Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Power Pop As Promised—With A Bonus

Photo of Jon Auer and from Ken Stringfellow from Ken Stringfellow’s Facebook page.

This past Saturday night’s pairing of The Posies and Material Reissue at Park West in Chicago was every bit was rewarding as expected. Both bands excel at high-energy power pop, while maintaining an ability to explore various nuances. The Posies emerged from Seattle’s grunge scene in 1987 but with a more elaborate pop approach built on Hollies style harmonies. The original lineup of Material Issue sprang from Chicago’s vibrant rock scene during our city’s moment in the spotlight back in the early 1990s. The Park West gig also featured a short but potent set by Canadian singer-guitarist Terra Lightfoot.

The Posies are in the midst of their 30th Anniversary Tour, so it was no surprise to see them reaching back to gems like “Suddenly Mary” and “Golden Blunders” from their breakout album Dear 23. Singer-guitarist Jon Auer and singer-guitarist Ken Stringfellow were more energized and focused than at their enjoyable but meandering City Winery gig as a duo earlier this year. The jokes didn’t start until Stringfellow noted bassist Dave Fox’s checkerboard cap and suit, and claimed The Posies had signed a promotion deal with Purina. Stringfellow tossed in a few other quips but mostly he and Auer bounded back and forth on stage, cutting loose on their guitars and vocals while Fox and drummer Mike Musburger supplied massive support.

The Posies kept the crowd revved up with catchy songs like “Dream All Day,” “Flavor Of The Month,” and “Ontario.” Stringfellow dedicated “You’re The Beautiful One” to the late Jim Ellison of Material Issue and Posies bassist Joe Skyward, who passed away in 2016. The hard-edged, high-speed “Grant Hart” from the Amazing Disgrace album honored Husker Du’s recently departed drummer/vocalist. Unfortunately, my usual dependence on public transportation kept me from catching all of The Posies’ set, but I suspect they kept rocking long after I left at the 1-hour mark.

Material Reissue, which features singer-guitarist Phil Angotti in Ellison’s role, along with original members bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, blasted through highlights from the band’s handful of albums. As in other recent shows, they brought in guitarist Jay O’Rourke and keyboards player Lou Hallwas to help out. After opening with the exuberant “Crazy” from their debut International Pop Overthrow, Material Reissue moved on to irresistible numbers like “Going Through Your Purse,” “Kim The Waitress,” and “Renee Remains The Same.” “Valerie Loves Me,” “Diane,” and “What Girls Want”—hits from the band’s MTV days—sounded as strong as ever.

Singer-guitarist Terra Lightfoot, backed by a bassist and drummer, unleashed hard-edged songs with elements of indie rock, Americana, and funk. Her combination of strong, emotive vocals and furious strumming was particularly impressive on “Stars Over Dakota” from her latest album New Mistakes, while another song featured some extended jamming. “No Hurry,” from her Every Time My Mind Runs Wild album, had a hint of country and western.

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