December 2, 2018

Concert #852 - Birds Of Chicago at McCabe's Guitar Shop (November 30, 2018)

Friday night I attended yet another great show at my favorite venue.

In this blog, with very few exceptions, opening acts get mentioned in the closing paragraphs of my write-ups. Daniel Rodriguez is one such exception. As he took the stage, I braced myself for a long and boring set, but it took him no more than a few minutes to grab my full attention. What stood out first and foremost to these ears was his songwriting - there was a lot of variety in his songs and not one of his numbers could be labeled as "filler material". I was most impressed with "Dolores", the final song of Daniel's set, and also with "Take Me As I Am". He's also a skilled guitar player and a decent singer and have I mentioned his good looks? Quite deservedly, he received one of the longest and loudest applause ever given to an opening act at McCabe's. I would have loved to hear a few more of his songs.

Daniel Rodriguez at McCabe's
The Birds of Chicago, the evening's headliners, put on a show that was both entertaining and heart-warming. It was their first time at McCabe's and singer Allison Russell wasted no time to acknowledge the reputation of the venue, with the same kind of words I have heard so may times there: "It's a great honor for us to be on this stage".

With their dissimilar voices, Allison Russell and TJ Nero complemented each other to great effect. Except for Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust', delivered by Allison in French, we heard one great original song after another. With a set as consistently solid as theirs, it is impossible to pick a highlight, but "American Flowers", the catchy show-ending number, is still ringing in my ears.
Allison Russell & TJ Nero at McCabe's
Ten years have passed since I first saw Allison in concert, when she was touring with the acclaimed Po' Girl, a band that also included Awna Teixeira. Allison was a great singer then, but has evolved even more since then. Friday night she stole the show with her exquisite vocals, which could go from powerful to gentle in a heartbeat. Her clarinet solos were also very special, as was her banjo playing, and she did it all while having fun in the process - she smiled and quite often laughed out loud during the show, in a contagious display of joie de vivre.

Allison Russell at McCabe's
With the Birds of Chicago's regular bass player being unavailable, the band called up Andy Stack, a guitarist based in upstate New York, and what a quality addition that was! A top-notch guitar player, Andy provided an understated, but highly effective accompaniment to the duo of Allison and TJ.

Allison Russell & Andy Stack at McCabe's
Andy Stack with the Birds of Chicago at McCabe's
For the evening's one-song encore, Allison called Daniel Rodriguez back to the stage for the singing of "American Flower", which turned into a sing-along that involved the entire audience. All-in-all, it was a fabulous evening of great music and as I walked out, I spotted Jackson Browne heading home as well.

The end of the show, with Daniel and Andy joining Allison & TJ
The final bow
The set list of the Birds of Chicago

Daniel Rodriguez's set list
The stage

The listening room
Birds of Chicago T-shirts for sale at McCabe's

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