Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

Live Review and Photo Gallery: Black Pumas at Salt Shed • Chicago

| January 29, 2024

Black Pumas

The Salt Shed, Chicago, IL

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Review by Jeff Elbel. Photos by Philamonjaro.

Austin, Texas-based psychedelic soul duo Black Pumas crowned a triumphant three-night run in Chicago with Saturday night’s sold-out performance at the Salt Shed. Singer Eric Burton and former Grupo Fantasma guitarist Adrian Quesada led a sharp six-piece backing band while drawing heavily from the October 2023 release Chronicles of a Diamond, performing all of the album’s ten tracks except for “Tomorrow.” Black Pumas’ self-titled 2019 debut was also well-represented while playing to an attentive and engaged audience in a stronghold city for the group. “You always bring us 1000% energy, 1000% love,” said Burton. “It’s one of our favorite places to be.”

Burton began the show with a soulful scream that raised an equally impassioned roar from the crowd. The band then ignited the show with the opening number, “Fire.” The singer left the stage to greet fans across the barrier during “Gemini Sun” and led the audience in a swaying singalong during “Know You Better.” The sound was punctuated by Quesada’s terse funk rhythm and floated atop Brendan Bond’s gliding bass line. “Chicago, this is our last day,” said Burton during the song. “Can we turn up?”

Quesada played a slinky R&B lead during “Tomorrow.” Burton’s emotive falsetto croon during the chorus to “Black Moon Rising” was reminiscent of soul providers, including Al Green and Cee-Lo Green, set against an orchestral R&B groove that nodded to Marvin Gaye. The singer threw his scarf into the crowd and danced across the stage, joyfully kicking up the heels of his yellow boots.

With Terin Ector’s prominent conga percussion and JaRon Marshall’s shimmering keyboards, “Sauvignon” was reminiscent of Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack. Burton’s playful vocal cadence worked against the assured groove of drummer Stephen Bidwell. The taut funk and punchy power chords of “Ice Cream (Pay Phone)” were reminiscent of falsetto pop steppers by Prince, featuring skillful support from backing vocalists Angela Miller and Lauren Cervantes.

“This one is dedicated to anyone whose energy is fading out,” said Burton when introducing “Angel.” “I wrote the song when I really needed to hear the voice of something of the most high.” Featuring tumbling arpeggios and Quesada’s weeping slide guitar solo, the bluesy song has been described as reflecting Burton’s confusion during the time when he left school to care for his ailing mother.

Grammy-nominated single “More Than a Love Song” encouraged listeners to appreciate everyday gifts, engage community, and seek deeper meaning in life than daydreams, shallow relationships, and fantasies. The audience seemed to take the message to heart, singing the chorus “life is more than a love song” with Burton before the singer led the room in a call-and-response wish to “fly together.” Mid-song, Burton cautioned people in front calling “make way, make way” before leaping feet-first over the photo pit and into the crowd.

Burton moved to piano for the resilient R&B ballad “Chronicles of a Diamond.” For a cover of Detroit underground hero Rodriguez’ troubled “Sugar Man,” Burton switched to guitar. During “Confines,” Burton and Quesada faced off to rock out together on a heavy guitar riff akin to the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Quesada added a blistering psych-rock solo to the end of “Oct 33.”

The main set concluded with the Gospel-soaked song of togetherness, “Colors,” seemingly smiled upon by the ghost of Otis Redding and joined by practically every voice in the room. For an encore, Burton vanished and then reappeared in the balcony, singing Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” alone with his guitar, as he had done during his busking days in Santa Monica, California. The group returned to the stage and brought down the house with the bristling vibe of “Rock and Roll.” Burton gave the crowd a hearty shout of “Peace out!” as he and the band left the room.

Seattle, Washington R&B septet The Dip opened the show with a tight and soulful set. Material included favorites like the wry “Sure Don’t Miss You” and the encouraging “Atlas” from 2019’s The Dip Delivers and newer fare from 2022’s Sticking With It. With a punchy horn trio and mind-melding rhythm section, the band’s sound showed affection for Stax classics and kinship with revivalists from the Daptone label. The band closed its well-received set with brotherly high-fives.

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Category: Featured, IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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