Old fans and friends from the band’s earliest days on the circuit and much-celebrated sting at the legendary Momma’s Blues Palace club came out in full force, filling the main music room at the Market Street venue. By the end of the band’s first set on Thursday, it was a standing-room-only scene.
Lead guitarist James “Poppa” Dupree and his bandmates — bassist JoJo Wall, organist Dale Roberson, and drummer Richard Hudson — warmed up with some rockin’ blues and R&B standards before introducing the star of the show, vocalist Rhonda “Momma” Wall. She came out in a cool pair of shades and a big grin, saying,. “Hey, thanks so much — it’s been a long time since we’ve been downtown.” Indeed, it was their first show in the Market since 2006.
Momma belted out a dynamic mix of tunes, from smokin’-fast originals with a James Brown drum beats to slow-burning heartbreakers, like Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying.” She joked around with the crowd plenty, too, apologizing early on for the salty language and raunchy asides that were to come. She called the tunes as they went, praising and introducing her bandmates with genuine cheer and appreciation.
Poppa Dupree conjured some dense and edgy tones from his Fender Strat from song to song, launching into more than few soulful, Clapton-esque solos along the way. The rhythm section kept things anchored with a solid backbeat. At times, Roberson looked like he was about burst at the seams with excitement as he slapped the keys during a few solos. His Hammond XK3 sounded killer through his vintage Leslie amp.
The show was a seated affair, but if the room was clear of tables and booths, most of the crowd would have been strutting and swaying from the front windows to the stage and back. It was a terrific way to conclude the series.