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Live Review: Hoodoo Gurus at City Winery β€’ Chicago

| May 15, 2023

Hoodoo Gurus

Hoodoo Gurus

City Winery Chicago

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Review and photos by Jeff Elbel

Australian garage rock legends Hoodoo Gurus made their first visit to Chicago since 2007 on Sunday, bringing potent new songs from the 2022 albumΒ Chariot of the GodsΒ to a sold-out audience at City Winery. The band’s 40th-anniversaryΒ tour date was two years tardy due to a pair of pandemic-influenced cancellations, but frontman Dave Faulkner thanked the venue and fans for sticking by the band and promised an evening of celebration. The Hoodoo Gurus delivered a generous 24-song set of high-octane rock with a punk snarl and pop snap. The band has been shaking up set lists from night to night during its six-week tour of Brazil and North America, and fans in Chicago heard an assortment of favorites touching on seven of the band’s ten studio albums. Faulkner surprised even himself early during the set, noting that the anthemic β€œOut That Door,” surging β€œIn the Middle of the Land,” and the swinging β€œCome On” were being played back-to-back-to-back. β€œThat’s three in a row from Blow Your Cool,” he said, after laughing and flashing three fingers to drummer Nik Rieth. β€œThat never happens!”

The newer fare proved to be as muscular and catchy as the old favorites. Songs from Chariot of the Gods included β€œAnswered Prayers” and the album’s title cut. The new song β€œEquinox” was sung by Gurus co-founder and lead guitarist Brad Shepherd. The song celebrated a happy anniversary and happenstance, matched to a revved-up version of sunny β€œPenny Lane” vibes with Beach Boys-styled β€œba ba ba” harmonies from Faulkner and bassist Rick Grossman. β€œHang with the Girls” was a barroom barnstormer about a couple of kids who didn’t fit conventional stereotypesΒ but found their own way. β€œForget the gender, just love me tender,” sang Faulkner before cutting loose with a feral howl. Gems from the band’s cheeky 1984 debut Stoneage Romeos were strewn through the set, with β€œDeath Ship” near the beginning, chugging T Rex-styled rocker β€œI Was a Kamikaze Pilot” finishing the main set, and self-proclaimed theme song β€œBe My Guru” in the encore. β€œI Want You Back” and β€œTojo” were additional debut numbers that received singalong support fromΒ the crowd. Faulkner did his best to coax his fans from their cozy seats and was most successful when the band launched the irresistible β€œCome Anytime” from 1989’s Magna Cum Louder. Deep-cut treats for devotees included the crashing β€œCrossed Wires” from 1994’s Kinky album. The song was revealed as a favorite of Grossman’s, who gave the song a deep groove to underscore Faulkner’s plaintive melody. A pair of songs received special dedications. The saucy bounce of β€œMiss Freelove β€˜69” went out β€œto all the ladies here tonight.” β€œ1000 Miles Way” was offered to Aussie expatriates in the room. β€œThis song has come to mean a lot to Australians who have moved far away,” said Falkner with warm-hearted pride. Shepherd played ripping guitar leads throughout the night, digging especially hard into the adrenalized blast of β€œThe Right Time” while punctuating the song with a youthful scissor kick and Pete Townshend-styled windmills. Star-crossed tale β€œHayride to Hell” galloped along to Rieth’s β€œGhost Riders in the Sky” beat and Grossman’s cowpunk bassline, sparked by the bite and twang of Shepherd’s solo. The guitarist coaxed undulating feedback from his amp during β€œShe,” identified by Faulkner as the set’s β€œpunishment song.” Shepherd set his guitar aside to play bristling harmonica while Grossman’s rumbling bass anchored β€œPoison Pen,” the song from Mars Needs Guitars! that Faulkner explained was β€œabout divorce, being stabbed in the back, and all that stuff.”

Photo by Jeff Elbel

The show concluded with the one-two punch of Shakespearean singalong pop anthem β€œWhat’s My Scene” and the grinding surf-rock of β€œLike Wow-Wipeout, ”which sparked a final dance frenzy throughout City Winery.Β Rieth was a powerhouse while showing his stuff to the Chicago crowd for the first time. Faulkner explained that the drummer hasΒ been an official Guru since 2015. β€œHe’s fresh as a daisy as far as we’re concerned,” said Faulkner. Grossman has been aboard and indispensable on bass and harmonies since 1988. The 42-year partnership of Faulkner and Shepherd is one of the great underrated partnerships of rock and roll. The pair sometimes receive comparisons to Doug Fieger and BertonΒ Averre of the Knack, with pop-savvy songwriting and technical chops to match but piles more songs and staying power. Local fans will be fortunate if the band capitalizes on strong reviews and audience responses for Chariot of the Gods. Fingers are crossed for another spirited new album and another tour to Chicago, this time without a 16-year wait.

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