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Kiefer Sutherland at Thalia Hall 5/21/2017

It’s easy to write off Kiefer Sutherland’s music career as a vanity project, but after seeing him live I can assure you it is not. I actually figured that out when I saw that his debut album was produced by Jude Cole, a singer/songwriter who’s been making music for over 30 years. Together they turned Sutherland’s collection of songs he’s been writing for as long as he’s been acting into a record that shows us a different side of the man most know as tough guy Jack Bauer.

As a fan of his film and tv work since I was a kid watching Stand By Me, I would’ve paid to see the show even if I thought it was going to be bad. But I had a good feeling after hearing Down In A Hole a couple of times. Even though he’s been branded as a country singer (by the media and probably in his own words) there’s a lot more going on than some tear-in-my-beer campfire ballads. In the song “Going Home” you get influences that span from classic rock to Motown. If you heard it without knowing the band, you’d never guess it was a “country” thing.

The live show was a lot of fun. Like most smart musicians, Sutherland understands that if you want your music to sound good, you need to surround yourself with talented musicians. His guitarists, Michael Gurley and Austin Vallejo, are both fantastic. They can play everything from the sickest blues riffs to a quiet lullaby and make it look easy. The backline of Jess Calcaterra on drums and Joseph DeLeo on bass kept things moving on beat for the full 80 minutes they were on stage.

Kiefer gave the audience some insight into his personal life, telling stories from his childhood as well as his more recent life situation. My favorite was about living with his father for a few months after his parents split up when he and his sister were four years old. His dad, Donald, after appearing in Kelly’s Heroes, had a red 1956 Ferrari two-seater in which he drove them to nursery school. Kiefer said that even as a four year old even he knew that it was a “fucking cool” car.

He also talked about hanging out with Merle Haggard, losing the love of his life, and an early heartbreak that led to the first song he ever wrote.

Down In A Hole is only 11 songs long, so to fill up the show they played some interesting covers. The first was Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” which is very much a country song. Then they shifted gears quite a bit. Introducing another cover Kiefer said that Tom Petty’s “never written a bad lyric.” That could be debated, but the version of “Honeybee” that they played was a lot of fun.

Talking about growing up in Toronto, Sutherland mentioned two things you HAD to listen to or you weren’t cool. One was Rush, which drew some applause, but he demured. “If I tried to hit one of those notes I’d be dead here on the floor,” he said. The other was Gordon Lightfoot. So they covered “Sundown” from the 1974 album of the same name. And the last cover of the encore was “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan.

Going in I thought it would be pretty good, but walking out I was really impressed by how much of himself Sutherland has put into his new endeavor. I expected it to be a little more laid back and passive, but it was a pretty exciting show. I would recommend to anyone who was thinking about it but not quite sure, or really anyone who likes having a good time and listening to good music.

The current leg of the tour is winding down in a couple days, but I’m sure they’ll be back on the road again soon. Check out his website for more info.

 

Hiber at Martyr’s 5/20/2017

Saturday night capped a journey for Danny Surico that started a couple years ago when his band The Future Laureates decided to call it a day (at least for a while). Shortly thereafter, Hiber was formed and some music was recorded for an EP. That was over a year ago, and finally What You Wanted is available for all to hear. The band celebrated with a show at Martyr’s to introduce everyone to the new sounds.

If you’re familiar at all with Danny’s songwriting, a lot of the songs will have some familiar notes. The live show features songs both old and new, ranging from traditional folk to rock, pop, and blues. The songs on What You Wanted, however, lean a little more toward the Paul Simon songbook than anything else. During the show they even covered another big Paul Simon fan, Josh Ritter.

What I was most struck with during the show, having seen what I believe was their first live set last summer at Ribfest, was how much Danny has grown as a bandleader. With the help of producer/bassist Yoo Soo Kim, Danny has arranged his songs for ultimate impact.

You can hear the full EP right now at The Deli’s website.

Molehill at SubT 5/2/2017

Tonight I went to see my friends in Molehill play an opening set at Subterranean. Mona was the headliner, but I got out of there early so I could grab dinner and be home in time to watch the end of the Celtics/Wizards game (and after that fourth quarter by Isaiah Thomas I think I made the right call).

Molehill were their usual awesome selves, playing some new songs from their singles/EP collection that’s in the process of being released. Rather than lug around a bulky DSLR like I usually do, I just brought a point and shoot camera with a wi-fi card. I edited all these photos on my phone. I also shot this video, which came out pretty good and really highlights the energy they bring even if it’s an opening slot.



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Ron Gallo at Thalia Hall 4/28/2017

When I saw the name Ron Gallo as the opener for Hurray For The Riff Raff, I assumed it would be a guy and an acoustic guitar playing some soft folk songs for half an hour before the main act came to the stage. That was, to put it mildly, an incorrect assumption. The three members of Ron Gallo came out and, after a brief explanation of who they are, ripped the stage apart. Ron Gallo’s frantic guitar work leads this garage/punk/blues band to all kinds of music sensations. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Check out this video from the show to give you an idea of their style.

Hurray For The Riff Raff at Thalia Hall 4/28/2017

April 29, 2017 3 comments

As The Navigator tells the rough and tumble tale of early American life for Puerto Ricans, it made a lot of sense to showcase it at Thalia Hall. Nestled in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, home to a lot of the Hispanic culture in the city. Alynda Segarra and the latest incarnation of her backing band that make up Hurray For The Riff Raff really brought the album to life.

I was hoping for more early stuff-songs from Look Out Mama and Young Blood Blues, but I get that this album needs to be told as a whole so you have to play all the songs. A few people have mentioned trying to turn it into a stage play on Broadway. That’s an idea worth following through on, because the story is certainly an interesting one. Plus the songs are great. They did bring out a few oldies for me. Toward the end of the show they played “The Body Electric” and “Blue Ridge Mountain” from their previous album Small Town Heroes.

Segarra has really grown as a performer since I last saw her back in 2013. More a social activist now, she doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind. One song introduction included “This is a protest song…I want you to sing so loud Trump can hear you at Mar-a-Lago.” She also moved around a lot more, dancing to the beats of the street featured on The Navigator.

Singing under a banner reading “We’re All In This Together,” Segarra took time to relay the message that has been the driving force behind her entire career: be kind. Try to understand viewpoints other than your own and act with compassion. The audience was fully on board with this message, and you could feel the love and positivity in the room. At the end of the show a couple even got engaged!

It was a great way to end an amazing night of music. Here are some photos from the show:

Beach Slang at House Of Blues 4/6/2017

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I’m not sure who was having a better time during Beach Slang’s set last night at House Of Blues: the band or the audience. Everyone was in high spirits as they played their quick-tempered rock songs and intermingled them with some hilarious musical cues, including “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors, “My Own Worst Enemy” by Eve6, and of course “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. They even promised one fan in the crowd that they would learn to play “Two Princes” for real at their next show if that person comes.

Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how much fun they were having.

I believe this was the band’s first show in Chicago since their lineup change last year, and things seemed to go over pretty well. New drummer Cully Symington never missed a beat, and guitarist Aurore Ounjian’s nimble fingers deftly maneuvered through some great riffs. Lead singer James Alex showed a great affection for the audience and for Minus The Bear for bringing them on tour to open shows for them. He also, at one point, read a list of people he’s been told he looks like while on tour, and it was everything from Eddie Munster to Jack Black and Angus Young.

MØ At Metro 3/13/2017

March 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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This was my first time seeing MØ and it was a lot of fun. I’ve listened to her before, but can’t say I’m a die hard fan or anything. I actually went to this show to check out the opener, Tei Shi, who has a record coming out that I really like. She was a fitting warm up for the style of music MØ plays, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy her set.

Despite a long delay at the beginning of the show, and another in between sets, the fans maintained a high level of excitement that exploded into screams when she finally took the stage during the “Don’t Wanna Dance” intro. The performance was non-stop adrenaline, with MØ using every bit of the wide open stage setup, plus some when she came out into the crowd during “Slow Love.” And later she jumped into the masses and let them pass her around the sold out Metro floor like waves carrying her away from shore and then bringing her back.

 

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