CAMBRIDGE — “You guys nailed this place,” said Johnette Napolitano exuberantly from the stage of the new Harvard Square nightclub/restaurant the Sinclair on Wednesday.
The Concrete Blonde bassist/frontwoman spoke lovingly throughout the night of how hard she watched the employees work getting the room ready to open and how much she liked the club.
It was likely a nice endorsement to hear for the staff after a frustrating six weeks of cancellations, postponements, and shows moved to other venues. But thanks to a notable date — 12/12/12 — and the dynamic christening of a two-hour-plus performance by the still-vibrant LA rock trio, the Sinclair got off to a memorable start.
Napolitano continues to be a force of nature both vocally and personally, scaling dramatic heights one moment and enaging in sassy banter with the audience the next. She unleashed serious power and stamina on rockers like “Heal It Up” and “Run Run Run” and nimbly shifted dynamics whispering through Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” and crooning through “Joey.” Guitarist Jim Mankey remains a master of the short, sharp, shock school of economical solos, and drummer Gabriel Quezada held the enterprise together. Boston rock veteran Laurie Sargent popped up to provide harmonies on “True.”
The club, which holds 525 people, is very comfortable and sounds great. There are four levels of viewing possibilities, including two balconies and a small mezzanine perch behind the soundboard that has great sightlines. Like all balconies, if you’re a few people back from the railing it’s harder to see, but with ample floor space it shouldn’t be a major issue. The best feature for those of shorter stature is that the stage is raised high enough that even if you’re standing at the back of the floor, you can see and hear all the action.
Near the end of Concrete Blonde’s set, Napolitano wished the Sinclair and its future audiences many happy years of rocking.
The restaurant, helmed by Michael Schlow, won’t be open until after the first of the year, but a spokesperson for the club said they’ll have free bar snacks out on show nights.