Although the Cover Problem played tunes from the 1977 disco classic "Saturday Night Fever" during its debut at Spaceland, it was definitely not a tribute band. An alter ego of acclaimed eccentric local popsters the Negro Problem, the group didn't pay homage so much as offer "an irreverent deconstruction of some [Bee Gees] tunes," as singer-guitarist Stew put it.
Friday's show was the first time TNP used that particular nom de rock. But "Saturday Night Fever" was the fourth zeitgeist-defining album -- after Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" -- the playfully provocative group has broken down in concert for cerebral sonic kicks.
Appropriately, then, the 50-minute set was squirrelly good fun. But a funky, Meters-esque twist on "Stayin' Alive," some Zappa-style changes in "Night Fever" and a "Music Man"-esque take on "More Than a Woman" also delightfully played up the Bee Gees' weird stature as symbols of mainstream nostalgia and hipster kitsch.
The players adeptly mugged through such peripheral numbers as the Trammps' "Disco Inferno," generally approaching the whole campy exercise with the same wry cleverness and musical intelligence of any TNP or Stew solo work.
Indeed, although the group's performance understandably lacked the offbeat emotional appeal of its originals, the band's deft adaptability left an impression even more indelible than that of Stew brandishing a sex toy while crooning "How Deep Is Your Love."