GA-20 at The Narrows Center for the Arts
“Hi, we’re GA-20.” So began a taut and thrilling 75-minute power set of Chicago blues- with a simple and smiling welcome from one of the trio’s two guitarists, frontman Pat Faherty. Too, this end of the year visit to the always-inviting Narrows was a celebratory sort of homecoming in more ways than one for the Boston-born band and their faithful packing the old mill’s third floor on the last Friday of 2023.
Arriving with a rapidly expanding reputation for energized and potent punches of the blues, in all its glorious forms, Faherty, his six-string counterpart, Matthew Stubbs, and drummer Tim Carman, wasted no time exhibiting their prowess, jump-starting the evening with their original, “No No.” Equally, the three throttled back, to a ‘60s slow-dance groove on the Lloyd Price cover of “Just Because.” Then, after a Bo Diddley beat infected their “Double Gettin’,” Flaherty took a moment to acknowledge a milestone.
Somewhere in the darkened, at-capacity house was a man celebrating his 80th birthday. And, Faherty noted, while the next number up on the setlist bore no significance to the octogenarian, it was enough to get him excited about diving into a song about a girl he thought was into him, but was not, launching the loping lament of “Dry Run.” Somehow, in the context of a GA-20 show, it made perfect sense; present joy and past sorrow intertwined; a recipe for the blues.
They mixed-in the old with the new- Faherty’s stinging slide on “Give Me Back My Wig,” and some tracks from their current slate, including a few from 2022’s Crackdown and their 2023 collection, Live In Loveland. Stubbs, too, had a guest to acknowledge as the three dedicated a buoyant take of Bo Diddley’s “Crackin’ Up” to Stubbs’ dad, in attendance. Stubbs’ guitar-work is the ideal partner to Faherty, carving tasteful responses to the vocal, or carrying thoughtful solos with flexing ease. With Carman, cinderblock solid, yet full of swing, the two anchored the set late as Faherty, wirelessly, left the stage, and climbed into the back bleachers, bringing his singing axe to the people.
Reassembled, they stayed in place onstage for what they called the encore, finishing their eclectic and entertaining appearance with “Easy on the Eyes.” With such a performance so easy on the ears, as well, GA-20, a half decade into their blossoming career, brought it all home. Chicago blues in the old Massachusetts mill never sounded better.