant “boom-boom-hacka-lacka-boom-boom”) and “Knocked Down,
Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball),” (which features an awesome,
YouTube-preserved video in which the group travels back in time to
confront a boorish father with magical ball-and-string toys). On this
year’s Boo!, their first studio album since 1990, Was (Not Was)
supplements its blazing horns, potent rhythms, and slaphappy bass with
slow-burning soul and falsetto balladry. Sir Harry Bowens and Sweet
Pea Atkinson haven’t let their pipes rust: Both versatile vocalists
can still belt out the blues, unleash power-rock growls, and melt
together during Motown-style harmonies. Touring with its original
lineup, the Detroit-based outfit only plucks a couple selections from
the new disc, spending the bulk of its set transforming classic cuts
(such as the aforementioned hits and its incendiary cover of “Papa Was
a Rolling Stone”) into rich, expansive jams. With Courtney Jones.
Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $25 adv./$27.
Sun., May 18, 8 p.m., 2008