On the eve of the Patriots playing the Super Bowl, one might think that baseball would be the farthest thing from Boston’s mind. But Boston is a town with many sports in its heart, and Hot Stove Cool Music — Peter Gammons’s and Paul and Theo Epstein’s annual baseball/rock ’n’ roll mashup concert/benefit — is too entrenched an affair to be overwhelmed by football fever reaching critical mass.
Emceed by “Mad Men” actor Joel Murray and MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger, who also served as comically (and boozily) tetchy auctioneers, Saturday’s event was loosey-goosey per tradition; woe to those who arrived at the publicized time the Paradise was set to open, only to find the festivities already well underway. But the only act that fully embraced that ethos was Boston women’s supergroup Band Of Their Own, which was ramshackle and spirited all at once, from the unifying chant propelling Toni Basil’s “Mickey” to the deadly undertow in Heart’s “Even It Up.”
The Boston All-Stars tightened things up noticeably, giving near-Springsteenian grandeur to Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Burn Down the Trailer Park” and a New Orleans itch to the Cookies’ “Chains.” Will Dailey and Chris Cote were MVPs, serving up tenderness and a guttural howl, respectively, to a smashing “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Next came the vanity bands, led by MSNBC morning-show host Joe Scarborough’s namesake group, whose soul- and frat-rock stylings came off like Huey Lewis And The Actual, Literal News. (Co-host and fiancee Mika Brzezinski came out to kiss him good luck and roll her eyes, not in that order.) Scarborough’s set was goofy in its self-seriousness, as was former Red Sox pitcher and Eddie Vedder acolyte Bronson Arroyo, just happy to get high on singing songs he loves.
As the only other act to perform her original material, Juliana Hatfield seemed like she’d also fall into the same trap as Scarborough. But she embraced the spirit of the night by the end with four Olivia Newton-John songs, faithful but rocked-up.
Hot Stove being a two-city event now, the Chicago All-Stars batted cleanup with a tight and eclectic set that largely covered ’80s college rock. Sports radio host Matt Spiegel sold the Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” with ease, while he and Kate Tucker generated an X-like tension on the Raveonettes’ “Love in a Trashcan.”
The night saw plenty of tributes to recently deceased heroes, from legends like Prince and David Bowie to more personal ones like the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan (a “Dreams” sung by Kay Hanley, one ’90s alt-rock star saluting another) and power-popper Tommy Keene, whose “Back to Zero Now” rang out with power and grace in the hands of Dean Falcone. And the final act was handed over to an all-hands-on-deck Tom Petty set culminating in Arroyo leading a love-drenched “Free Fallin’” more than five hours after Hot Stove began. After all, baseball doesn’t operate by a clock.
Hot Stove Cool Music
At the Paradise Rock Club, Saturday, Feb. 3Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.