Woodenhead, Live at Tipitina’s (Independent)

This isn’t Woodenhead’s only live album—one of the band’s first releases was a long-gone LP recorded at Jimmy’s—but it is the first live document of the lineup that’s been in place for the past three decades. As such, it’s long overdue, bringing out the X-factor in Woodenhead’s music. Yeah, they’re tricky and progressive, with time changes and impossible licks to spare. But they’re also visceral and fun, especially when they get in front of an audience.

At least one moment on this disc underlines the band’s ties to classic rock: “More Mr. Nice Guy” nicks the main riff from the Alice Cooper song of (nearly) the same title, but Jimmy Robinson’s composition takes it to places unknown, with the riff coming around to kick the piece forward after each solo excursion. “Severely Blue” and keyboardist Fran Comiskey’s “King Rootin’ Tootin’” are both blues-based pieces. Both jump the straight-blues track a few times but the grit and soul are maintained. As always, the band swings hardest on its most challenging pieces: The self-explanatory “Antifunk” has riffs that your average funkateers would trip over, but they make it cook like the Meters in an alternate universe. And “Ol’ Mac” includes a dazzling moment where bassist Paul Clement passes an intricate bassline over to Robinson, and then comes back in to play counterpoints with it. You can hear a few spontaneous “whoos!” from the audience in response.

There are lyrical moments here as well: “The Big Outside” hits a pastoral mood with some lovely Robinson/Comiskey interplay and nicely restrained drumming by Mark Whitaker. Though recorded 22 years ago (during a three-set show, say the notes), the music here is consistent with the sound of the current band on a good night. It only leaves you wondering what the other two sets sounded like.