V-Roys – Reunion (concert review)

V-Roys Reunion Show 12/27/11 – Southgate House – Newport, KY

New Year’s Eve holds a significant place in the history of the V-Roys.  It marked the final time the Knoxville band played live together before breaking up in 1999.  And, after the release of Sooner or Later, their first-ever “best of” compilation (which came out in late 2011), the band has decided to play one more show on, you guessed it, New Year’s Eve of this year in their hometown.  One more show for old time’s sake.

Well sort of.

The band recently found out that one of their favorite live venues, The Southgate House in Newport, KY, will be closing its doors after 30 years on (do you see a trend here?) New Year’s Eve!  So, one final show turned into two – a chance to say goodbye to what one member calls “our home away from home,” while also dusting off the cobwebs for the Dec 31st gig.

All four original V-Roys –  Scott Miller (voc/gtr), Mick Harrison (voc/gtr), Paxton Sellers (bass), and Jeff Bills (drums), clad in their signature suit and ties, hit the stage for a two-hour set of no bullshit rock n’ roll.  The band has often been thrown in with other “alt country” acts like the Jayhawks and Wilco (especially because they were signed to Steve Earle’s E Squared record label in the 90’s), but it was their keen melodic sense and no- frills attitude that set them apart from their contemporaries.  Even after their 12-year hiatus, this was still the case, with the band’s songs leaning toward either gritty rockers or tear-in-your-beer ballads.  The set concentrated heavily on their debut album Just Add Ice from 1996, with highlights like the rockers “Guess I Know I’m Right” and “Sooner or Later” (the closest thing they ever had to a “hit” song).

It was rather apparent that the band drew on a multitude of influences, judging by the covers they played – “There She Goes” by the La’s, “That’s How I Got to Memphis” from Tom T. Hall, and “Out of This World” from Loudon Wainwright.  The band encored with a rousing version of Leiber and Stoller’s “Smokey Joe’s Café” before turning in the high point of the evening, the alcohol-soaked “Cold Beer Hello” featuring drummer Bills on “lead guitar” (I use that term loosely – obviously not his instrument of choice, it made for some good laughs).

The guys talked very little to the crowd, and didn’t mention their pending reunion show in Knoxville at all.  Although one audience member yelled “I can’t believe I’m seeing the V-Roys,” to which guitarist Harrison replied “you don’t get out much, do you”?

And,  just because one reunion show turned into two, don’t expect these guys to slog out the nostalgia circuit.  They’ve promised that the Knoxville New Year’s gig would be their last.  In a way, it’s too bad – we could use more kick ass music like this.  –Tony Peters