Conversions are few and far between at my advanced age, which is to say old enough to remember that every time Was (Not Was)'s "Walk the Dinosaur" came on MTV back in the mid-'80s, I changed the channel.
Not sure what put me off; maybe they were too black, and I was too white (possible), or I just didn't like the way they rubbed their pseudo-beatnik hipness in my face (entirely possible), or maybe it was just that they weren't the Alarm (sad to say, most likely).
As the years passed, I became decidedly less white (not a bad thing) and at the same time developed a taste for having pseudo-beatnik hipness rubbed in my face (jury is still out on that).
Likewise, I developed an abiding respect for the production work of Don Was (aka Fagenson), and concurrently always got a hearty chuckle out of the too-hip-for-the-room commentaries of David Was (aka Weiss) on NPR.
So Friday night at World Cafe Live, where a reactivated Was (Not Was) kicked out the Motor City jams for a loyal, if not quite teeming, crowd of revelers, I walked in persuadable and walked out persuaded.
Though they are the prime movers and the creative core of the band, the Was "brothers" took up positions in the back line (Don on bass, David on flute and blues harp) of the crack nine-piece live outfit, ceding the spotlight to the zoot-suited trio of "Sweet Pea" Atkinson, Harry Bowens and Donald Ray Mitchell, each of whom has served as lead singer for the band in the course of its on-again, off-again, is/not is 28-year career.
Things came to a head when all three leaned in to nail the declamatory gospel-style intro to "Where Did Your Heart Go." Likewise, Mitchell's honey-in-the-rock lead vocal on "From the Head to the Heart" made it sound like the greatest song Michael Jackson will never write.
Intermittently, David Was would take the mike - flute in one hand and beer in the other - for one of his Zappaesque monologues-as-song ("Sunshine Superfly," "I Feel Better Than James Brown").
But for the most part, the brothers were showbiz-smart enough to know when to dial back the irony and just be the greatest wedding band on earth.