Adam Weiner stood on his piano bench, took a good look at the packed house at Union Transfer on a sticky Thursday night and sniffed.
"It's getting pungent in here," the sweat-soaked bandleader proclaimed. "You know it's a good Low Cut Connie show when it stinks."
This one was particularly smelly. The six-person Philadelphia band – who now include vocalist Saundra Williams, formerly with the late Sharon Jones' soul revival group the Dap-Kings, as a full-time member – were playing a hometown record release show for Dirty Pictures (Part 2).
That album, which, like its (Part 1) predecessor, was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, shows the barroom boogie band's continued evolution into deeper rock and soul territory. "We're giving you first dibs, Philly," the Cherry Hill-reared Weiner announced. "New York City" – where the band was set to play the following evening at the Bowery Ballroom – "gets sloppy seconds."
Low Cut Connie have been around for five albums now, having first come to old-school rock-and-roll enthusiasts' attention with Get Out the Lotion in 2011. Back then, the band was led by Weiner with guitarist Dan Finnemore of Birmingham, England.
The transatlantic marriage didn't work out in the end, and beginning with the first Dirty Pictures, Weiner has impressively shouldered the songwriting load on his own — though Thursday night's show did make room for one scorcher penned and sung by guitarist James Everhart that recalled the '60s British Invasion band the Animals.
As a showman, Weiner will stop at nothing to connect with his audience, whether that means striking gymnastic poses atop the battered upright piano he's named Shondra (who got her own ovation when loaded on the stage before the show started) or pulling out chest hairs and presenting them to audience members.
And as a bandleader, he's fronting a unit that's rocking and rumbling at its peak.
Weiner is a student of such Southern piano greats as Mose Vinson, James Booker, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And though his instrument is at the center of nearly every loud and louche LCC song – no wonder Elton John loves the band – the unit as whole brings a joyful swagger to the stage.
That goes from the rhythm section of powerhouse drummer Larry Scotton and always smiling bassist Lucas Rinz to the twin guitar attack of Everhart and Will Donnelly, who may have been regretting on Friday morning that he smashed his guitar on the stage in an expression of passion after the band climaxed with their cover of Prince's "Controversy."
While proving himself as the band's sole frontman, Weiner aims to create a community in which everybody's invited to the party. Before a take on "Shake It Little Tina" from 2015's Hi Honey, he engaged in a call-and-response exchange with Williams, issuing an invitation to one and all. "I don't care what color you are, I don't care what religion you are," he announced. "I don't care who you love, as long as you love Low Cut Connie."
On Thursday, the band gave the crowd plenty of reason to, particularly during a five-song, leave-it-all-on-the-floor encore that began with Weiner standing atop Shondra with a towel wrapped around his head, singing "Me N Annie" while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
Weiner then paid tribute to Charles Bradley with his own take on the late soul man's cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes," showing that he's now accomplished enough as a vocalist to do justice to Bradley's take and going into the crowd to press the flesh while he was at it.
And along with the closing mantra of the Dionysian "Controversy" — "People call me rude, I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black or white, I wish there were no rules" — perhaps the most satisfying development of the evening was Williams' star turn in the spotlight. The stellar backup vocalist has been getting increasingly involved in the LCC stage show since joining last year, and she stepped out with a rousing gospel celebration of Claude Ely's death-defying standard "Ain't No Grave," that turned the crowded barroom into a holy rolling sanctified space.