"You lost a lot when you lost me," he sang Friday night, and right he was.
We lost Jimmer Podrasky when he left Pittsburgh for LA in the early '80s and lost him again when he withdrew from the music world a decade later.
Now, he's finally re-emerged, looking a bit weathered but sounding like the old Jimmer we knew from The Rave-Ups, which, as he said, wears a label of "seminal Americana band" that wasn't around back then. It was cowpunk in that day, a burgeoning style not readily accepted by his more hardened peers at the Electric Banana.
Making his first trip home in 24 years, the Natrona Heights native was backed by a group of local musicians who followed about a half-decade behind him: bassist Rod Schwartz, drummer Dave Klug, keyboardist Terry Divelbliss and guitarists Steve Morrison, whom he dubbed "Good Steve," and Steve Seel, "Bad Steve" (not for their playing).
Jimmer arrived in town this week getting over the flu and had all of two rehearsals with this crew. Somehow on Friday night at the Pittsburgh Winery, for the first show, they sounded like they've been playing together for years.
For those who treasure their copy of "Town and Country," it was a thrill -- joyful, nostalgic, life-affirming, all of that -- to see him re-animate these songs: the haunting "Radio," the snarling "Class Tramp," the twangy "By the Way," kick-ass rockers "In My Gremlin"'and "Rave Up/Shut Up" and, saved for last, the stately "Positively Lost Me."
He couldn't have done them better, attacking them with his sharp, clipped vocal style, and turning on the grit when needed. The guitarists nailed all the solos -- slide and otherwise.
He laughed that "I released my first solo record ... at the ripe old age of 56. Don't do that, people." Although they didn't have the nostalgic glow, the songs from "The Would-Be Plans," including the title track, "Satellite" and the Ramones-y unrecorded Rave-Ups tune "She Has Good Records" sat well with the vintage stuff and the band gave them a good live boost from the album versions.
Jimmer, talkative throughout, complained about the Pittsburgh humidity and it was downright steamy in the Winery, but the blood red walls, colored lights and wine barrel decor made for a gorgeous backdrop.
Being surrounded by wine serves up that easy cliche about getting better with age that we should avoid. Instead, let's point out that Jimmer helped pave the way for the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Ryan Adams and Rhett Miller and he could still show them a thing or two.
One of the standouts of the set was his old Pittsburgh departure song "Not Where You're at (But Where You Will Be)." On Friday night, the only thing that mattered was "where we were at."
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. First Published July 12, 2014 12:00 AM