A Little Hometown Magic

Freddy Jones Band - Matthew Ryan

Riviera Theatre - Chicago

November 28, 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 1998, Volume 5, #2

Written by John Metzger

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The Freddy Jones Band took a break from its Fall tour to return to Chicago for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Unfortunately, its 140-minute concert at the Riviera Theater before a hometown crowd became a duel between its identities.   At times, the band raged with an incredible passion, delving into its music with an improvisational fury. At other times, the performance was perfected to the point of near boredom, as the group seemed merely to be going through the motions on its more popular songs like Wonder, Waitress, and Mystic Buzz. Of course, these were the audience's favorites.

The Freddy Jones Band playfully took the stage by pounding out the introduction to Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times, and at the last minute, it yanked the theme into a mammoth version of Texas Skies, a song from its self-titled debut. The trio of Marty Lloyd, Wayne Healy, and Rob Bonaccorsi tore through guitar solo after guitar solo, often intersecting and turning in tandem to jams worthy of the Allman Brothers Band.  As the song segued into One World, the ensemble's second, more restrained personality appeared and continued to meander through several of the songs that are more likely to receive radio play. Not that that's a bad thing it just seemed to put a stranglehold on the group.

Finally, during Blue Moon, the improvisational side of the Freddy Jones Band awoke from its slumber and repossessed the bodies of the band members. A space-filled jam wound its way out of the song as the stage became lit in an eerie haze of purple and green. The jam twisted and turned as the three guitarists drove the tune straight into the heart of The Puppet.  Simon Horrocks pounded out a backbeat that locked the song into a groove and Bonaccorsi's stinging slide guitar work once again brought the Allman Brothers Band to mind.  Eventually, Blue Moon succumbed to Horrocks' beat, as his arms flailed wildly and the lights gleamed from his drum set in multicolored hues. The band returned and began chanting,  Will I be afraid? as Horrocks continued his driving beat. En masse, the group launched straight into a concluding jam, shaking off the remaining strings that had bound it during the hits.

In a Daydream resumed the duel as the Freddy Jones Band again seemed somewhat bored, but in the end, it was the improvisational side that won. The song ended by slamming the door on the tired hits. As the group embarked on Crosscut Saw, it was as if a new set had begun. Grinding out a blues groove, Bonaccorsi stepped up to the microphone, and with a voice that fit the blues to a "t," he growled his way through the lyrics.  Mid-song the band slipped in and out of a faster paced jam with a fluid ease.

C Minor Contribution bounded through a reggae beat and was easily the best performed of the Freddy Jones Band's newer material. The momentum grew as the group closed the set with lengthy, fully jammed versions of And She Cried and Take the Time. Jim Bonaccorsi's bass finally climbed through the guitar-heavy mix during And She Cried, challenging the guitarists to an incredibly intense interplay of textured rhythmic glory. Halfway through Take the Time, the ensemble shifted gears into a country-influenced jam, guided by Rob Bonaccorsi's brilliant guitar picking.  Its encores included a perfect ride through The Police's So Lonely as well as a scorching rendition of The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.

Matthew Ryan opened the show with an extremely enjoyable set of original songs. His music is clearly influenced by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Wilco, and The Waterboys. He does a top-notch job of borrowing from these artists while overlaying the material with his own personal style and substance.

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box