Greg Kihn has been in Santa Cruz almost yearly at the free Beach Boardwalk music series, but he was excited about playing his old nightclub haunt, the Catalyst, with both his old and new bands Saturday night.
It worked. Kihn, who has lost weight and was wearing the tie and white shirt he started with in the 1980s, was joined by his son, Ry, on guitar, bassist extraordinaire Robert Berry, Tubes keyboardist David Medd and his former bandmates Steve Wright, Greg Douglass and Larry Lynch.
The songs were old. OK, we'll say vintage. But they have aged well. Like the Kinks, but in smaller volume, Kihn has written some timeless classics. Beefed up with solid orchestration, some sounded better today than they did in the rough and ready '80s. "Madison Avenue Man" and "Can't Stop Hurting Myself" got new treatments with stops and starts that they probably couldn't have mustered in the party-down days.
Douglass, who wrote the Steve Miller hit "Jungle Love" was a monster on guitar. After a jam on "Train Kept A Runnin'" on which Kihn's radio partner Chris Jackson joined the band, Jackson said Douglass schooled both he and Ry Kihn.
"I thought he was going to be an old guy and not really have it anymore," said Jackson, an immensely talented musician on guitar and drums, in an interview after the show.
"He schooled us. He didn't just play the riffs that Ry and I couldn't get. It was like he said, 'Here it is. What are you guys doing?' It was a lesson."
The whole night was a lesson: it showed that great rock should always be fun. If it is, it can also be ageless and keep all of us young.
Check the vids and take a great trip back in time.