bob seger chicago

Frankie Ballard Heats Up Joe's with "Sunshine and Whiskey"

Sunday, September 14, 2014 Cora

Frankie Ballard’s “Sunshine and Whiskey” tour was what Chicago needed on a chilly Friday night. The Michigan native baseball player who would ask his coach if he could take the guitar on the bus (the answer was no) delivered an energy packed show at Joe’s on Weed Street that made them forget about the wet cold and any worries from the week that may have plagued them.

Joe’s is an intimate venue tucked away off North Ave, perfect for acts to bond with fans. Audience members get to make eye contact with performers who sell out larger venues and get a feel for how their music and presence felt when they were performing bars and coffeehouses. Nick Sturms, a Nashville resident and very talented songwriter, opened the show. Frankie took the stage with an assertive presence that jolted the crowd awake. He played three songs in a row to get blood pumping and feet moving. “He’s got a grittiness to him,” someone near me said. Yes. This country music rocked with a power that was not going home quiet.
When I interviewed him, Frankie said performing live was all about the energy and the relationship he developed with the crowd. He over delivered on both. After the high octane warm up, his song “Don’t Take Much” had a haunting, almost menacing air. You could feel the fictional small town, blue collar chins rise and chests broaden behind the words. The eager crowd waited for “Sunshine and Whiskey” and pounced on it as soon as he started, singing it as loud and as clear as he did. Frankie had control of the crowd’s energy at all times. He performed two covers, Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” and the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight”. The crowd mellowed and played along with “Sue” and bellowed down memory lane with the Wallflowers, shooting the energy back up. Country Weekly got it right when they called him a “true guitar hero” with “an elegant, supple style of playing rarely seen in these days hard rock country.” From an eloquent solo to decorative riffs that added to the song instead of distracting, Frankie is a very good guitarist. He showed his blues influences opening “Sober Me Up” with languid licks, the type that make you feel drunk and want to lean against someone.
Frankie’s a Bob Seger fan. He almost brought down the house when he dove into “Old Time Rock and Roll”, jumped offstage, got up on one of the bars, walked across it, and jumped down into the crowd. He meandered around the crowd continuing the song. The crowd centered with “Helluva Life.” It’s a song everyone can relate to and make their own. Many of us know “the bad times make the good times better” as the song say, but it’s nice to know someone else does too. Frankie put into words what so many of us feel, showing he gets it. Whether he’s onstage or on a bar about to hop into the crowd, he’s one of us.

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