Poi Dog Pondering | 11.21 | Chicago

Words by: Deidra Trout | Images by: Norman Sands

Poi Dog Pondering :: 11.21.09 :: The Vic Theatre :: Chicago, IL

Frank Orrall - Poi Dog Pondering :: 11.21 :: Chicago
Poi Dog Pondering brought diverse and enthralling entertainment to the Chicago scene with colorful music and unclassifiable melodies. This band, which has drawn inspiration and influence from around the world, now calls this town its home base. At the start of the night, The Vic Theatre was awakened with the feel of France during the 1930's; chandelier hanging down on center stage, as "Maitre de Cérémonie" Earl 'Alphonse' Talbot stepped onstage in a top hat and long red jacket, speaking French to introduce the two opening acts and bringing an artistic vibe to the show. Bailiff, a local progressive trio, stepped out first and was followed by Mistress Stephanie and her Melodic Cat, who fit perfectly with the evening's atmosphere; an artsy band, alternative with intense lyrical humor. Speaking once again in French, the announcer stepped back onstage after an intriguing start to the concert to introduce Poi Dog.

As the band slowly wandered out filling the empty spaces next to the variety of instruments scattered onstage, anticipation was in the air. The first song, "Had I Known," came from the array of instruments all contributing to great harmony. Each instrument built up the appearance of leader Frank Orrall, who received a howl of applause. The set continued with a selection of prevailing tunes all related to everyday beliefs and experiences. Playing a combination of old favorites and new songs from their latest album released last year, "Young and Wilde," "Butterflies," and "From This Moment On" all reminded the audience what this band represents, which was projected as naturalistic, peaceful, and, with Orrall's hand over his heart, almost hymn-like.

Though Orrall is known to take lead in this band, he shares the spotlight well, letting the talented musicians onstage stretch their skills. Orrall pranced around, hyping up his band and the audience as they performed songs like "Thanksgiving," "Watermelon Song," and a variety of other enticing numbers. Robert Cornelius, a jazz and soul musician, surprised the crowd during "Shu Zula," mixing in an R&B soul effect. "Lemon Drop Man," an emotional song for the band about former stage manager Matthew Morrison, put forth the personal relations through which this band connects to audiences lyrically. Through musical expression, in unison with visual effects by artists Luke Savisky and Marco Ferrari, the band continued to engross attendees.

Poi Dog Pondering :: 11.21 :: Chicago
Instrumental melodies created by the assortment of strings, brass, and percussion cast a pleasing display. The band's live performance invited a multitude of artists to contribute to the music. At one point, 18 musicians, working in a strongly individual way yet still collectively, populated the stage. Some have been engaging audiences from the beginning of the band's career, such as Susan Voelz (violin), Ted Cho (guitar), El John Nelson (drums), and Dave Max Crawford (accordion, trumpet, organ). Other members were added throughout the duration of PDP's work, like Ron Hall (bass), Rick Gehrenbeck (keyboards), Dag Juhlin (guitar, piano, etc.), and Dan Leali (drums). Kornell Hargrove and Charlette Wortham also joined PDP, pouring out chillingly talented back-up vocals to jazz up the songs. The live crew ensemble at The Vic added stunning strings by Alison Chesley (cello) and Inger Petersen Carle (violin), as well as horns by Nate LePine and Nick Broste. All these skillful artists coordinated marvelously, though at times it was difficult to hear individual parts. The energy from all of these individuals splashed from the stage into the crowd, with Orrall doing push-ups onstage and sauntering around, busting out beats on a variety of instruments, suggesting that he also drew enthusiasm and energy from the show.

During the one extended set, the performance seemed to thrive. Looking at the diverse audience, from young to old, it seemed that they were all brought to smiles and satisfaction before the band dwindled off-stage. The set finished with "Blood and Thunder," "Lack Luster," "Spend My Life," "God's Gallipoli," and closer, "Candy." PDP returned for an encore with hits including "Complicated" and "That's Love," and the show finally ended with an engaging trumpet solo by Crawford. Stepping from the stage, a sense of unity hung in the air. Chicago had been delivered a true performance by real, down to earth, talented musicians who left the audience anxious for their next gathering.

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