Off Broadway Concert Review
Off Broadway, Phil Angotti Band, The Evictions, Dead Freddie Reggie's Rock Club Saturday, February 23, 2019 Review & Photos by Mike Tomano © 2019 Fossil Entertainment Group
Chicago power-pop legends Off-Broadway headlined at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago, Saturday, February 23rd. In a set that drew heavily from their major-label releases, 1979's On and 1980 follow-up Quick Turns, the band was in terrific form; immediately bonding with the capacity crowd. Guitarists John Ivan and Rob Harding and bassist John Pazdan were having a ball, playing with the exuberance of teenagers and the maturity of seasoned pros. Drummer Ken Harck's solid pocket proved why he remains one of the area's most revered drummers. Cliff Johnson's vocals were as reliable as ever ( as were his raunchy antics and politically-incorrect between song banter. Rock & Roll, Baby!)
In addition to well-known hits, including Stay In Time, Bully Bully and Automatic, the band also treated the audience to a typically-catchy tune that hasn't been recorded (yet) called Holiday. Taking the stage prior to Off-Broadway was the prolific Phil Angotti, who played a variety of originals and some surprising covers. Angotti, who, since his days in The Beatle Brothers, has churned out albums of consistent high quality, was joined by drummer Joe Camarillo and bassist Tom Ryan. The Phil Angotti band's set included two glowing tributes to his late-friend and fellow-popster Jim Ellison of Material Issue; a moving original, The Best Teardrop, and a rousing rendition of MI's Valerie Loves Me. With the recent passing of Peter Tork, their charged-up cover of The Monkees' For Pete's Sake was a home run, washing nostalgia over the singing crowd. Wearing his influences on his sleeve (Beatles, Squeeze); Angotti's songs are sincere reflections of his artistry and honed pop craftsmanship. Melodic hooks, top-notch playing and clever lyrics delivered in Phil's fine vocals (reminiscent of Glenn Tillbrook) make for tunes you wish to revisit. His latest release is called Such Stories.
Third on this diverse bill was the hard-rocking young trio The Evictions, who wasted no time stating their mission. A wall of sound overtook the club; equal parts thunderous bass, fuzzy guitar and ferocious drumming. The Evictions channel the spirit of The Stooges, Blue Cheer, Mudhoney and The Ramones. Guitarist and vocalist Johnny Wator's angst-ridden vocals and power-riffs soared over the anthemic tunes anchored by bassist Chris Polish's wall-shaking rumbles and Joe Sowinski's manic-yet-precise Keith Moonish drumming. The Evictions are a band to watch. Their new album is due out soon. Check 'em out at www.theevictions.com
The fortunate folks who showed up early were treated to an energetic performance by Chicago's Dead Freddie. Clad in black suits adorned with Christmas lights, fronted by accordion-wielding vocalist Donatas Ramanauskas, Dead Freddie revved up the crowd with their catchy ska-tinged-punk originals. The band had the crowd dancing and cheering throughout their performance, which included smart originals like She Won't Play House, When I'm Bound and their fiery finale When I'm Bound. Complimenting Ramanauskas, drummer Gintas Buinevicius, guitarist Joe Wood and bassist Steve Foley were trumpeter Gabriel Rodriguez ("on loan from Bumsy and the Moochers") and trombonist Samantha Steigerman.
Dead Freddie began in the late 70s on Chicago's south side. Disbanding in '82, the current line-up formed in 2013. Their recently released album, Dead Freddie, an excellent collection, produced by the always musically-adventurous Matt Mercado (Mindbomb, Supermercado) is available at https://deadfreddie.bandcamp.com
Off-Broadway was part of a magical time in Chicago rock history. The mid-to-late 70s saw them forging the melodic brand of "Chicago Sound" hard-rockin' power pop along with Cheap Trick, Pezband and The Shoes that would continue with Material Issue and Enuff Z'Nuff into the 80s, 90s and beyond. Off-Broadway's performance at Reggie's proved that torch is still lit...by the ones who brought the match. And that is no Bad Indication.