Word play and slam poetry took the big stage Nov. 16 at Chicago House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.) during the Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers show on the Fall of Hobo Johnson Tour. Crowd interaction defined the show with Hobo Johnson (Frank Lopes Jr.) often sitting down on the front of the stage to talk with the audience.
Hip-hop acts Nate Curry and The Philharmonik split the show’s opening set. The two were obvious choices, not only for their genre, but also the themes of their music that detail the struggles of lower-middle and lower class individuals. The Philharmonik had also collaborated with Johnson for songs that were released on its self-titled album.
California-based indie emo band Mom Jeans. finished the opening sets, adding a bit of genre diversity to the hip hop dominated lineup. Its lyrics and energy made the band the perfect fit for the tour and an even better segue to the headliner.
Johnson kicked off the show with the hit “Mover Awayer” off his most recent release “The Fall of Hobo Johnson,” dropped Sept. 13, the artist’s first release in almost two years.
Before diving into “Ugly Kid” — a song about poor self-image — Johnson sat at the front of the stage to interact with the audience. During the exchange, an audience member told Johnson he was “thick,” sparking a short speech about body positivity from the singer.
The speech wasn’t the only spoken word piece performed during the night, as Johnson later slowed down the set to perform slam poetry twice. The audience responded as if they were at a poetry slam, holding applause and instead snapping after each piece.
By this point in the show, band members had gotten comfortable on stage in the most literal sense — Johnson, donning black joggers and a black sweatshirt, removed his shoes while some of the Lovemakers removed their shoes and socks.
Two covers were originally incorporated into the set, with Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” fitting in at the end of the set. However, an impromptu cover was done with Johnson calling a fan up on stage to perform Oasis’ “Wonderwall” after the crowd had jokingly heckled Johnson to play the song.
The highlight of the night was the performance of “Peach Scone” — the song that springboarded the group to fame after its NPR Tiny Desk submission of the track went viral. The crowd entered a frenzy and roared as soon as the opening guitar line started playing and began singing along when Johnson came in. Johnson even refrained from finishing some verses, letting the crowd chant the ends of them instead.
The group ended the night with a high-energy rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” during which confetti dropped from the ceiling and Johnson threw open water bottles into the crowd.
“The Fall of Hobo Johnson” is available for streaming everywhere.