POP BEAT : Ripe Tumatoe and Band at Palomino

Face it: The kind of bar-band blues-rock favored by Duke Tumatoe jelled ages ago. But instead of Tumatoe aspic, the sparse crowd at the Palomino on Thursday got a serving of rockin' gumbo.

Which isn't to say that you'd ever mistake husky Duke for Husker Du, or his Power Trio band for the Power Station. Nothing heard on the Palomino stage hasn't been heard on countless other tavern stages for longer than the quarter of a century Tumatoe had been roaming the Midwest before John Fogerty "discovered" him last year and produced a Warner Bros. album for him. But it was easy to see what Fogerty, who was in the audience Thursday, found so likable about the bald graybeard.

Likability is something Tumatoe has in spades. He delivered both ripe humor (a career as a stand-up comedian would seem a viable option if this rock 'n' roll thing doesn't work out) and music with the kind of nonchalance that can only come from someone who's been doing it for years. And tempting as it may be to dismiss the act as "just a bar band," the fact is it's a dang good bar band. As familiar as the Chicago-to-the-Gulf roots may be, Tumatoe and his tight, solid crew gave everything a twist, including some solid Meters-like New Orleans second line rhythms.

But the Dukester's limitations became very clear during a late second set. Apparently having used up his best shots already, the later it got, the more the act turned to Jello. Even Fogerty got up and headed on home as the big hand moseyed on toward 1 a.m.

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