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Review Tue May 31 2011

Review: Justin Townes Earle @ Jay Pritzker Pavilion

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Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Justin Townes Earle's slender frame looked tiny as he walked out onto the stage last night at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion as part of the Downtown Sounds series running all summer at Millennium Park. However, as soon as the Nashville-born singer/songwriter opened his mouth any vacant space was immediately occupied by Earle's silky Southern croon.

Earle serenaded Millennium Park while its occupants celebrated what truly felt like the first day of summer and the musical backdrop he provided could not have been more appropriate. Joined onstage by two lovely female backup musicians — providing fiddle and acoustic bass sounds — and his acoustic guitar, his set dallied between playful blues tunes and soft, sometimes even somber, lullaby-like melodies including a heartfelt ode to his mother, "Mama's Eyes." His music captured the enthusiasm of the day as we finally caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the never ending tunnel that is the Chicago winter and also the dreamy qualities of lazy summer evenings.

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Bassist for Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

The up and coming blues star played the entire set on the balls of his feet. Even after his self-acknowledgement of his inability to stand still for more than five minutes, this simple fact about Earle was overtly clear. Between his animated musical delivery and Southern charm, the songster had the "ladies and gentlemen" of the audience, as we were addressed on multiple occasions, very pleased. His personality, nimble control of the six-string and powerful vocal presence caused Earle to look right at home on the Pavilion's stage, despite its intimidating size.

As one might expect, the type of crowd that a free concert series like Downtown Sound's draws highlights the diversity of our city. Luckily the themes of Earle's songs are mostly ubiquitous: family, homesickness, lost love and the feelings of annoyance that accompany experiences with bed hogs. Luckily for the family oriented evening, Earle — a man with run-ins with the law, drugs and plenty of girls much like the muse behind "South Georgia Sugar Babe" in his past — kept things clean during last night's show, his white pants and jacket suggesting a bit more purity than he might truly possess.

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Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Earle capped his set with the title track to latest, 2010's Harlem River Blues, a soulful howl for forgiveness. Sure, a calm night out in the park with family and friends might not the most traditionally exciting option for a guy like Earle, but perhaps he's turning a new leaf. When there's good weather to be enjoyed and good music to be heard, it's hard to argue that last night's show can be deemed anything other than a good night.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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