Review and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisAs The Stones were rolling through the motions across town at Comiskey Park, a women once very closely associated to them proved that despite her age, she doesn't have to rely on nostalgia to pack a venue. Marianne Faithfull may be the former girlfriend of Mick Jagger, but unlike her ex, she could actually stand on a Chicago stage Friday night as more than just an oldies revue, raking in the dough off the songs that have turned into corporate jingles. Instead, she's remained a viable artist that's gained additional relevance with time and doesn't even need to dig back to her Greatest Hits disc for a textbook evening of classy entertainment.
Faithfull ditched her past charters (including "As Tears Go By," "Monday, Monday," "Sister Morphine," and "In My Time of Sorrow") revolving her 90 minute set around her latest album Kissin Time. The project is just as diverse as it is classic Marianne, covering a wide array of territory through its many soundscapes and guest appearances by the likes of Beck, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Dave Stewart, and Billy Corgan. As hinted throughout the week of the show, Mr. Corgan was indeed a special guest of that evening, popping out of the crowd from his seat near the soundboard to join Faithfull on guitar 20 minutes into the set (following a splendid opening quartet of effectively spaced tunes "Something Good," "Falling From Grace," "Kissin' Time," and "Wilder Shores of Love.")
Wearing a fisherman's cap and Blackhawks jersey the former Smashing Pumpkin and current leader of Zwan joined Faithfull for renditions of new cuts "Wherever I Go" and "I'm on Fire." The latter came to additional life as Faithfull called out Paris Delane and Shawn Christopher from the soulful Chicago based jam band Sonia Dada to add a bit of gospel flavored background vocals. (Fellow Zwan member Matt Sweeney was the evening's other visitor, taking the stage on guitar during "King at Night.")
Faithfull covered additional new ground with her four piece band, breezing through cuts like the folksy "Like Being Born," the poetic "Song For Nico" (co-written with Eurythmic Dave Stewart), and an organic take on Beck's "Nobody's Fault." Perhaps the only downer of Faithfull's current performance state is the fact that her once sweet and tender voice has turned a bit scruffy and tattered. (Although that's not surprising considering she partied hard throughout the swinging 60s and occasionally puffed a cigarette in between songs at the Park West).
Regardless, Faithfull was able to take such a crutch and play it to her advantage, showing the honest aging of 1979's "Broken English" and allowing the gritty magic and growling mystery to seep out of the new tune "Sliding Life on a Charm." Faithfull also let her garbled wails constructively dominate 1987's "Strange Weather," a track she dedicated to Jimmy Chamberlain (another Pumpkin alum and current Zwan member). That finale cut showed off Faithfull's ability to croon through the metaphorical narrative with captivating ease and fierce power, bringing the evening to an energetic crescendo. Around that same time, it's a safe bet that the Stones were prodding through "Brown Sugar" or "Jumpin' Jack Flash" for the zillionth time, while those exiting the Park West left with only a feeling of "Satisfaction."
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