Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show review: Star Anna, The Buddies at Hideout, 10/21

Star Anna (photo via Facebook)
The Buddies took the stage at The Hideout Thursday night, armed with enthusiasm and three guitar players. Usually that last point has me skeptical- so many times I have seen a third guitarist clang along unnecessarily, fucking up a song that two competent players could adequately handle. Excess was not the case during this set however, as The Buddies played their songs with an endearing pop and swagger, making each note count. Pastoral melodies combined with aw-shucks hooks to craft what was ultimately a fine set of rock music. Blues-tinged numbers featured staple lines like you’ve got a way of walking / I’ve got a way of messing things up, but slipped out of predictability courtesy of dismantled chords and sneaky punch. An endearing acoustic song was lifted by clever accordion play and some dynamic group harmonies. In all, an enjoyable set, made even more so by unplugged cover of the traditional Irish drinking song "I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day." Any show that ends with one of those is bound to leave good (drunk?) feelings.

Star Anna’s visit to Chicago was well-timed; the first song she played felt like the perfect soundtrack for a fall road trip. The colors of leaves change and eventually they fall, leaving the sappiest of us wishing the moment lingered a bit longer. I had the same feeling about this set. Described to me as “good singer-songwriter stuff,” Star Anna wasn’t what I expected. This show found her backed by The Laughing Dogs, and the group had a sound that moved effortlessly between subtle and energetic. Gymnastic piano melodies glided through brash southern-rock solos, the perfect support for Anna’s elastic delivery. Her songwriting chops were on full display, but rather than fragile ballads she offered up songs that kept the audience on their toes. Frogger bass lines tumbled over intuitive percussion, a rhythm section that held sway until the singer called for unexpected and mesmerizing conclusions. On several occasions I found myself moving in-time with a catchy tune only to have the rug pulled out from beneath my feet.

One of the most surprising songs of the night sauntered with a soulful, Baby Huey-esque flair. Lilting guitars and an almost apologetic organ rolled out of the speakers with undeniable charisma. Those two words might also describe Star Anna herself, who was powerful and sexy without straining to be either. In an age where any female artist who shows a little skin and throws come-hither looks at a camera is regarded as a sexual icon, it’s refreshing and attractive to see someone who leans on nothing but confidence and talent. That is sexy.

Like all good road trips, the moment passed too quickly, but left me looking forward to my next vacation.

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