Home / Music / Concert Reviews / Black Joe Lewis w/ Pickwick @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Black Joe Lewis w/ Pickwick @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Sept. 30, 2013

Oct. 1, 2013
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black joe lewis turner hall ballroom 2013
Photo credit: Sara Bill
Austin, Texas troubadour Joe Lewis (better known by his on-stage moniker of “Black Joe Lewis”) has been tabbed to break out since 2009 debut full-length Tell ’Em What Your Name Is! rendered the funky, bluesy rock band sharing his namesake a fixture at festivals like Coachella, Sasquatch! and Bonnaroo. If Monday night’s well-attended and even better executed Turner Hall Ballroom affair was any indication, Black Joe Lewis’ days as an underground success are decidedly numbered.

After Seattle rockers Pickwick played a quick and sturdy opening set, Black Joe Lewis and company wasted little time announcing their presence to the shockingly great Monday night ballroom turnout, playing a raucous rendition of “Young Girls” (off their latest, Electric Slave) that found Lewis channeling James Brown’s scream and playing a guitar solo with his teeth. Another Slave song, a bass-heavy version of “Make Dat Money,” followed the rowdy outset.

In all, approximately half of the 22 songs the band played Monday came from the third full-length, which Black Joe Lewis released in late August.Though Lewis has made no secret of his recent wish to distance his name and the long-present “& the Honeybears” suffix, the bandleader’s five supporting musicians (down from seven previously) were an invaluable asset to Lewis’ already-impassioned showmanship and forceful classic rock-era vocals. The great rhythm section kept Lewis from venturing too far off course, and the airtight three-piece horn section vaulted the show to a whole new level.

BJL’s inaugural appearance in Milwaukee was also the fourth-to-last stop on the band’s lengthy national tour, but that was never made apparent during the sweaty 90-minute ordeal. Lewis screamed and crooned his voice raw and wasn’t shy about dropping to both knees during the occasional guitar solo. At one point, bassist Bill Stevenson chucked his bass into the air—à la Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic on Saturday Night Live, but with better results—and caught it.

Lewis’ few between-song interactions were limited to words of gratitude, song introductions (e.g., “This one’s about a snake and a girl”) and a borderline pandering “Go Marquette!” As the show progressed, the set ist made pit stops at both Electric Slave predecessors, including Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! standouts “Sugarfoot” and a spot-on execution of “I’m Broke,” as well as Scandalous favorites “Black Snake” and “I’m Gonna Leave You” before returning to the likes of brand new tracks like “Skulldiggin” and single “Come To My Party.”

After briefly departing the stage after a feigned conclusion slightly more than an hour in, Black Joe Lewis and band returned for an encore. The second set was decidedly booty-heavy, beginning with the band’s biggest song to date, the displaced 1970s funk anthem to asses, “Booty City,” followed by “Big Booty Woman”—both of which inspired a large group of people (who seemed to be strangers when the show started) to dance in a large circle to the side of the stage.

Black Joe Lewis proved the perfect prescription for a case of the Mondays with an energetic and near-flawless introduction to Milwaukee, proving he and his band were worth the hype in the process. Hopefully the first Joe Lewis show in town won’t also be the last.


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