A killer performance by the Killer Whales | Live Reviews | Charleston City Paper

A killer performance by the Killer Whales 

A review of the veteran Charleston band's reunion show at the Windjammer

The Killer Whales
The Windjammer
July 20

The Killer Whales enjoyed a triumphant reunion at the Windjammer on Friday night as the venue celebrated its 40th year of live rock 'n' roll on the Isle of Palms. Club owner Bobby Ross pulled together a roster of excellent music from the good ol' days. They even had alumni bartenders from years ago pouring drinks all night.

The crowd was an attentive and affectionate mix of folks from back in the day and the generation (including mine) who cut their teeth on '80s music and considered the Killer Whales local heroes. Though they evoke comparisons to the Police and XTC, the Whales have their own mix of power-pop perfection in their originals, blending elements of New Wave, surf guitar, and plain old Fender-driven rock 'n' roll.

David Bethany took the stage in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and characteristic cool calm, deadpanning, "Welcome to the last reunion I always wanted to go to." The masterful three-piece launched into two sets of favorites like "Night School" (from their Big Bang LP), "Who Controls the Video Screen" (from Emotional Geography), and "What You Goin' To Do?" (from their debut EP), along with a few well-chosen covers, including versions of Elvis Costello's "Mystery Dance" and Elvis Presely's "Little Sister." With the opening notes of "Marlene," a swarm of dancers moved to the floor.

Bassist Jimmy Blakeslee assumed singing duties for an excellent rendition of the Police classic "Driven to Tears." When Murphy Pitts emerged from behind his drum kit to take over vocals for the unparalleled Whales classic "I Speak the Lingo," longtime fan and former Velveeeta/Foreign Aide drummer Chisolm Wilson (in a vintage Whales' T-shirt) took the sticks, sat in, and nailed it.

The band wrapped up by spinning their magic into several Bo Diddley classics and a funky reworking of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." Finishing off the night was a rousing rendition of Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny 'bout Peace Love and Understanding?" It's always hard to read the Zen-like, stoic face of Mr. Bethany, but Jimmy and Murphy were all grins by the end.

It's has been years since the Whales performed in town, but their fans' enthusiasm hasn't diminished. Assuming there are more new originals like "Tough As Nails" coming down the pike, another big gig hopefully won't be far behind.

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