Those who left off listening to Sister Hazel during the group’s chart conquest alongside Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler and The Jayhawks throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s sure had a lot of catching up to do when the guys paid their annual visit to Chicago’s House of Blues. During Friday’s first of two shows, the Gainesville-bred alternative/southern rockers naturally played all their harmony-heavy hits, but also unveiled tunes from the upcoming “Lighter In The Dark” album, which marks the band’s ninth studio album in two decades.
As expected, yesteryear’s endlessly played “All For You” earned the greatest reaction, though the players refused to go through the motions, which was surely another factor in keeping Sister Hazel off the nostalgia circuit, but rather, right on track as consistent alternative and southern rock contributors.
Given Sister Hazel’s dependable pace in the studio and on the road (where set lists shuffle nightly), the downtown club was pretty packed from the floor to the Foundation Room with every section joining right in for the opening sing-a-long “Happy.” For the next 100 minutes or so, the group intermixed all eras of its multi-platinum career with just the right mix of new tunes from the upcoming collection (slated for release February 19, 2016, though anyone who pre-ordered the project was given meet and greet access with the incredibly personable members).
“Kiss Me Without Whiskey” was amongst the earliest examples, keying into the group’s geographic roots (shared with Tom Petty, Stephen Stills and many Eagles members) and transporting the classic rock era to today. That trend continued throughout a mash-up of the group’s own “Shame” with The Allman Brothers Band’s “Jessica,” plus the surely Eagles-inspired “Run Highway Run.” There was also a rootsy nod to the holidays via a spontaneous “Jingle Bells,” continuing a day long celebration that began alongside Santa Claus and living, breathing penguins at a 101.9 FM The Mix broadcast.
Even radio regulars such as “Champagne High” and “Change Your Mind” packed more punch in concert with freshened arrangements, while the hook-laden current cut “That Kind Of Beautiful” hinted at a modern day version of the latter. As expected, yesteryear’s endlessly played “All For You” earned the greatest reaction, though the players refused to go through the motions, which was surely another factor in keeping Sister Hazel off the nostalgia circuit, but rather, right on track as consistent alternative and southern rock contributors.