Free Sammy Dodge. The rambunctious Up All Nights frontman spends most of the band's set trapped behind an electric guitar. This should not be.

Free Sammy Dodge.

The rambunctious Up All Nights frontman spends most of the band's set trapped behind an electric guitar. This should not be.

It's not that Dodge can't play. Clad in skeleton gloves, he hacks his way through bluesy solos with as much roughshod precision as you'd hope from a garage rock combo of this ilk. ("I know we're messy, but it's endearing," Dodge remarked at one point.) And he hits his knees to solo with a glee that goes beyond adult concerns like true love or great sex and into the exhilaration of a boy first discovering just how fast his bicycle can go.

No, the main problem with sticking Dodge behind a guitar is that it removes the possibility of Dodge not behind a guitar, free to assume his rightful place in the stage-stalking pantheon that stretches back to Mick Jagger and beyond.

Dodge struck such a pose occasionally last Friday at Circus, and in those moments the full potential of The Up All Nights was glimpsed, though certainly not attained. The raw ingredients of rock royalty are present among the three Dodge brothers, not least of which are Sammy's gnarly howl, seemingly channeled direct from an agitated Little Richard, and the deadpan sense of humor captured brilliantly in the band's "What's Up? All Night" web series. (One hilarious aside Friday: "This song heavily features my bandmates.")

That said, the songwriting doesn't seem to go beyond "This riff will do," and the slapdash approach isn't quite as endearing as Dodge thinks. The goal is to always sound like you're on the verge of falling apart, not to actually fall apart sometimes.

Don't tell the rabid fan base, which turned out with an enthusiasm that far outstripped its numbers. Chants of "Up All Nights!" were a near constant, interrupted only by a goofy call for bassist Jack Dodge to "Take it off!" (When he complied by going shirtless, his pale frame naturally was greeted by a demand to "Put it on!")

These folks weren't interested in musicality so much as a rawkin' party, which Sammy, Jack and Yo-Yo were ready and willing to supply.