By Tegh Singh Matharu
Last night, Adan Jodorowsky appeared with his band in the dim, intimate confines of Beat Kitchen in Roscoe Village. It was a cold night, snow piled up along the sidewalk, and many people stumbled along their way to get to wherever they were going. I also stumbled along my way and into Beat Kitchen, eager to see and hear the singer, composer, actor, producer, and artist, Adan Jodorowsky. The night being as dismal as it was, I was pleased to see the crowd gathering in anticipation for Jodorowsky’s stop in Chicago, one of many inn a nationwide tour supporting his new album, Esencia Solar. When the show started though, it proved to be one of the best shows I had ever attended. Buoyed by two fantastic bands, Jodorowsky’s performance was one for the ages on an otherwise bleak winter night.
The local outfit Kelroy began the show with some suitably epic music. Alternating between post-punk, punk, heavy metal, and classic rock, they were a band that wore their influences on their sleeves as they played material from their albums Beautiful Monsters, Somewhere Renegade, and Bloodshot, Hungry, and Paranoid. The lead singer, for instance, had a singularly powerful voice, as he hopped between System of a Down-style howls to soft ballads with ease. While amazing to see, the style shift harmed their performance since they played Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and then switched into a heavy metal-punk sound, leaving many of us scratching our heads wondering if it was time to mosh. Interspersed within their kaleidoscopic set, was a more original, latin-inspired take on heavy-blues rock replete with trombone and some latin melodies. This juggling of styles though, buried that original sound and prevented their set from being memorable. A band earns its fans from its association with a certain sound, genre, or some other past band. Instead, what Kelroy played was music neither here nor there with associations everywhere. More egregiously though, the band acted as if they were the headliners. They did not even have the courtesy to give a shout out to Divino Niño, the other opening band and the actual headliner, Adan Jodorowsky. Courtesy goes a long way and it’s always the first band’s job to get the crowd pumped for the rest of the show. But whatever my gripes, Kelroy was indeed a good beginning to the show with their fantastically epic sound.
Luckily, the second band, Divino Niño rectified the problems I had with Kelroy’s set. While Kelroy’s sound changed often, Divino Niño hewed to a lo-fi psychedelic sound with a more latin sensibility. Playing material from their albums The Shady Sexyfornia Tapes and Pool Jealousy, Divino Niño confidently followed up the previous band. Every song in their set was glorious, quirky, and inventive. However, what made their set even better was the brooding machismo simmering underneath their sound that fully emerged on their song “Marta”, with its harmonies and soft march. Listening to them, I believe they are Chicago’s answer to the Growlers, the current champions of a strange lo-fi revival that only emerged within the past few years. Moreover, they got the entire crowd ready for Adan Jodorowsky and in the process, made a number of new fans.
After Kelroy and Divino Niño, the headliner of the show, Adan Jodorowsky took the stage. Having followed his music since Amador (2010), Ada (2014), and finally to his latest one, Esencia Solar (2018), I expected his usual mix of English, French, and Spanish songs. Moreover, I expected his show to be a subdued, dreamy journey across the terrain he had lain in his past albums. As I settled in for such a show, I was jolted when his band members took the stage and began to shake, rattle, and roll. The guitars roared, the drums thundered, the bass rumbled, and as the band played, Adan Jodorowsky, or the artist formerly known as Adanowsky, emerged onstage with a “Hello!” and then tore into a rollicking version of “Vivir con Valor” off Esencia Solar. He danced across the stage like a panther, twisting and shaking his way along his set that covered all of his great songs, such as a funkier take on “J’amie Tes Genoux”, a thunderous rework of “Dancing to the Radio”, and a more emotional “Amor Sin Fin” despite the absence of a strings section. Songs from his past albums which were often soft, dreamy, and mournful turned into full-blown rock songs held together by a righteously fantastic band.
As the set stormed towards its energetic conclusion, the man at the center, Adan Jodorowsky, proved to be a consummate showman. Singing in English, Spanish, and French, he cut a truly surprising contrast to the mellow, lush singer heard on his albums. His dynamism onstage reminded many, including myself, of that Memphis sound exemplified by Cash, Perkins, and the king himself, Elvis Presley. In between songs, he joked with the audience and even invited people to join him onstage while he and the band played. When he reached the end of his set, he started a conga line all the way into the bar and then returned to the stage with his fantastic acoustic cover of “Dejame Llorar”,that had everybody singing along. But the staggering finish came when his band exploded into “Me Siento Solo”, the standout track off of Amador. What was a somber, introspective meditation on loneliness, turned into a drawn-out epic that included a blistering drum solo and a moment when Jodorowsky left the stage to play a guitar solo right in the middle of the audience. Altogether, the man looked like he was having fun playing in the modestly sized venue. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Kitchen packed as much as it was last night!
Altogether, Adan Jodorowsky’s performance was electric, thrilling, and quite simply the best show I’ve seen since Richard Ashcroft’s appearance at the House of Blues last year. Jodorowsky commanded the stage with his affable spirit and the satisfying transformation of his lush, soft melodies into a funky, rock-and-roll homage was a wonderful distraction to the dismal weather we had this past weekend. Moreover, the band Divino Niño, also was a remarkable discovery. Their psychedelic lo-fi sound and sure hand onstage, I think will quickly earn them a wide following. I for one, am eager to see them again, this time hopefully headlining a show.
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