The Red Devils have the fundamentals down cold when it comes to mid-'50s Chicago and Texas grind-style blues/R&B.; But at the Palomino on Friday, the book remained open on a larger question: Can the L.A. quintet, which emerged from a Monday night residency at Hollywood's King King club, transcend its jamming roots and revivalist nature? And do they even want to?
The band's "ultra raw" (lead singer Lester Butler's phrase) attack was certainly energetic enough Friday to escape the museum-piece syndrome. A new song with a "Midnight Rambler" tempo shift and an encore of Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" brought the Rolling Stones of 25 years ago to mind; no wonder Mick Jagger pulled the band into the studio to back him on a recording session.
But the Devils' ace-in-the-hole is Paul Size's serious Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar-hero potential. The scowling musician's fast, fluid and aggressive playing was delivered with line-'em-up-and-shoot-'em-down directness.
Butler's underplayed presence kept with the band's no-showbiz stance, but his vocals failed to inject any commanding personality into a set that leaned heavily on non-originals dating back 30 to 35 years.
The Red Devils appear at the King King tonight and the Belly Up in Solana Beach on Thursday.