The Fishbone story is an odd one, largely defined by the band’s schizophrenic tendencies. Formed in 1979, the band didn’t record until 1985. Fishbone’s manic take on ska, funk and punk led to near instant notoriety, but the band threatened to alienate its underground fan base with an appearance in the Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon comedy film “Back to the Beach.”
After scoring its biggest hit with “Everyday Sunshine,” Fishbone nearly abandoned ska for metal on “Give a Monkey a Brain … .” Shortly thereafter the band’s longtime guitarist quit the band to join a religious cult. Commercial success has eluded Fishbone since its last big splash in the early 1990s, and most of the original lineup has moved on.
With only two founding members left, you might expect the current version of Fishbone to be a shadow of its former self. So it was with some reservation that I ventured to the Rev Room to see it.
But it was obvious from the first song that lead singer Angelo Moore and bass player Norwood Fisher have put together a band with every bit of the kinetic fury of the original lineup. Tuesday night, in front of a small but grateful crowd, Fishbone brought truth and soul to Little Rock.
Angelo shows no sign of slowing down, tearing up the stage with his frantic dancing — when he wasn’t blasting his saxophone or playing whacked out Theremin melodies. Oh yeah, and he sings like Sam Cooke. He must be one of the greatest front men since James Brown.
The seven-piece band, anchored by Norwood’s constantly funky but never over-bearing bass lines, seamlessly blended ska, funk, reggae, punk and gospel. In addition to newer material, Fishbone pulled heavily from its early catalog. Highlights included “Ma and Pa,” “UGLY” and “Alcoholic.”
The current Fishbone lives up to the hype generated by the original lineup. It’ll be interesting to see which schizophrenic turn the band takes next.
— Jason Weinheimer