Emergency Broadcast System sent out a strong signal at Boston’s Bell In Hand last Saturday night. This hugely popular cover band kept a crowd of cool, young Bostonians partying and dancing all evening. That was no easy task as the patrons packed what is considered America’s oldest tavern, founded in 1795. The five piece knew how to dial it in, picking the right songs to get their audience’s attention and to keep the crowd moving.
Selecting hit songs from across the decades was a wise choice for EBS. It kept things varied and interesting to some of other age groups in the room. “American Girl” by Tom Petty found guitarist Fil Pacino rocking it at the microphone. His drawling rasp fit the song like a glove. Pacino next lead the band into The Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider,” his voice competing well with the din of the crowd. Aside from a deep down killer groove, the tune also got a tasteful lead guitar phrase from Dan Bernal. Later in the set Bernal cranked out a killer guitar phrase in “Sympathy For The Devil.”
Likewise, Bernal’s progressive guitar phrasing and Pacino’s throaty growl were pluses when EBS went into Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” But nothing could have prepared the audience for the vibrant stage presence and sweet high croon of female vocalist Melissa Tirrell. She moved her voice and her swagger assertively through Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” She also held her own against the feisty Pacino during the Queen-David Bowie hit “Under Pressure,” a vocally and musically dynamic work out, with a fantastic bass line from Mike Marvuglio. Marvuglio made everyone feel it with his nimble plucking, laying down a fun low end rumble.
Tirrell sang especially well on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” emiting tunefulness with a timbre sharp, clear, and high. The rhythm section was adept at keeping just about the whole room dancing. Ms. Tirrell was soulful on Prince’s “Kiss” and Pacino was engaging during a down tempo ballad version of CeeLo Green’s hit. Pacino and the boys got a strong saucy attitude out of this number, slowing it down so everyone can savor the soulfulness of its changes.
Next up, the beat from drummer Greg Settino announced that Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was coming on strong. A rocked up version of The Monkee’s “I’m A Believer” was familiar and hard hitting at once before Tirrell carried herself well through Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” making her vocal engaging and catchy over the song’s thumpy groove.
Pacino used his understated vocal approach on Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane.” His voice was strong enough and charismatic enough to get through to the tightly packed room. Soon enough, it was Tirrell’s turn to strut her stuff at the microphone and strut she most certainly did. She nailed the finale to “Stairway To Heaven,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”
Both singers took turns on “What’s Going On,” Pacino’s husky drawl beginning and Tirrell’s precise, high timbre closing. Tirrell lead the band into AC/DC’s “You Shook Me,” her assertive belt and stage swagger brought the song home, right into the audience’s consciousness while the musicians got everyone in the crowd dancing and cheering.
Emergency Broadcast System closed out with familiar classics “I Will Survive,” “Africa,” and “Beat it,” all nicely detailed by the instrumentation and the vocalists in the band. “Africa” was especially soothing in its easeful changes and honey flow vocal patterns.
EBS is a cover band that knows how to party. They turn their energy and their sense of fun into something the entire room can appreciate. When the crowd sees how much fun the band is having, they cannot help but to get into the vibe that’s going on in the room.