Perhaps the only thing harder than writing a hit song is figuring out how to do it again.
For the past three years, New Orleans alternative brass-rock outfit The Revivalists have been synonymous with their No. 1 Billboard smash hit “Wish I Knew You,” a nostalgic funk jam that makes you want to dance and cry at the same time. But as the band’s Tuesday night live television taping for "Austin City Limits" at the Moody Theater showed, their new album “Take Good Care” is full of catchy, arms-in-the-air bops that, if the universe is fair, should cement their legacy far beyond that fated first major single.
The up-tempo, Springsteen-esque “When I’m With You” opened the evening and served as a good get-up-and-dance primer for the uninitiated.
“It’s lifting me up/it’s pulling me out/When I’m with you,” lead singer David Shaw’s signature soulful howl tells us, because we’re here tonight to talk about love and pain and addiction -- all with a driving bassline! This, in one song, is the enduring theme of The Revivalists’ entire catalogue.
The eight-man band led by Shaw, teamed with writing partners and multiple producers for the first time to create “Take Good Care,” their fourth studio album and first for Loma Vista Recordings. The diverse Midas touch of pedigreed producers, who worked with the likes of Kanye West, Sleigh Bells, and Vance Joy, jumps out -- by which I mean there’s not much filler.
That magic energy allowed for a seamless (if bathroom break-less) transition from “When I’m With You” into the hard-rocking “Oh No,” which could have been ripped from The Black Keys’ playbook, to lead singles “All My Friends” and “Change,” to the blissfully catchy “You And I,” in which Shaw entreated a more-than-willing crowd “All I wanna do is dance/I just wanna raise my hands/Raise ‘em up to the sky/It’s just you and I.”
All this is not to say that the older tunes don’t strike a deep chord.
The winding, 6+ minute “Soulfight” from The Revivalists’ eponymous 2008 EP is still one of the most powerful songs in their cadre. Shaw wrote the power piano ballad about drugs and ennui at age 22 and he performs the piece as someone, if not still in the throes of self-destructive behavior, struggling to find his place in the world.
This is a show you can’t take sitting down. Trust me -- I tried! After enjoying five songs with an unobstructed view from the stands, it was time to hit the dance floor. Let the record show that a number of other people in our row felt the same way, ditching their seats just a few songs in to the performance. If reveling in the cacophony of a back-room dance party while pressed up against the sound equipment and dodging people headed for the bathroom isn’t the mark of a good show, then I just don’t know what is!
And, yes, they did play "Wish I Knew You" to close out the show.