Eric Burdon confided to a sold out house at Chicago’s City Winery, Sunday evening, November 29, 2015, that he was a little under the weather. Still, backed by his energetic, current lineup of The Animals, he put on a fantastic show, which inspired a room of hard-core fans to sing along and mellow to the blistering beat. They had come to hear the tried-and-true instrumental hooks that first put the British Invasion group on the map in the mid1960s and the talented musicians did not let them down.
As soon as the bassist drew out the droning line of ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, dressed in stark black with a snow white scarf wrapped around his neck, connected with he audience as a few technical issues were being worked out onstage. Burdon’s legendary Jim Beam voice proved crusty enough to get through ‘When I Was Young’ and the prophetic ‘Water’ from 2013’s ‘Til The River Runs Dry’, which is Burdon’s most recent album that features ten originals.
‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ had been eagerly awaited. Burdon made some comments regarding meeting Nina Simone, whose version had been recorded prior to the Animals’ recording. Simone’s version simmered, but the Animals’ version upped and amped the tempo, whipping the ballad into a virtual rock anthem.
He moved on to the Ray Charles classic, ‘I Believe To My Soul’ and his admiration for the American artist shone through. (Check out ‘Soul of a Man’ to hear Burdon’s album of tributes to additional blues artists). The set list moved at a fast clip and the energy never waned. It was fun to see Burdon commiserate with his band mates as they flew from song to song.
For the War fans, an eclectic band that Eric formed post The Animals, he sang ‘Spill The Wine,’ where his curious, fantastical narrative gave the band opportunities to vamp and sing along. He then told a comical story about American blues artist Bo Diddley and sang his original, twelve-bar tune, ‘Bo Diddley Special’, dedicated to its namesake. This foot stomper is also from his most recent album.
‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ retained the working-class fury of the original version. It’s no surprise that the song became a favorite for movie directors wishing to depict the Viet Nam era isolation and horror experienced by soldiers. No Eric Burdon concert would be complete, of course, if ‘House of the Rising Son’ were not included. The deep bluesy introduction and Eric’s soulfulness could not be contained.
After the audience rose to their feet demanding an encore, Eric and The Animals returned to perform a rousing rendition of ‘It’s My Life’. Had Eric been feeling better, he might have performed a couple more, but nobody complained. That said, it was a genuine treat to watch Eric Burdon perform in a city so famous for supporting his favorite genre.