Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shoes Leave A Lasting Impression

Photo from the Shoes Facebook page/CHIRP Radio.

Considering that Shoes have only done a handful of shows since reuniting in 2012 after an 18-year absence, it’s possible that many of the people at SPACE in Evanston last Saturday night were seeing the legendary band for the first time. Or for the first time in a few decades. If that was the case, then Shoes made a strong first impression. Jeff Murphy, John Murphy, and Gary Klebe, along with drummer John Richardson and tambourine/harmonica player-backup vocalist Leroy Bocchieri, tore through over 20 classic examples of power pop, without showing any signs of rust.

The emphasis was on the more energetic songs in Shoes’ repertoire. “Your Very Eyes” and “The Summer Rain,” with their exquisite melodies, were about as subtle as Shoes got, and even those songs had plenty of juice. The set list embraced the band’s entire recording career; from “Okay” and “Do You Wanna Get Lucky?” from their 1977 debut Black Vinyl Shoes to “Head Vs Heart” and “Hot Mess” from 2012’s Ignition. Shoes’ tragically underrated sophomore effort Tongue Twister was well-represented with “Burned Out Love,” “Hate To Run,” “Your Imagination,” “She Satisfies,”and “When It Hits.”

The audience rightfully greeted “Tomorrow Night” and “Too Late” from Present Tense with enthusiastic applause, but it was also great to hear deep cuts from their albums, like “Animal Attraction,” “I Don’t Miss You,” and “Tore A Hole.” As composers, the Murphys and Klebe always had that knack for using irresistible melodies to couch acerbic observations on relationships, like “Your favorite story has no happy ending,” “Cry away, but not on my shoulder,” and “All my hesitation never got me anywhere/Now I ask no questions, when I’m wrong I just dont care.” Initially pegged as studio geeks with no live performance experience, the trio has grown stronger and more confident over the years. As always, they came across as regular guys; joking around and interacting with an audience that would eventually call them back for three encores.

The Valley Downs served as the opening act, reprising that role from when Shoes played at SPACE last year. Bassist-backup vocalist Mike Galassini has a long history with Shoes—his other band 92 Degrees released its self-titled debut on the Black Vinyl label in 1995. The Valley Downs, led by Galassini and his wife, vocalist Marianne Shimkus, (with on Todd Rusin on guitar and Christian Peterson on drums) have developed into a first-rate group with a wealth of good material. “Better,” from the group’s Behemoth EP, evokes The Bangles and has definite hit single potential. “Drama Queen,” a catchy tune about a transsexual, and “Sorry,” were also highlights. The Valley Downs plan to release a full-length effort within the next few months.


Anonymous,  July 25, 2014 at 6:51 PM  

IGNITION is the best Shoes album since Black Vinyl! Every Shoes has it's charm, but those two stand out to me. They combine the punk DIY attitude with pop catchiness while reaching back to guitar & drum effects not heard since their debut! Can't wait for the next release!

Anonymous,  July 25, 2014 at 8:20 PM  

Shoes rocked! An outstanding top notch performance that did not disappoint and kept us wishing for more. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

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