On a chilly Saturday night in Chicago, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors played 2 full sets of music at City Winery (now one of my new favorite music venues). I went to the early (sold out) show, drank my first Radler, and sat back to soak in one of the best live roots-Americana bands in the land. I must confess, I was hoping some magic would happen, because I haven’t felt as invested or drawn to his latest release Souvenir, at least compared to the previous couple of albums.
The set began one of the grittier songs on the new album, “Fight For Love,” and away we went. Like any tour promoting a new record, they played a bunch of the new songs… 7 to be exact. They constantly weaved in fan-favorites from prior albums, like “Live Forever,” “American Beauty,” “Tennessee,” and even dusted off the 2009 track “I’d Like To Be With Me When I’m With You” (including a funny lead-in story featuring an angry, drunk fan in Ashville, NC requesting that song after a concert).
Highlight #1 for the night came unexpectedly. Their new song “Family” has been one of my least favorite off of Souvenir. Hearing it in this live setting, including making it one of the most crowd interactive songs of the night, helped it turn a corner for me. This, along with the other 6 songs from their 2017 release, were so well done, that the magic I wanted did occur, and I walked away a bigger fan of Souvenir than when I arrived.
Highlight #2 came during the encore. The full band played their well-loved song “Here We Go.” And I thought the show would be over there. The band did exit the stage, but Drew did not. He stepped in front of the stage onto a table in the audience, and played a passionate and completely unplugged version of Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly” as the bookend of the concert.
If you haven’t discovered them – especially in person – you need to see Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors live, just a fantastic live band. I’ll remember this as one of my favorite concerts of 2017. Below, you can enjoy a performance of “Fire & Dynamite” from that night.