A coolness filled the usually cozy Lucille’s Bar and Grill. It was the kind of chill where you realize you are cold but never shiver. With the patrons’ indecipherable conversations providing the only background noise, a short, sultry, red- headed vixen approached the small stage’s microphone. A warm red-orange spotlight was placed behind her head. It hinted at the excepted heat and energetic vibe she could produce.
It didn’t happen though.
Armstrong’s solid, sexy performance would produce sparks, but it was her band that sizzled.
She and “Whole Lotta Blues” opened the show at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill in Manhattan with Muddy Water’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” The themes of love, sex, and heartbreak continued through their first few selections.
Armstrong, a 5-foot-3 native of Riverhead, was dressed in a short, tight, and shoulder bearing, leopard print dress. She could be seen seductively tossing around her hair at times during the performance. She even danced seductively around the microphone occasionally.
Whole Lotta Blues is a thunderously soulful and polished four piece ensemble of drums (Rob Chase), saxophone (Keith Ross), bass (Jeff Gunter) and lead guitar (Jason Green). They produce raw energy to a fault.
There were times where the band, especially Chase, drowned out Armstrong. Chase does an excellent job keeping the group in time. His cymbal use adds great lift and a fun feel to most of the songs, but he sometimes pounds his bass drum like it’s a sword being shaped over an anvil.
Whole Lotta Blues by itself would have provided ample and foot-tapping entertainment. With Jeff Gunter at lead vocals, the band played a spirited rendition of Fats Domino’s “Kansas City.” He even improved the types of transportation he would use to get there, including a unicycle and a New York City Taxi Cab.
The band seemed to feed off of the playing of Green and Ross. You could see Gunter smirking, bopping his head and strumming his bass guitar more intensely because of the creative and enthusiastic vibe of Green and Ross’s solos.
Ross, during the band’s second number, Bill Withers’ “Use Me” ripped through a long solo, with his eyes closed, head moving side to side, and sax blaring.
Green’s and the band’s best moment came during a cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” During his solo Green unleashed a psychedelic riff that sounded like something you would hear on a Jimmi Hendrix album. A rejuvenated Armstrong sang a slow, seductive and seemingly forbidden version of the sound. You could almost picture her singing it in a dark-lit night club on a New Orleans street corner.
The group then shifted gears and did a bluesy yet light version of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” that had two women dancing as they were waiting to be seated. This song allowed Armstrong to show why she is a better-than-average front woman.
Armstrong’s performance,and especially the band’s, was hot enough at times to quickly melt the ice cream you get with the apple pie.
Even so, Armstrong and her band are nothing more than a free shot of whiskey that adds some edge to the dinning experience. They are worth checking out, but only for free.