In just a few weeks, the legendary Radiators will be playing its final show in its hometown of New Orleans, after three decades of being one of the busiest and most successful touring bands in the country.
Before they say goodbye, though, the band will be offering Virginia residents one last chance to see them with two shows on May 21 at the State Theatre.
“All good things must come to an end,” said lead singer/keyboardist Ed Volker. “I’m burned out and exhausted from life on the road. I’ve really enjoyed playing for the last 47 years but I’m ready to kick back, listen to old music and get comfortable being a piano player again, and not just a rock keyboardist.”
The 2011 Radiators are still comprised of the same five musicians who first formed the group back during a jam session in 1978. Joining “Zeke” Volker as always will be Dave Malone on lead guitar, Camile Baudoin on guitar, Reggie Scanlan on bass and Frank Bua, Jr., on drums.
“We couldn’t have lasted as long as we have together if we weren’t the best of friends,” the 62-year-old Volker said. “Frankie and I go back to the 60s, so there is a lot of closeness and intimacy in this band.”
Volker estimates that The Radiators have played more than 4,200 gigs since they began and the group just decided that the time was right to end so they planned their Last Roundup tour.
“We needed to get away from the airport and security lines and Red Roof Inns and just take a break from playing for a while,” Volker said. “We have been pretty non-stop since the mid-seventies.”
Although never achieving huge commercial success, the Radiators have a repertoire that includes over 300 original songs—many never released on album—and over 1,000 covers that fans know them for.
They did reach a level of commercial success in the late ’80s with the release of “Law Of The Fish” and “Total Evaporation” for Epic Records, but they were dropped from the label after five years and went back to the more fan-favorite independent and live releases they were known for.
“It seems like the sentiment of the audience for this tour is wanting to hear the tried and true stuff,” Volker said. “We were just in Minnesota and we played some off the wall things there, but we will mostly be going back and playing the ones they know and love one more time.”
Volker said that the farewell tour has seemed to re-energize the band and a teary-eyed audience has been as vocal as ever in saying goodbye.
“It’s definitely recharged the batteries and it feels vibrant for me,” he said. “We’re really appreciating listening to each other and I’m grateful that our fans have always been there for us.”
The Radiators fans are known for traveling across the country to see shows and have stuck with the band through its highs and lows. Many are expected to come out in Virginia.
“A lot of our audience have gotten to be friends from following us, so it’s a close intimate thing,” Volker said. “It’s a very fleeting phenomenon that has kept us going.”
Although he never says never, Volker doesn’t foresee a reunion tour happening.
“Who knows? No one really knows what the future will bring, but it’s not going to be anything on my to-do list,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having a different sense of time, with no deadlines breathing down my neck and not always be on the clock.”
Asked what he will miss most, the singer not surprisingly talked about his bandmates. “The intense intimate conversations we have had for years, I will miss,” Volker said. “It’s bittersweet. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but at least we are going out strong, and together.”