When he isn’t recording and touring with Better Than Ezra, front man Kevin Griffin, spends a significant amount of time writing songs performed by other artists (Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Train, Barenaked Ladies, Howie Day, Christina Perri) and staging acoustic tours blending bits of both worlds. His latest visit to Chicago’s cozy City Winery was once again an instant sell out, and as is the tradition every time the New Orleans native entertains, his extremely improvisational set list was sculpted around the whims of a highly interactive evening.
His encyclopedic knowledge of virtually all eras was immense, while an encore filled with stripped down versions of the less frequently performed “This Time Of Year” and “At The Stars” made this individual venture rather different yet just as dependable as anytime he swings through town with the band.
Griffin kicked off the show on the softer side of BTE’s alternative pop/rock catalogue with unplugged editions of “A Lifetime,” “Under You” and “Porcelain,” often balancing a sky high falsetto with hushed intimacy. From there, he was joined by percussionist/latter era Ezra member Michael Jerome for nearly two free-flowing hours of hits, deep cuts, covers and dead on impressions of other artists.
The group’s “Desperately Wanting” was colorfully interspersed with Dave Matthews Band’s “Don’t Drink The Water,” while “Extra Ordinary” strutted with bits of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Sublime’s “What I Got.” BTE’s latest sunny single “Crazy Lucky” got a straight forward treatment, as did the stomping “King Of New Orleans” and the always delectable sing-a-long “Good.”
In between, Griffin offered a chilling rendition of “Collide” (which he co-wrote for Day) and pulled several Hall & Oates snippets, a medley of Rush riffs, plus an impersonation of Morrissey singing Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” completely out of thin air. His encyclopedic knowledge of virtually all eras was immense, while an encore filled with stripped down versions of the less frequently performed “This Time Of Year” and “At The Stars” made this individual venture rather different yet just as dependable as anytime he swings through town with the band.
Upcoming concert highlights at City Winery include Chicago Rock N’ Soul Revue (Jan. 12); Willy Porter, Paul Cebar and Peter Mulvey (Jan. 15); Del McCoury Band (Jan. 17); Syleena Johnson (Jan. 18); Kaki King (Jan. 19); Davina and the Vagabonds (Jan. 20); Steve Earle (Jan. 25-26); Don McLean (Jan. 27) and Alejandro Escovedo (Jan. 28-30). For additional details, visit www.citywinery.com/chicago/.