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That karma business gets some serious testimony via Paul Collins. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for the Baja Bugs: despite a more-than-competent, high-spirited tour of Beatles arcana, few onlookers deign to tap a foot for "a cover band." But the atmosphere thaws when Collins pops up to sing lead on Bugs finale "Anna." And he can make a 50-person crowd seem like 100: fans — including Beehive and the Barracudas/RFTC players — puncture the proscenium arch, they're jammed in so close.

Collins never refers to his tour-related hoarseness, howling full-throttle when demanded by his songs, let alone three exuberant playmates. We know first-(PC Beat)-timer Timm Buechler isn't lying when he shares, "I've waited 29 years to be standing here doing this." Nothing else could explain the way his bass lines caress the material. Lead guitarist Tim Schweiger brilliantly embellishes Collins's rhythms. The absence of a mic doesn't deter Chris Bongers from shouting back-ups from behind his kit. Most of the crowd is singing, too. If anything could make us believe we've time-traveled to 1979, it's Collins's warmth and sense of fun. The kids from opening band Jungle Fever seem stoked at experiencing seminal power pop, especially when the crowd explodes for blistering attacks on "Rock 'n' Roll Girl" and The Nerves' (Collins's first band) "Hangin' on the Telephone." Touring behind his recent triumphant release, King of Power Pop, Collins makes the happy spontaneity of vintage new wave miraculously manifest. The smile on his face, spread over a sea of pogo-ing faces, tells us that 30 years of doing whatever it took to stay onstage has been worth it. I even forgive him for pulling me, along with two other women, onstage for some sardine-space go-go dancing. He ain't called "king" for nothin'.

  • Concert: Paul Collins Beat, Baja Bugs, Jungle Fever
  • Date: September 22, 2010
  • Venue: Soda Bar
  • Seats: up front and to the right
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