(Live Review) BLACKTOP MOJO + SUPPORT - The Forge, Joliet (8/6/23)
By The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, is stop #44 and bands #211-213 on The Reviews Never Stop Tour, and the Beard and Little Johnny have shed the death and grindcore of last weekend for an evening of Southern tinged classic and alternative rock starring:
The Midnight Calls
Johnny asked what he should wear for this show, I told him jeans, a shirt and boots would get it done. After arriving at The Forge in Joliet, Illinois, The Beard explained that while this would likely be a pit-free evening, we would at least understand most of the lyrics to the songs. The lad sighed heavily and wandered off to the bar mumbling something about dinosaurs going extinct. That may have been a shot at me.
The Sunday night crowd was full, but the room didn’t feel crowded. I would guess a few hundred were here and I understand, having never heard of any of the three bands, even though two of them were local Chicago acts.
First up- from right here in Chicago:
THE MIDNIGHT CALLS
The Midnight Calls play denim-and-leather, blues-infused, rock 'n roll songs reminiscent of bands like Cheap Trick, AC/DC or The Black Crowes.
As a five-piece band, they do originals in the vein of classic rock. Singer Taran De Pablos definitely has a Black Crowes influence in both look and sound. Music takes a bluesy rock sound and gives it a little Rolling Stones twist. The rhythm section of Dr B on bass and Chuck Harling on drums gave the numbers a funk along with the rock, while guitarist Adam Jarling threw down some nice leads.
The Beard is happy to see bands playing this style, but also being original with their own material.
Going to give them an 83/100
Next to the stage, (also from Chicago) ...
This band, at least upon initial appearance, is a tale of two cities (or genres). The guitarist and bass player look like southern rock, but the singer and drummer look like they hang out with the Sex Pistols.
The singer may look punk in his leather pants, but he sings a lot like Sammy Hagar. Yet Again also mix the bluesy chunky rock sound into their mix. Another solid set of original tunes. They may sound “like” the Van Hagar-era-minus-keyboards, but they are at least playing originals. After Summerfest, the Beard respects that.
Although The Beard found Yet Again to be more polished and professional sounding with their set, I kind of liked them just a touch less than The Midnight Calls, so I’m going 82/100
The headliners are the Texas band...
This is a sort of alternative grungy rock with a touch of southern sound, but not “southern rock”. Right from the go, the crowd was hot and responsive for this act. It was like up until now the room was a five and it just got dialed to nine point five and the Beard has got to respect a hot crowd. This was a really loud response, and these guys were highly energetic, even Johnny got caught up with all their twirling and running about the stage. Energy wise, this one is a surprise big time winner.
They did mix in covers with their originals, but always with enough alteration to them that they didn’t feel like just covers. The band took Velvet Revolvers' "Slither" and threw dashes of southern and funk into it to make it their own. A spirited cover of The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" was rendered both anguished and soulful by the combination of vocalist Matt James, (also on acoustic guitar) and a blistering solo from Chuck Wepfer. One of the best covers of that song the Beard has heard live.
Their follow-up blues number, “It won’t Last” was also done extremely well. Great Wepfer solo once again. Their originals like "Cloudy Day Bullshit" and "Come Get Your Coat" showed the band was quite capable of standing on their own two feet with home crafted songs as well as reworked covers.
The encores saw both guitar histrionics from Wepfer including the behind the head solo, and vocal stretching from James when he cranked his voice up to cover Stephen Tyler’s screaming falsetto as they closed with "Dream On". Wagner may not have been able to “hold” the note like Tyler, but that big man got his voice up to where hound dogs howl from hearing it.
Sometimes a band just surprises you. Blacktop Mojo did that tonight. The Beard loved that hour of music and awards them a 92/100. (Crack a cold one for a 90+ rating.)
That wraps up stop number #44 and bands #211-213, but it‘s still a long way to the top if you want to Rock N Roll, and a long way to the finish line when The Reviews Never Stop. In just a couple days we’ll be right back out there checking out more bands so what you need to do is stay tuned and check in every Wednesday and Thursday for Concert reviews from The Beard and Little Johnny on your home for all things metal...
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Until next time