Ike Reilly @ Double Door, 11/25/11

For the first time in a while, I was able to get to a venue early and check out both opening acts before Ike Reilly and The Assassination played at Double Door. One of the performances reminded me why it’s important to get to shows early because you may discover something that you like. The other was a harsh reminder of why I tend to skip these early sets.

Miles Nielsen and his band, The Gentlemen, put on a fun show filled with melodic pop tinged with country and blues. Nielsen’s onstage banter was so deadpan Bob Newhart did a spit take. At one point somebody in the crowd shouted something out and got put in their place. The band puts on a good show and I really dug them. I haven’t picked up the album, Miles Nielsen Presents The Rusted Hearts, but it’s definitely on my list. Hurray for getting to Double Door early!

Second up was Musikanto. I’ve been hearing good things about them for a while, so I was expecting good things. To my regret, it was basically a snoozefest for me. There were a couple songs that the lead singer played on the piano that I liked, and the guy that played about twelve different instruments (or at least lead guitar, bass, and banjo at different times) was really good. Other people around me seemed to be enjoying the set, I just couldn’t find a way into it. Oh well, that’s why you show up late, right?

After a surprisingly brief intermission, The Assassination made their way onto the stage and started rocking out with some blues riffs. It goes without saying that the band is excellent, but I think they get overlooked sometimes, so I’d like to say it again. There are two awesomely talented guitar players in the group, as well as the fellow who plays keyboards and switches to guitar for some tunes. The drummer and bassist are both phenomenal, and I’m amazed at how Dave Cottini can seem to be so aggressively destroying his kit, but it never overpowers the sound in the venue regardless of size.

This is my second time seeing these guys in the last year. The first time was at Bottom Lounge where Ike was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his Salesmen & Racists album; so the night was split in two, one half just that album from last song to first then a second half filled with songs from his other records. The show at Double Door was wildly different but no less entertaining. There was still a good amount played from his best known release, but a bevy of other songs made the set as well.

The night kicked off with the intro jam, then Ike took the stage and cruised into “Charcoal Days And Sterling Nights” from the 2007 album We Belong To The Staggering Evening. It was evident from the very beginning that the crowd was ready to party. The people in attendance were failry diverse, with young and old white people coming together to share in their joy of rock music.

I have to admit, there were a couple of songs that I didn’t know. I’m a fan of Ike’s, but I haven’t bought every record he’s put out. Most of my knowledge of his work comes from the two albums I’ve mentioned so far, as well as his most recent, Hard Luck Stories. That said, you don’t have to be a Reilly academic to have a good time at one of his shows. There’s an energy that coarses from the stage through the crowd that is quite palpable.

In fact, Reilly is such a great, charismatic frontman that I wish he would do some solo acoustic shows where he could take some time and banter a bit more with the audience. Not that I mind the million miles an hour approach that I’ve seen so far, I just think it would be a fun night of music (like VH1’s Storytellers). Of course, his band is so good that leaving them out in the cold wouldn’t really feel right. Towards the end of the night the band played “It’s All Right To Die,” and maybe if he just played that song solo I would consider it a good compromise.

For me, the highlights of the night were many, but I think I would say that my favorite performance was the song “When Irish Eyes Are Burning.” It’s one of my favorite songs off Staggering, and I think that it was better on this night than it was at Bottom Lounge. Another great performance was of the song “Valentine’s Day In Juarez,” which I’ve learned is a crowd favorite. Rounding out my top three would probably be “I Don’t Want What You Got (Going On),” which may have been the best Ike sounded all night vocally.

There isn’t much downtime during a show with The Assassination. Reilly doesn’t write any really slow ballads, so by the time an hour or so has gone by, your shirt is damp with sweat, your feet hurt from bouncing up and down, and you get the strange sensation that somehow beer has been spilling on your head all night while you unknowingly rocked out. And if you’re a fan, you know that you can’t wait to do it again.