Chicago’s City Winery (1200 W. Randolph St.) welcomed Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors for back-to-back shows Oct. 28. The Nashville group brought its trademark folk-rock sound, laughs and good vibes to the tasteful venue, charming its audience with an easy-going attitude.
The show began with opener Lewis Watson, a British singer-songwriter who performed a series of soulful, raspy-throated love ballads. A standout song in his set was “Maybe We’re Home,” an aching, emotional love song that showcased Watson’s vocal control and lyrical phrasing. At just 25 years old, Watson delivered a performance beyond his years and set the tone before Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors took the stage.
Frontman Drew Holcomb stepped onto the intimate stage with guitarist Nathan Dugger, drummer Jonathan Womble and bassist Rich Brinsfield. The four wasted no time in starting their set and had the audience’s attention within minutes. From high-energy “dance along” songs to tender, solo-acoustic performances from Holcomb, the set list for the night was full of the group’s hits as well as a brand new song, “Family.”
Many of the songs performed came from the band’s newest album, “Souvenir,” a politically conscious collection of songs in the vein of Bob Dylan’s 1963 record, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” Both albums feature standard love songs as well as social-political commentary. Dylan’s more pessimistic, caustic political songs were appropriate for the time, and “Souvenir” could just as easily have followed suit. Instead, however, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors chose to combat today’s social-political climate with smiles and positive vibes.
This positivity was evident with Holcomb’s solo performance of “Wild World,” a quiet, fingerpicking tune that features a monologue from the singer to the audience. He championed the power of love and optimism to fight hate, and his powerful performance resulted in applause after particularly resonant lines.
The band rejoined Holcomb for a rousing string of songs, including “Another Man’s Shoes,” “Here We Go” and “Live Forever.” The energy emanating from the stage had heads bobbing and feet tapping.
After ending on the explosive song, “Shine Like Lightning,” Holcomb walked into the audience alone as his band left the stage. The crowd quieted, and Holcomb explained that he recently visited Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see Tom Petty perform. After a few short words about Petty’s influence on him as a musician, Holcomb began a heartbreaking, stripped-down rendition of the rocker’s song “Learning to Fly” without a microphone, guitar amp or lighting. The room was silent.
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ performance at Chicago’s City Winery was a refreshingly positive and wholesome show compared to some of today’s modern music scene.
Anyone interested in folk, rock, country or even alternative music should give the band a listen. The group’s album “Souvenir” is available on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon.