The Minus 5 make believers of everyone at the Bootleg Theater

The Minus 5 at the Bootleg Theater, August 2, 2019. Photo by S.Lo

Do you believe in the miracle of music?

Would you believe that a 63-year-old man — less than three days after suffering a stroke that doctors said would effectively end his music career — would begin to build a new album, gathering his stream-of-conscious thoughts in scribbles?

… That the Beatles were part of his rehab, his R.E.M./Baseball Project/The Minus 5 bandmate and pal Peter Buck having made him a Fab Four mixtape to help him reconnect his synapses and memories?

… And that Buck, Corin Tucker, Joe Adragna, Jeff Tweedy and more helped him piece his thoughts to music for said album?

Less than two years later after his stroke, Scott McCaughey made believers of everyone on Friday night at the Bootleg Theater. The 65-year-old fronted a Minus 5 touring lineup of Buck on guitar and Mike Mills (R.E.M.) on bass and his Filthy Friends bandmates Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows) on guitar/backing vocals and Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project, Steve Wynn) on drums/backing vocals. Robert Lloyd (The Nightingales) floated in and out on keyboards.

The frontman put it succinctly in the opening song, “Born in the ’50s/ Children of the ’60s/ Now in our 50s / Soon to be 60s / My generation / Still as loud as it’s old yeah / Not ready to die… / Not ready to fold.” With that, the ensemble kicked off a 95-minute, 17-song set (with a three-song encore and energy to spare) with “My Generation,” the lead track off the 57-song box set “Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror,” from 2014.

With impish energy matched only by the admiration coming back at them from the cross-generational crowd, McCaughey led the band through power riffs aplenty off the latest Minus 5 album, “Stroke Manor,” written during his recovery, and other rockers from his 13-album catalogue.

Some especially memorable moments occurred mid-set, such as the frontman’s excitement that Mott the Hoople have reunited to tour again leading into a cover of the band’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” A couple songs later, Mills stepped up to the mic (bringing audience anticipation to a zenith) to lead into a rendition of R.E.M.’s “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville,” then segueing into a gorgeous cover of the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” and the new Minus 5 song “Beatles Forever (Little Red).”

There were also reflective moments, too, such as the folk rocker “I’m Not Bitter” off the 2003 full-length “Down With Wilco: A Tragedy in Three Halfs,” which, McCaughey shared, was written on Sept. 11, 2001. And new song “Top Venom” was a hard-hitting slower saunter with some aching truths about the struggles the singer-songwriter experienced in recovery. It was after that when he thanked the crowd: “We’re really glad you’re here. Hope you can tell people you saw this great band. We’re glad you’re here. We’re glad we’re here …”  Later in the set, McCaughey dedicated the charming “Remain in Lifeboat” off 2015’s “Dungeon Golds” to the late Ian McLagan (Small Faces, Faces), who guested on the album.

The encore began quietly with a sweet rendition of “Plascent Folk,” the lead track from “Stroke Manor,” with Morgan Nagler of Whispertown on backing vocals and Lloyd on accordion, followed by the full-band raucous jaunt through “Aw Shit Man” off the Minus 5’s 2006 self-titled album. Momentously, the night ended with Neil Young’s earnest “Don’t Be Denied.”

Whispertown opened the show with urgently sublime songs from their new album, “I’m a Man.” Nagler began with just herself and an acoustic guitar, sharing a heart-tugging new song. Partner in life and music Jake Bellows soon joined her with an electric and a few songs later a full band unfolded with Jon Watkins and Nick White on bass and keys, respectively.

The Minus 5 setlist: My Generation, My Collection, My Master Bull, I’m Not Bitter, Well in Fact She Said, I Wish I Was Your Mother (Mott the Hoople cover), Bleach Boys & Beach Girls, (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville (R.E.M. cover), Nowhere Man (The Beatles cover), Beatles Forever (Little Red), Twilight Distillery, Remain in Lifeboat, It’s Beautiful Here, Top Venom, In the Ground, Lies of the Living Dead, Blue Rickenbacker // Encore: Plascent Folk, Aw Shit Man, Don’t Be Denied (Neil Young cover)

||| Also: Stream “Folk Manor” in its entirety