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Never one to pass up a good concert if I have any choice in the matter, I have once again been attending musical events with vigor. This time it was a band that I've seen a few times before and they've always put on a good, fun, high energy show: Better Than Ezra.
I've actually been a little disappointed in this band's more recent albums, but their first three are pretty stellar with How Does Your Garden Grow ranking as my most favorite. The more recent works just don't seem to have the same adventurous spirit as that one, but the songs do sound good live, and the band always keeps the energy up, and manages to breakout a few interesting covers along the way, so I'm always up for seeing them play.
And this concert at the Chicago House of Blues proved that they still do put on a fun and unique live show... I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I don't have an exact set list for this one (yet?), but I will say that it was pretty close to a few others I've seen the band play this year. A lot of new stuff along with the old favorites.
I would have liked to hear them play “Beautiful Mistake”, but a great sing-a-long version of “Porcelain” works too. I'm also always happy to hear “Desperately Wanting” as I think that might be my favorite Ezra song of all time going way back to the first time I saw them live way back a bunch of years ago... also at the House of Blues, but in the restaurant playing acoustic instead of the actual venue... when we yelled for them to play it so loud the band actually stopped to acknowledge our pleas from the side of the stage. That song still has a lot of impact for me to this day.
Musically Ezra still sounds quite tight on stage, even with their new drummer, who's a pretty great drummer too by the way. As I said, the newer songs do sound pretty good live, better than on album in my opinion, but it could just be that these guys genuinely seem to be having a blast on stage, cracking jokes, doing impressions and keeping the energy up.
This show was no exception in that department, nor was it in the cover department. Last time I saw them play they closed with a version of “Don't Fear the Reaper” (Blue Oyster Cult) complete with plenty of cowbell, but this time there were a few more. Not only did the band break out “I Miss You” (the Rolling Stones) and “Surrender” (Cheap Trick), a pair of covers that I've seen in their set list before, but there were Christmas songs; an off the cuff version of the Clash's “Should I Stay or Should I Go” that stopped and started abruptly more than once as the band realized they didn't know how to actually play it; and an equally abbreviated version of Styx' “Come Sail Away” that the Chicago crowd just decided to finish up singing through the chorus themselves.
That last one was something special in my book. Not so much because I'm a huge Styx fan... I'm really not... but more so because it was just cool; a real indication of how the crowd was feeling that evening. Yeah it was obvious that the band was having a lot of fun on stage, but a big part of that was because the crowd was into it having fun, rocking out, singing along... all of that. I've seen some truly great concerts that, for whatever reason, the crowd was just dead at, but this wasn't one of them. Even during the opener the crowd was engaged and interest. Personally I wasn't too impressed with the opener, but to each their own. Once Ezra took the stage though, it was pretty obvious this crowd and this band was going to have some fun and the crowd didn't stop after it was over either... people were dancing to the funk on the PA for a long while after just enjoying the evening.
Now maybe that's a sign of just the temperament of the attendees at this concert, but I don't think that's the only factor involved. Every time I've seen them play, Better Than Ezra has gotten the crowd moving and engaged. Maybe I've been lucky and I just happened to have caught them on good nights, but I think these guys also just put on a fun show and have the kind of personalities and charisma that brings out that fun in other people... assuming the crowd is receptive. They don't put on the hardest hitting show, or the most innovative, but they play well, add touches of improvisation throughout and just have fun with the music and that makes the seeing Better Than Ezra live a lot of fun.
If you're a Better Than Ezra fan, or maybe you once were, or even never were, there's still reason to see them live. The shows are fun, the songs sound good and the band is engaging and sounds great. I don't see any reason why I won't be seeing this band again next time they come around and maybe you will too... it'll be a good time.