31st Jan2013

Chicago’s The Drunk Whisperers Turn Up the Volume

by rockchicago

The local Chicago band “The Drunk Whisperers” celebrated their CD debut release party before an over flow crowd at Las Palmas restaurant in Mundelein on 18th. The Quartets recording consists of Peter Quinn on Vocals, Harmonica and Rhythm Guitar, Harry Reinhart on Vocals and Guitar, John Rice on Guitar, Dobro, Fiddle, Banjo and Bass, and Jim Murray on Vocals and Percussion.  Four of the tracks were penned by Quinn. “Don’t Come Running Back” (track two) with Rice. Quinn teams up with his long time song writing collaborator Chris Wallisch on “Cry Just a Little” (track seven)and “Shout Love” (track eleven), the latter of which also includes assistance from fellow Jump N’ the Saddle founding member, Piano player David Roberts, and “Zydeco” (track four), co-written with Bill Brophy.  Accordion player John Williams and Backing Vocalist Lyndsey Baker also contributed to the recording as well.

Chicago area native Quinn has been performing in the local music landscape for nearly 40 years, going back to his days with The Rio Grande Band in the mid 1970’s, and as the front man for The Jump N’ the Saddle Band, which debuted on January 1st, 1977 at the La Lira Bar and Restaurant in Highwood, and became a staple in the Chicago area club scene in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. He has written and recorded many songs over that time, which include charming ballads such as “Sarah”, on the debut Jump N’ the Saddle record, The Drunk Whisperers “Don’t Come Running Back”, and my personal favorite “You Look A lot Like She Did’, which appeared on the Live “Jump” release in 1981. Peter’s most famous recording was the 1983 novelty song “The Curly Shuffle”.

The Singer, Harmonica player, Rhythm Guitarist, Song Writer and part time Amateur Psychologist, is responsible for the coining of the band’s name “The Drunk Whisperers”, a name attributed to Quinn for his ability to calm down an inebriated and rowdy club patron one evening by “whispering something in his ear”. Story has it the man then calmed down and quietly left the premises. Quinn won’t share with me what he said to have such a calming effect, claiming Patient/Rocktor privileges. Peter currently participates in The Drunk Whisperers, the duo The Harry-Peter Project with Reinhart, an occasional Skip Towne and the Greyhounds date pops up once in a while, and even an all to rare Jump N’ the Saddle reunion happens now and then as well. Quinn has also participated in a few shows over the past year in a band called “The Hickafires”, and recently performed in a tribute to Hank Williams at SPACE in Evanston, commemorating the sixty year anniversary of Mr. Williams death. Peter contributed lead vocals on the Williams classics “Hey Hey Good Lookin’” and “Jambalaya”. The evening’s program was coordinated by another Jump N’ the Saddle founding member, Slide Pedal Steel player Tommy Furlong. Additionally, “Jump” alumnus, Don Steirnberg  performed on Mandolin in the show.

Reinhart himself is not known for letting the grass grow under his feet. Besides the contributions mentioned above, the Guitarist and Singer performs with his wife Patti Miller in the long running band Midnight, as well as his power trio known as Traffic Jam, whose covers of bands such as Traffic, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and more from that era can get old rockers goin’ on a Saturday night. All this while maintaining a full time job. My only beef with Traffic Jam is that they don’t play enough gigs over the course of the year. Reinhart sings a nice cover version of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” (track five) on The Drunk Whisperers CD. One of Reinhart’s career highlights was performing lead Guitar on National Television in May of 2011 with his daughter Haley on the program American Idol, getting rare permission from the band Led Zeppelin to perform their song “What Is, And What Should  Never Be”. Haley, a burgeoning Jazz/Pop Vocalist in her own right, finished third in that year’s American Idol competition.

The disc opens with Quinn’s powerful vocals on a rendition of Johnny Cash’ “Folsom Prison Blues”. A spirited version of the 1957 Jesse Stone and Roy Hamilton song “Don’t Let Go” is second. “Iko Iko”, the long time Grateful Dead live show staple, comes in at number six. The Willie Dixon written tune “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, made famous by Muddy Waters and Foghat respectively, comes in on the eighth track, and Percussionist Jim Murray contributes lead vocals on the enjoyable ninth track “Come On Get Higher”. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” is covered on track ten. The bands versatile, multi instrumentalist John Rice wrote the twelfth and final track “Polk Salad Surgery”.  Long time Quinn Jump N’ the Saddle Band and Skip Towne comrade Tom “Shoes” Trinka stopped by to play some Saxophone on the classic Blues standards “I’m Ready” and “Not Fade Away” as well this night, adding even more energy to an already revved up crowd at the CD release party. So if you’re looking to hear some good music, and join a crowd of friendly folks doing the same, keep an eye open for The Drunk Whisperers at a club near you.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 1/18/13

30th Jan2013

Andrew Lloyd Webber Could’ve Done Better: Now & Forever at Marriott

by rockchicago

 

Marriott Theatre’s latest production Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber was an interesting choice by Marriott’s lead artistic director Aaron Thielen and director/choreographer Marc Robin. Especially doing a world premiere show like this at Marriott. Obviously, you can tell they both love the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

With 19 people in the cast, the show not only was a musical revue, but also had a lot of dance as well from ALW’s show Song & Dance. Each dance throughout the show was a “Variation.” The choreographer Marc Robin of course had help with Harrison McEldowney and Marriott regular Matt Raftery to create a stunning visual concept of different styles of dances throughout the night.

The orchestra led by Patti Garwood really made the night sound spectacular. With 11 musicians, they really felt like a full 40 or 50-piece orchestra. Nancy Missimi’s costumes were really boring and dull.

 

When it comes to the singers throughout the show, the men really outweighed the women, except for a couple. There were also some things I really would’ve done differently. Like having the whole ensemble singing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Sunset Boulevard) and “The Music of the Night” (The Phantom of the Opera) just didn’t work for me.

Starting the show with the “Overture” to The Phantom of the Opera with the chandelier rising from the bottom to the top of the stage was a great way to start the show. But from then on in, I was hoping for more. In act 1, there were only a couple standout number including Broadway vet Linda Balgord’s beliveable “With One Look” (Sunset Boulevard), Max Quinlan & Erin Stewart’s “The Phantom of the Opera” (Phantom), “Masquerade” (Phantom), Brian Bohr’s “Starlight Express” (which is my favorite ALW show) and Jameson Cooper’s really creative rendition of “Any Dream Will Do” (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) with an acoustic guitar. Some of the best moments of the night for me happened ending act one with Cooper coming onstage with only an electric guitar and playing the opening chords to Jesus Christ Superstar. Then, Max Quinlan coming out with Superstar (JCS) just put the cherry on top.

 

In act two, there was a lot more dancing and only a couple decent songs including Catherine Lord’s “Unexpected Song” (Song & Dance), “Love Changes Everything” (Aspects of Love) sung by the male leads Ben Jacoby, Max Quinlan and Travis Taylor. Travis Taylor also sang a great rendition of “Till I Hear You Sing” (Love Never Dies). Linda Balgord also did a great job with “Memory” (Cats), but what really brought down the house was Max Quinlan’s heartfelt “Gethsemane” (JCS).

Overall, I’ve seen plenty of shows at Marriott Theatre and seen a couple world premieres there such as this one, but I honestly wouldn’t waste my money on this show. As you can see, there were only a couple worthy numbers and the dancing was great, but I honestly don’t see this show lasting or going anywhere. But if you are a true ALW fan and love his music, then check this show out. Another reason why I don’t care for this show, is it has no plot. Revues can get really boring with people just taking turns to sing. But when you look at jukebox musicals, they have the songs you know and love in the show with a plot connecting them all together. I would’ve loved to see that happen with ALW’s music.

Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber runs through March 17, 2013 at The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, excluding tax and handling fees. Students 17 and under and senior citizen 62 and older receive $5.00 off a full price theatre ticket for Wednesday Matinee, Saturday Matinee, Sunday Matinee and Sunday Afternoon performances. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings a limited number of Dinner and Theatre tickets are available for only $55.00 per person. For Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening dinner reservations in The King’s Wharf or Fairfield Inn, please call 847-634-0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information. For calendar information please visit www.TheatreInChicago.com

28th Jan2013

Devon Allman Spices Things Up At Reggies in Chicago

by rockchicago

Devon Allman brought a unique flavor to his performance at Reggie’s on Saturday night in Chicago. Promoting the show as “A Dinner Show with Devon Allman”, people attending not only enjoyed a ninety minute set of music by the Devon Allman Band, but also cleansed their satisfied palate’s with a complimentary Hennessey Cognac and Ginger Beer on the rocks after dinner drink sampling, as well as   the additional treat of hearing long time Chicagoan Billy Branch sit in for about half of the set, adding some frosting to the cake as a solid complement to Devon’s trio with his magnificent Blues harmonica. Filling out Devon’s threesome found Bobby Schneck Jr. on Guitar, and Anthony Nanny on Drums and Percussion.

This was my first visit to Reggie’s, located at 2105 S. State St., just off the Northeast corner of State and Cermak. Greeted warmly at the door by Club Production Coordinator Dave Katzman, I was given an overview of a series of Blues shows that Mr. Katzman is booking at the club. Previous appearances by some of Chicago Blues fans favorite artists have included Kenny Neal and Magic Slim. The layout of the room is very reminiscent of that of Blues on Halstead, albeit a little larger. There is also a 400 person capacity theater that offers a wide range of Musical Genre’s as well. For more information on upcoming shows, go to: www.reggieslive.com . Also adjoined to the club is something called “a Record Store”. In my best Steve Stone voice: “for all you youngsters out there, a record is a collection of recorded of music that is pressed on vinyl. It contains music on not one, but both sides of the LP (Long Play) disc, which are usually 12 inches in diameter, and are played on something known as a turn table”.  The Cermak Redline stop is located a block away.

The evening started with a sit down dinner comprised of a couple of Devon’s favorite dishes. The entrée choices included either Italian “Daddy” steaks,  the name coming from his son’s constant request for Devon to make them for dinner at home over the past eight years, or Cuban Mojo Chicken Tacos, a dish no doubt influenced by Devon’s lovely girl friend, who is of Cuban descent. The sides were Southern Sweet Potatoes and Mexican Corn. It was a family affair Saturday, as Devon’s girl friend and kids made the trip up from St Louis with him, pitching in to handle sales at the souvenir table, which included offering bottles of Devon’s “Chipotle Blues Hot Sauce” for sale, a product Devon is marketing. I asked Devon’s girl friend if there was a specific dish that he had in mind for the creation of the hot sauce. Her first response was that he likes to put some on his scrambled eggs, so guess what I had for breakfast on Sunday morning? That’s right, scrambled eggs with green pepper, red onions and a healthy dousing of Devon’s Chipotle Blues Hot Sauce. Very tasty. I could immediately feel the zip on my lips. Never prone to put sauce on my eggs in the past (I’ve always shunned the notion of putting ketchup on eggs. To paraphrase Clint, “Nobody but nobody puts ketchup on eggs”. But that’s just me.) I liked the South Eastern style Vinegar and Lime Juice base for this application much better than I would care for a tomato based barbeque sauce on eggs. I’ll leave that for my chicken or ribs barbequing in the evening, although I’m sure his hot sauce will be good on those options as well.  For those interested in checking it out, and supporting a Hot Sauce entrepreneur, more information can be found on the Born to Hula website at: http://www.borntohula.com.

Roots Duo Joe Felisko and Eric Noden started the music portion of the evening with a sixty minute set of their traditional Southern Blues style of Harmonica and Guitar playing and vocals. Then, as Devon’s set began, the cuisine “encore” was served to everyone in attendance. Fried Banana’s with Vanilla Ice Cream covered in a Hennessey Cognac Carmel Glaze were handed out to anyone interested in giving it a try. I did. It was delicious. Hennessey was a sponsor of the nights festivities.

Devon’s performance included several songs from his upcoming release “Turquoise” on the Ruf Records label, which will be available on February 12th. His first solo effort, ten of the eleven tracks on the CD were written by Devon. The one exception being a cover of the Tom Petty written “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”. It can be risky to cover a song of this popularity, one we’ve all heard hundreds of times on the radio. However, Samantha Fish’ vocals on this version bring a welcome freshness to the song. Taking nothing away from the wonderful Stevie Nicks, Fish brings a crisp articulation to the lyrics that more than once had me thinking to myself “Oh, that’s what that line is”. The core of the studio trio on the disc consists of Myles Weeks on Bass, and long time Derek Trucks Band Drummer and mentor to young Derek, Yonrico Scott. Guest appearances on the disc include North Mississippi Allstars Guitarist Luther Dickenson, Rick Steff, the afore mentioned Samantha Fish, veteran Jazz and Blues Saxophonist extraordinaire Ron Holloway, as well as Bobby Schneck Jr., who, as mentioned, performed with Devon tonight. Bobby brings a tight, soulful sound beyond his years for a young man in his early twenties. 

My personal favorites that were performed from the new disc were “When I Left Home” and “Turn off the World”. Paying tribute to his father Gregg Allman, Devon performed two songs written by the elder Allman, a sweet version of “Mellissa” and “One Way out”. A rocking ten minute version of the classic Bob Dylan song “All Along the Watch Tower” found Allman and Billy Branch trading musical barbs back and forth, driving the crowd of approximately 140 people into a frenzy.  Smiles were the norm throughout the room at the end of the show, and the always gregarious Allman made time to visit with anyone interested in saying hello. It truly was a Devon Allman family affair Saturday at Reggie’s.  And a most enjoyable one at that.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 1/26/13

Photo by Kevin Tighe

21st Jan2013

Albert Lee at SPACE on January 29th!!

by rockchicago

 

On January 29th, at the Evanston SPACE, there will be an amazing opportunity to experience one of the greatest guitarists of our time, Albert Lee. Some people are thinking, “Oh yeah, that was the guy in Woodstock who played with Ten Years After.” Sadly, that happens all too often, people confuse Albert Lee with ALVIN Lee. No, Albert Lee did not play at Woodstock, but he is a living guitar legend who has been on the road for over fifty years and will be celebrating his seventieth birthday at the end of this year.

Albert Lee is the most amazing guitarist many people have never heard of and those of us who do know of him, are in absolute awe of his abilities on guitar. This Englishman is known for his finger style and hybrid picking technique. He is masterful with country music (check out his song “Country Boy” at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Concert on YouTube), but also delves into rockabilly, straight ahead rock and roll, and rhythm and blues. He is sometimes referred to as “Mr. Telecaster,” due to his mastery of that guitar.

In addition to his prowess on guitar, he plays the piano, mandolin, sings, is a songwriter, and also a musical director. He has played with the likes of Heads, Hands and Feet, Emmy Lou Harris, Eric Clapton, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, and the Everly Brothers, to name a few. He has played at countless festivals including the aforementioned Crossroads, in 2002 he appeared at the Concert for George (Harrison), and was featured on the Fender Stratocaster 50th Anniversary Concert, which was a who’s who of guitar heroes. According to Vince Gill, Albert Lee is “One of the finest guitar players who walked this earth…”

His accolades and awards are numerous. He is a Grammy award winning artist, has won Guitar Player magazine’s “Best Country Guitarist” five consecutive times. With all this amazing talent and accolades from his peers why have more people not heard of him? He has never had great commercial success in terms of record sales during his career, but has excelled as a live performer, session player and sideman. He has a self-effacing stage presence and his peers, including Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, describe him as “a complete gentleman who does not know the meaning of the word ego.”

Well now you have the chance to see for yourself how great of a guitarist Albert Lee truly is and after experiencing his show you will wonder how you have missed him all these years! For Albert’s fans it is a wonderful opportunity to see our hero in action as he approaches his seventieth birthday and still going strong. If you enjoy talented guitarists, this is one show you should not miss!

(References for this preview included Wikipedia and Albert Lee’s official website http://www.albertlee.co.uk/)

Written by Peter S. Sakas

21st Jan2013

Singin’ in the Rain Gets Soaked at Drury Lane

by rockchicago

 

In 1952, Betty Comden and Adolf Green wrote a lively send-up of 1920′s Hollywood on the cusp of the transition to talkies that was to star Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. Their new screenplay was to be called Singin’ in the Rain. The movie of course went to be a hit with songs, and performances forever emblazoned in the minds of a nation. In 1983, it was given a substandard adaptation for a failed Broadway production that is currently on stage in a very uneven production at Drury Lane Oakbrook.

I suppose the first question to be asked about any production of Singin’ in the Rain is “Does it rain on stage?” the answer, yes, it does. In spades, but that’s about all it does.

It’s not that everyone in Director Bill Jenkins’ lack luster production isn’t giving it the old college try, but there seems to be no sense of connection from scene to scene. One might surmise that it’s because the show’s original star Sean Palmer (Stanford’s model boyfriend on Sex in the City) was side lined with an injury during previews, pushing back the opening resulting in Broadway vet Tony Yazbeck (a very able performer) coming in from New York, tap shoes in hand, to save the day. Anyone who’s seen the movie, or show knows there is a certain amount of chemistry between it’s stars required to make the piece work. Even though Jenny Guse, and Yazbeck are both quite capable talents, no real spark ever ignites between them. But this problem is systemic, and show wide. It’s really only Matthew Crowle (who choreographed several of the tap numbers) who escapes  all the traps in the show with his multi-layered Cosmo Brown.

Singin’ in the Rain is a very difficult production to mount rain withstanding, because you have to find a balance between what the audience sees and what is filmed. The show requires several faux period silent movies one of which features Debbie Reynolds (a frequent performer at the theatre) which gets laughs, but makes one wonder why she’s dressed in modern day dress instead of 1920′s garb as everyone else on the stage is. The rest of these movies are just soul sucking and long.

The productions of Singin’ in the Rain that succeed are those in which the director is willing to do the work that didn’t get done in 1983, and find the right theatrical metaphor to make the whole thing work. Seamlessness is the key here, and everything seems a bit off from Kevin Depinet’s set with it’s chicken scrawl Grauman’s Chinese Theatre sign, to Amber Mak’s sluggish choreography.

The Comedy is off too. Melissa Van Der Schyff, Lina Lamont, the star who is done in by talkies, a fine performer who falls into one of the many traps of her role by starting so far over the top she has nowhere to go.

The parts don’t really make up a whole here, so even when we get a highlight such as Moses, it followed by a scene that’s a train wreck of timing. With such a string of winners recently, this latest Drury Lane excursion is a let down.

Reviewed by Ty Perry on 1/12/13

18th Jan2013

DVD Review: Osada Vida: Where The Devils Live

by rockchicago

 

The band Osada Vida from Poland has a very interesting sound to them. I just got their new DVD Where the Devils Live, and I must say, I found something really funny. After watching and reviewing Believe’s live DVD Seeing is Believing, I noticed they were both recorded on the same exact stage with the same exact lighting setup.

Osasa Vida are a little harder rock than Believe. They remind me of a mix between Porcupine Tree and Riverside (also from Poland). Consisting of members Lukasz Lisiak on bass and vocals, Rafal Paluszek on keyboards, Bartlomiej Bereska on guitars and Adam Podzimski on drums, the band prove that they do this for a living and how well they blend together.

The concert started with the instrumental “Remember Your Name,” where each band member got to show off their instrument. The next song “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” featured Rafal with some nice keyboard solos throughout. It also featured Lukasz’s vocals. I do have to say that he’s not the best singer, and he has a really heavy accent when he’s singing. It seemed like he was very off-key for this song.

The rest of the concert seemed very bland, and they didn’t look energetic on stage at all. I felt they just filmed this DVD because they were paid to do so. I would definitely not see this band live. The singer just really irritates me, and I don’t know if I would be able to put up with him for a whole concert.

There were a couple other songs on the DVD that were ok which were “Bone (My Name is Bone, the Single Bone,” a very atmospheric song and “Is That Devil From Spain Too?,” a very latin jazz meets middle-eastern song.

Overall, I would not recommend this DVD because A) It’s just plain boring, B) The singer’s terrible and C) The music is very repetitive and bland.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

Rating: 1/5

18th Jan2013

DVD Review: Believe: Seeing is Believing

by rockchicago

 

From the moment this Seeing is Believing started, I liked what I saw. Karol Wroblewski came walking out onstage with a megaphone in hand, with his voice echoing through the theatre. I never had heard Believe before seeing this DVD. I also did not know the band was from Poland.

The first song “No Time Inside” reminded me an 80′s Genesis song. Especially with the effects on his voice. The second song “World is Round Part 2,” violinist Siromi shined through, and you can start to hear the Polish accent with Karol. I’m not sure how old Karol is, but he sure looks young and looks a little bit like actor Jerry O’Connell.

The next song, “This Bread Is Mine,” Karol surprised me by pulling an Ian Anderson by pulling out his flute. Great song, great vocals. I’m not sure who I can categorize this band with sound-wise. They have their own unique style. Starting with the brooding sound of violin from Siromi, “And All the Road” sounded like a Pink Floyd-ish style song then sounded like a Jethro Tull songs with Karol pulling out the flute again.

With Karol dancing around the stage, “What They Want (Is My Life)” is a fantastic fun song. Especially with the mix of the keyboards, the violin and guitar, it sounded like a mini-orchestra. With the lasers shining from the stage, “Lay Down Forever” sounded very repetitive until the guitar shines through. “AA” reminded me a lot of Porcupine Tree, opening up with just acoustic guitar and acoustic piano. This is probably one of my favorites on the DVD.

“Guru” was a bit bland. The only good part of the song was the Doors-y blend with the organ and drums. “New Hands” is a nice relaxing song that was really beautiful. You can tell with everysong on this DVD, Karol puts a lot of emotion into their lyrics.

“Cut Me Paste Me” reminded me a lot of In Absentia-era Porcupine Tree mixed with Pain of Salvation. Nice hard rock phone, especially with the cool megaphone effect. “Poor Kin of Sun/Return” started out with a pounding drum solo. With a middle-eastern feel, this song reminded me a little of Pain of Salvation mixed with Alice in Chains. The last song, “Silence,” sounded a lot like a Marillion song.

Overall, Believe is a great progressive rock band from Poland with their own unique sound. This DVD Seeing is Believing, truly shows off their mastery in concert and prove what a good show they put on. I just heard they will be playing the U.S. Come Fall of 2013. Check out more info about them here: http://www.believe.com.pl

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

Rating: 5/5

09th Jan2013

2 Women of Songs & Comedy: Susan Werner and Sandra Bernhard

by rockchicago

 

This week I had the very unique opportunity to review two very different artists, both of whom use music, and humor as corner stones of their acts. First up, Susan Werner, whom I saw at SPACE, which is a wonderful venue for music in Evanston. For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Ms. Werner, here’s a bit of a back story. Born in 1965, Werner grew up on her family’s hog farm. But she took to singing rather than farming. When she was three, she grabbed attention at a family party with her rendition of a beer commerical. “That was it. My life direction was fixed” Werner told Paul McKay of the Ottawa Citizen.

Werner attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a voice degree. With her eye on big things, she moved to Philadelphia in 1987 to study opera singing at Temple University. She received her master’s degree from Temple.

A concert by Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith unleashed Werner’s own creativity. “She was singing—her own songs about her home, Texas,” Werner told the Boston Herald. “I realized it was as noble, as honorable as classical singing. And I thought I could do this”.

And do it she did.

The evening started out with a strong Chicago connection as Werner gave us a charming ode to her new home town with the jazz tinged “Give Me Chicago Any Day,” complete with Michelle Obama references, and the heartbreaking break-up lament “Stay on your side of town”. Keeping the audience glued, she stripped down to plain black tee-shirt to get down to the business at hand and the very funny “Don’t work with your friends,” demonstrating Werner’s firm hand with a comedic lyric. From there, we had a stunning “I Just Want to be With You.” At this point Ms. Werner was joined by the extremely talented Trina Hamlin, on percussion, and back up vocals. The two combined for a Bonnie Raitt tinged “I Just Got On My Red Dress For You” that brought the house down.

Whether she was paying homage to her farm roots with the stirring hymns “My Lord Did Trouble Me”, and a down and dirty “If God is Great Why is Your Heaven so Small,”

“Barbed Wire Boys” a memorial to the Midwestern man, or fan favorites “May I Suggest/Movie of My Life.” Not one to rest on her laurels of the familiar, Werner shows no fear of putting her spin on others work as with Susan’s plaintive “Manhattan/Kansas.” Always one to challenge her audiences, she gave us a preview of her upcoming album The Hayseed Project, The Ballad of “Patrick Lundquest” a brilliant take on climate change from a framers eyes, and the hilarious “Pesticides Done Made Me Gay.”

In fine form as always, Susan Werner delighted one and all with her performance, voice, wit, and unending charm. She is the most underrated songwriter we have, bar none, and I will be looking forward to her next outing, and going back to see more at SPACE. An evening like this can easily be ruined by poor sound, and it’s nice to see someone with a true listening ear like Eric Molly running the sound board supporting such a wonderful artist. It says a lot about a venue. SPACE  is located at 1245 Chicago Avenue Evanston, Illinois 60202 www.evanstonspace.com

 

Next up Sandra Bernhard.

Whom I had the pleasure to see at The City Winery. Another hidden jewel in the city in the West Loop. Now no one ever called Sandra Bernhard a simple girl at heart. Ms. Bernhard, no longer an L.A. resident since she sold her house in the Valley, and no great devotee of the California cult known as Trader Joe’s, this Whole Foods organic-only New York-based mama wasn’t planning to return so soon to the stage, where she had such a success last summer with “Sandra Bernhard: I Love Being Me, Don’t You?”

But she was asked, she reports, to “throw together” another show, and she was happy to oblige her hard-core fans, who naturally just want to spend more time in her relentlessly ironic company and won’t really care that her latest piece is just a scattershot compilation of riffs and musical experiments.

A work-in-progress by Bernhard is indeed preferable to no performance by her at all. Even when her vamping goes nowhere, she has a way of keeping her audience in her crooked orbit. It’s a slightly surreal space. One that may leave you feeling at times as though you’re tumbling down the snarkiest of blog holes.

The targets of her mischievous curiosity include Bristol Palin, Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford and Lady Gaga, the last of whom inspires Bernhard’s best bit of musical parody. Backed by a band, she does an extended take on “The Edge of Glory,” reinterpreting the song every which way and throwing into relief the hilarious monotony of its lyrics.

Bernhard struggled with her voice throughout much of the show. Her rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly!,” a song she was provoked to do by perky Kristin Chenoweth after guest starring on the TV series “GCB,” left her gasping for water.

But pop has always been her métier, and she opened with a captivatingly hip version of Streisand’s “Stoney End” and closed with REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” that she robustly powered through.

The different segments of “Sandrology” are held together largely by non sequiturs. “Who knew Michele Bachmann and I had so much in common?” she asks apropos of nothing. Turns out they were both in Israel way back when, a coincidence that Bernhard chalks up to Bachmann doing “early reconnaissance work for the Rapture.”

Jumping from subject to subject (her daughter’s cell phone use, pink slime, celebrity fragrances), Bernhard may not have figured out how to artistically connect her material, but her social critique is reliably on the money. She’s still the urban-chic canary in the pop cultural coal mine, and hearing her sound her caustic alarms remains a giddy pleasure.

The City Winery is located at 1200 W. Randolph St. 312-733-9463, www.citywinery.com

Susan Werner reviewed by Ty Perry on January 4th, 2013

Sandra Bernhard reviewed by Ty Perry on January 5th, 2013

09th Jan2013

Nick Bell Brings His “Old Soul” to A New Generation

by rockchicago

Kevin Pollack, the manager of the Nick Bell Band, invited me to their gig at Player’s Pub in Prospect Heights on Friday, January 4th. Kevin knew I am a huge Robin Trower fan and that I had seen Trower in the mid-seventies. Kevin had told me that Nick was a phenomenal guitarist and played just like Robin Trower. It piqued my curiosity so I visited the band website http://ke9749.wix.com/nickbellband. I listened to some of the music samples, covers of Robin Trower and Carlos Santana, and was amazed at how Nick Bell sounded, so I eagerly anticipated seeing him live.

Player’s Pub was an unassuming place to see a band as talented as this. It was a good old sports bar with many TVs, a bar, good food, plenty of tables, and an area for off track betting; an interesting conglomeration. At the side of the pub, off the bar, an area was cleared for the band to set up. But let me tell you, this was no ordinary band and Nick Bell will not be playing in local sports bars for very long with the talent he possesses.

Nick Bell is originally from Moscow, but grew up in Wheeling, and is in his early twenties. So he was essentially playing a gig in his neighborhood. When I met him just before the show, I was impressed at how polite, respectful, and humble he was, something rare in his contemporaries. He was a pleasure to talk to before and after the show. People – this young man is a guitar prodigy and it won’t be long before you will be seeing him in venues where you will have to come up with significant coin to catch him in concert!

His band which is a power trio playing blues, rock, hard rock, jazz, rockabilly, Texas rock, and psychedelic rock, consists of Nick Bell on lead guitar and vocals, Brian Waterman on bass, and Gary Chappell on drums. They were also joined on some songs by Reid Blondell on harmonica and vocals. For this gig they rotated through six lead singers including Nick Bell, Reid Blondell, Christian Martell, Rick (who I did not get the last name), with the bulk of the leads performed by the female Jackie Rose, and band manager Kevin Pollack.

The band played a two set gig that was a mix of classic rock, hard rock, blues, and some oldies. All were expertly performed and well received by the crowd. Jackie Rose, during her vocal stints kept a banter going with the audience as she went through various blues numbers (Still Got the Blues), classic rock hits, and some oldies (Chain of Fools, Some Kind of Wonderful). She kept imploring the crowd to get up and dance. With her enthusiasm and the great music, the crowd obliged as the music took hold!

I have known Kevin Pollack for some time and had never heard him sing before. Kevin has a great set of pipes and blew me away with his singing. He especially shone on the Robin Trower covers including Lady Love, and especially on one of my all time favorites, Bridge of Sighs. His energetic version of Hoochie Coochie Man had the crowd up and dancing. Super vocal performances by Kevin.

Christian Martell gave ac strong vocal performance on Confidence Man. Rich Blondell also had a turn singing a Deep Purple tune, but gave especially fine accompaniment on harmonica during the show.  Rick gave an enthusiastic performance of the ZZ Top classic Tush, rocking and gyrating all over the stage. Nick Bell showed he could sing as well as play, shining on Trower’s Too Rolling Stoned, and Hendrix’s Red House.

The vocals were solid, but it was all about the music. The rhythm section of Wakeman and Chapell gave a steady driving beat to the performances. But the star of the show was Nick Bell. I cannot say enough good things about him I was enthralled by his playing all night. He was masterful in whatever genre of music the band was playing. On the band’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NickBellBand/ it states that his influences are of the blues masters such as Robin Trower, Gary Moore, ZZ Top, and Stevie Ray, to harder rock such as Deep Purple. Boy, influence him they did, and this has developed him into a superlative guitarist at this early age.

Nick Bell’s solos were outstanding and I watched as audience members were standing with jaws agape while he was playing or shaking their heads in amazement. He showboated as well, displaying his talent while playing the guitar behind his back, with his teeth, and behind his neck…..all to the delight of the crowd. Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix, and Robin Trower, are three of my guitar heroes and Nick did them proud with his playing, as well as with the other songs he played.

After the concert I went up to Nick and told him you have “an old soul.” I told him I meant that for such a young age, the music of the classic guitar idols are channeled through his very being. The next step will be composing his own music and taking his music to the next level.

But let me give you readers some advice. If you like classic guitar rock and blues, the Nick Bell Band is a band not to miss. Check out their website and Facebook page for upcoming gigs. Catch him early in his career, so later, when he is a star, you can say, “I saw him when…” I have been going to concerts and enjoying music since the mid-sixties and it did my heart good to experience this young guitar prodigy, who is quite comparable to many of the great guitarists I have seen. I wish him nothing but continued success.

Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on January 4, 2013

03rd Jan2013

Styx Bring “The Best of Times” to The Genessee Theatre

by rockchicago

Photo by Tom Donoghue 

 

Styx and the Genessee Theater in Waukegan, IL was definitely an act that was memorable. This is a band I hear literally everyday on either 97.9 The Loop or any other station that plays rock music. Going to this show, I was definitely anticipated to see a new classic act in which I knew little about and never saw. However I was also worried I might be bored with it due to the fact that I’ve heard their songs countless times day after day. Not saying that as a bad thing, however when you hear certain songs over and over, which are great in the case of STYX, they do tend to get redundant. But any song or band (even my favorites category) could do that too if I listened to them enough times.

The theater itself I have always heard about but have never seen. It was a definite throwback to the more classic looking theaters of the old days. Nevertheless, it made for a great venue and produced some good sound within the space.

With no opening acts, the band kicked off and really got things going. The audience was very receptive, the band you could tell was still having fun doing what they love doing, and all in all put on a solid act.

Lead Guitarist/Vocalist Tommy Shaw was definitely a memorable and versatile performer. One of the few of the older generation of rockers whose “still got it.” However in the beginning of the show, he made the mistake of acknowledging his fans in what he thought was Waukegan, WI when Waukegan is in IL near WI. Regardless, he played off his mistake well and gave us a hell of a show.

“JY” Young on Rhythm Guitar/Vocals you could definitely tell was having a lot of fun on that stage. As one of the original members of the band, he also proved that he still had what it took to give the audience their money’s worth for what they paid to see.

Lawrence Gowan on Keyboard/Vocals was quite a remarkable musician. For someone tasked with the responsibility for filling Dennis DeYoung’s boots, he definitely delivered and even gave more than what was expected. That swiveling keyboard and his ability to go round and round while still playing was flashy but entertaining regardless.

Todd Sucherman on Drums provided the beat and the rhythm needed for the classic STYX we remember. Another solid performer.

Ricky Philips on Bass/Vocals, you could also tell was living it up on the stage and having a blast with the band and the audience. Couldn’t have asked for more on his part.

On an interesting note, another original member of the band, Chuck Ponozzo, joined the band for several of their classic hits towards the end of their set. This was definitely a treat for the audience as he more than delivered on his part for bringing some of that old sound of STYX back.

To wrap this up, this was yet another enjoyable experience. Seeing a band I grew up listening to quite a lot. Sometimes I was in the mood for them, sometimes not. However seeing them live was a totally different experience that radio can never do them full justice on. My only little gripe was the fact that there was some hamming/letting the audience singing the choruses. Thou they didn’t do it quite as much as other “older generation bands” who don’t even sing one chorus and just let the audience handle ALL of it. Here, they let the audience sing a few, then they took over which I’m definitely ok with. Other than that a good show all in all.

Reviewed by Billy DuBose on 12/29/12

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