Any Pittsburghers who chose to spend their Sunday night watching figure skating from Sochi or the GRAMMY salute to the Beatles missed a show of olympic proportion from another fab four up in Blawnox, when Tommy Castro & the Painkillers returned to Moondog’s for a CD release party celebrating their latest album The Devil You Know (read our review of the record here). Officially released in January, the album features guest appearances from the likes of Marcia Ball, Tab Benoit, the Holmes Brothers, Joe Bonamassa, Samantha Fish, Tasha Taylor, and Magic Dick. One of the challenges of such a guest-heavy album, of course, is how well those same songs will translate to the band’s road shows, but we’re pleased to report that the Painkillers had no problems delivering a solid set of songs off the record, with the rest of the band – bassist Randy McDonald, pianist James Pace and drummer David Tucker – all pitching in musically and on background vocals to help make the tunes nearly as satisfying as on the album itself.
Kicking off the night on the uptempo shuffler “Meanest Dog in Town”, Castro and crew quickly tore into the powerful title track from the new album, followed by a funky “The Whale Have Swallowed Me” that saw Pace adding an extra dose of funk on keyboards while Castro played away on slide. Throughout the evening, the band hit on seven more of the album’s thirteen tracks, including “When I Cross the Mississippi”, “She Wanted to Give it to Me”, “Mojo Hannah”, a “Medicine Woman” complete with samples of Samantha Fish’s vocals from the record, “Two Steps Forward”, “I’m Tired”, and a “Keep on Smilin'” that proved one of the biggest hits of the night.
Interspersed with those were perennial crowd favorites like “Take Me Off the Road”, “High on the Hog” and “Nasty Habits”. As good as the newer songs are, it’s still always a treat to hear Castro take on such blues classics as Buddy Guy’s “When My Left Eye Jumps” and the boogie-to-driving-rocker “Serves Me Right to Suffer” (John Lee Hooker) on which the band closed out its hour and 40 minute set, returning for a one-song encore of Taj Mahal’s “Leavin’ Trunk”.
If you still haven’t picked up a copy of the Painkillers’ new album and/or found your way to one of their shows, we have no choice but to insist that you stop what you’re doing and head out to do it now. Should anyone inquire as to where you might be going, this is one time it just may be alright to tell them The Devil made you do it.