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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisWith seven years between The Singles and 2008's Close To the Edge (Torque/Sony), Blessid Union of Souls may have needed a bit of re-introducing, but the foursome returned to the touring trails with an intensity level that matched if not surpassed its string of '90s success. The Eliot Sloan-led foursome choose a somewhat curious club to make its Chicago return, and while Schubas certainly is brewing with credibility and legendary status locally, one would've expected at stop at the much larger House of Blues at the very least.
The band certainly had the hit parade to match, as evidenced during an intimate but explosive 90-minute set, not to mention some of the most socially conscious songwriting to come out of the last decade. After taking a few tracks to find his vocal footing, Sloan was right at home come "I Wanna Be There," which merged the group's sophisticated rock stylings with hints of R&B. The new tune "I'll Be There" dipped in an even more soulful direction, underscored by chucky, bluesy guitars and a message of unconditional support for a loved one.
Though some have unjustifiably relegated the band to the lighter side of the dial given its series of smash ballads, "Oh Virginia" was a fiery southern rocker, while the new single "Could've Been With You" grinded with crunchy strums and one the group's most contagious choruses to date. Of course, the set had plenty of introspective moments to cherish, including Sloan pulling up a chair at the keyboard to dust off "Light In Your Eyes" and "I Believe." Even though the latter was written in 1992 (and subsequently released three years later on the band's platinum seller *Home*), the anti-racism anthem sounded just as fresh and relevant as the first time it hit the airwaves.
Naturally the playful (albeit harmonica-free) "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)" provided the most energy of the evening, introduced by a snarling instrumental jam that could've come straight out a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers session, followed by a full-fledged audience sing-a-long. A reprise of "I Believe" revved up the encore, though it was rearranged as a punk rocker for the first half before playfully switching into a sun-soaked reggae groove. That song's sonic potpourri was indeed an appropriate archetype for Blessid Union's ability to blur genre lines and yet another example of Sloan's underrated but exceptional songwriting that deserves to reach the masses once again.
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