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Review: Lucero rocks the Clubhouse

Friday night saw the return of two great rock bands to the fair city of Tempe. Lucero and newcomers Fake Problems took the stage at the tried-and-true rock club, the Clubhouse.

If you’ve never been to the Clubhouse, you’re missing out. It may seem dirty and cramped at first sight, but the setting is perfect for a rock show. You can get up close with the performers, an aspect that most fans miss with the advent of stage barriers.

Both Lucero and Fake Problems gave fans a killer, personal performance unlike any at a large arena venue.

First up: Fake Problems, a Florida-based punk-infused rock band starting to pick up momentum with nods from numerous music magazines and MTV. After seeing the show, it’s no mystery why.

Fake Problems has that great British garage rock sound, but plays with the swagger only an American band can muster. Lead vocalist Chris Farren has a striking croon to his voice similar to Against Me!’s Tom Gabel.

The band blew the crowd away and proved to be much more than just an opening act. (Fake Problems will be back in Phoenix, playing April 19 at the Hard Rock Café.)

Lucero finally took the stage near 9:45 p.m., giving audience members ample time to talk and drink with the band between sets.

That’s one of the reasons Lucero has a rabid following. They are one of the few bands that come to shows to hang out with their fans before and afterward. No green room treatment or pretentious attitudes — they’re here for the party.

Lucero’s sound is best described as alt-country, but heavy on the rock ‘n’ roll. Ben Nichols, the band’s lead singer, has the ultimate smoke-and-whiskey voice. He strains for the notes, adding power to Lucero’s songs.

Playing everything from deep album cuts, new songs and a few songs from Nichols’ “Blood Meridian”-influenced album, “The Last Pale Light In The West,” the band provided the perfect set for any Lucero fan.

Highlights included the slow ballad “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble” and the party jam “Sixes and Sevens.” Lucero even managed to do an impromptu cover of “Sweet Home Alabama,” which really got the crowd going.

After coming off playing larger venues, some bands may not seem interested in the cramped Clubhouse. With Lucero, this wasn’t the case.

Nichols would talk and joke with the audience with a carefree attitude that electrified the room. They truly are those good ol’ boys from Tennessee.

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