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Paul Geremia and John Herald played blues guitar in a late Friday show at the Calumet Arts Cafe. The Coupe De Villes rocked the blues Friday at the Lafayette Tap Room, and Talas held a reunion concert Saturday night at Kleinhans Music Hall.
Talas waited 13 years to reunite the first time, but only one year to do it again.

The question of whether Talas still casts a magic spell over its hometown was quickly answered during a performance in a packed Kleinhans Music Hall, where longtime fans reveled in the power trio's return.

A two-set, 30-plus-song evening should have fulfilled even the most ardent fan. Bassist Billy Sheehan, guitarist Dave Constantino and drummer Paul Varga mixed classic Talas with well-worn covers including a selection from the Who.

The sense of comfort from being with old friends was obvious throughout the show. The crowd, greeting the pounding opening "Sink Your Teeth Into That" with upraised fists, soon relaxed to sway with the music.

Billy, Dave and Paul (the personable way the band was referred to instead of simply Talas) were performing almost effortlessly, gliding through "Hick Town," "Power to Break Away" and the new single in Japan, "Doin' It Right."

There was a nice change of pace with "Thick Head," the power ballad "Tell Me True" and the frenetic "Shy Boy."

I was disappointed that Talas' set was so similar to last year's. ("King of the World," a drum solo and "Shy Boy" also closed out the first set last year.) And because the Talas greatest-hits show was a smash with the audience, I'm also in the minority to say it would be nice (especially with Sheehan's repertoire) to throw in new and not-so-familiar material during the long show. But Talas obviously knows now what works with fans, and sticks with it.

-- Toni Ruberto
Paul Geremia and John Herald
Folk-blues guitarists Paul Geremia and John Herald provided a study in contrasts, a yin and yang of contemporary coffeehouse strumming, as they performed at the Calumet Arts Cafe on Friday.

Herald emulates the bluegrass tradition and folk pathways of Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. As a founding member of the Greenbriar Boys, a 1960s folk group, he wrote "Stewball," a minor hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.

Geremia is a country-blues acoustic guitarist with a New Age sound. His playing has been said to exemplify the musical wisdom of the late Rev. Gary Davis.

The blues master taught his students to think of the guitar as if it were a piano, with the thumb of their picking hand plucking the bass notes like a pianist's left hand and the other fingers playing the melody.

Performing solo, each singer-guitarist demonstrated the art of performing one on one in an intimate setting. Herald opened with "Slow and Easy," a bluegrass-laden style that harked back through Bob Dylan and Seeger to Guthrie.

Geremia, on the other hand, combined venerable blues with original lyrics that come out of his personal experience and philosophy. As he remarked: "All my songs are the same. They're about messed-up love."

Interestingly, Ray Charles was the common ground upon which both performers met. Herald ended his set with Charles' "All Right" and Geremia exited his first set with the Genius' "Drown in My Own Tears."

Geremia's voice is reminiscent of Dr. John's raspy croak, and his playing evokes such master bluesmen as Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Johnson and Skip James. The audience couldn't have been more attentive or appreciative.

-- Jim Santella
Coupe De Villes
Small signs revealed the suave professionalism of Rochester band the Coupe De Villes.

The first dealt with attitude. On Friday in the Lafayette Tap Room, the blues quintet casually and confidently played tunes from its three releases. They may not have been the prettiest and they may not have been the best, but when it came to providing standard blues, the band members were top-notch.

For instance, on one occasion guitarist Tommy Bianchi jumped into a solo slowly and incoherently. Rather than blend together, his phrasings began and ended in disjointed fashion. But just when the near-capacity crowd began to scan the room for offstage activity, Bianchi put it all together, taking his solo to an exhilarating peak.

The next sign concerned musicianship. With each player boasting more than 15 years of experience, it was easy to spot the musical maturity. No member rose above the others. Instead, all played together, fusing their lines into well-crafted songs.

Also, despite being close to national success but never reaching the top, members have not lost their enthusiasm for the music or for each other. Often during instrumental solos, singer Lex Byers would stand back and watch his bandmates with an excited, can-you-believe-this-guy admiration.

Finally, the band revealed signs of boldness. Organist John Ciancola frequently mimicked with scat the tones of his Hammond B-3; and Bianchi at times threw in guitar riffs more typical of Led Zeppelin than B.B. King.

But the band's biggest sign of professionalism was found in its ideal tune "So Many Reasons." After a slow, bent-string start, Bianchi showed the crowd, through sonic wails and moans, why the guitar is the prime instrument for the blues. With a unified crescendo, the musicians took the song to a drop-off point and threw it into the hands of Ciancola, who, with scat and improvised organ lines, landed the tune for its final verse.

-- Michele Ramstetter

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