Joan Osborne at City Winery Review – Always “One of Us”

Having seen some fantastic live Joan Osborne performances, I found her concert at Chicago City Winery among the best.  My friend Sarah and I saw her on Sunday, August 18th, 2013 at the Chicago City Winery at 1200 W Randolph Street. In the past, I have seen Ms. Osborne perform in much larger venues such as at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois and at the UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) Pavilion in Chicago.

The City Winery sign above the front doors. (Photo: Jennifer Lunz)

 

Joan Osborne (Photo: City Winery)

I thought that City Winery was a perfect venue for her intimate, acoustic performances. The concert space had great acoustics and a small stage and audience set up, yet it all worked. Ms. Osborne usually plays acoustically by herself with a guitar, and occasionally with keyboard accompaniment. During this particular concert pianist, Keith Cotton, accompanied her with keyboard and vocals. The subtle lighting, small staging, and acoustic musical numbers, drew the audience in.

Joan Osborne performing at the City Winery. (Photo: Jennifer Lunz)

Joan Osborne has always been one of my favorite singers. I admire her as a singer, songwriter and performer. Originally from Kentucky, Ms. Osborne made her musical debut with her Grammy award winning 1995 album, Relish that includes her famous single One of Us. She is a multiplatinum artist best known for recording and performing in a wide variety of music including pop, soul, rock, R&B, blues and country. Her seventh and most recent music album entitled Bring It on Home, is composed a of mixture blues, R&B and soul songs­. The album was also Grammy nominated for best blues album. These music genres are where she has always been able to showcase her true musical talents as both a singer and a writer. Bring It on Home, according to Joan Osborne, goes back to her original musical roots, i.e. Kentucky and also to New York City blues clubs, where she first began performing.  

During her City Winery concert, Ms. Osborne had free rein to perform whatever she wanted. She showcased songs from Bring It on Home, brand new songs that have not been recorded, and of course, several old classics. We, the audience, were the “guinea pigs” of the evening, having the exciting opportunity to be some of the first people ever to hear these new, unrecorded songs. They all were reminiscent of her talents in blues and soul.

Joan Osborne performing at the City Winery. (Photo: Sarah Oberlander)

 

Joan Osborne performing at the City Winery. (Photo: Sarah Oberlander)

The numbers she sang from Bring It on Home were the title track Bring it on Home, Game of Love, Champagne and Wine (a sweet, beautiful Otis Redding cover), A Do-Right Man and I Want to be Loved. I loved all the new songs on the album and felt myself singing along to their catchy lyrics and bluesy, musical beats. She sang, a Van Morrison song called Tupelo Honey, with gut-wrenching emotional vocals. Her usually strong, clear vocals sweetened the lovely song. Her down-to-earth and humble, yet strong stage presence also added to the performance.  No matter what song she is performing, there is always an honest rawness to her lyrics and music.

Joan Osborne performing at the City Winery. (Photo: Jennifer Lunz)

Though fans always are interested in their favorite performer’s newer and fresh music, we also always love when they play their old classics. Sarah and I enjoyed it very much when Joan Osborne played her greatest hits such as One of Us, Spider Web, Saint Teresa, among others. Besides acoustic guitar and Keith Cotton on the keyboard, Ms. Osborne played the tambourine, hit sticks on her microphone, and also used a musical beat app from her i-Phone for some songs.

Joan Osborne’s opener for the concert was the North Carolina singer-songwriter, Kenny Roby. His musical style seemed to be a mixture of old style country, folk and subtle dosed of soul and gospel. As lead singer, his backup was a cellist and a violinist.  Formerly a member of the band Six String Drag, Roby now has several solo albums out such as his 2006 album Mercy Filter. His lyrics and music have been praised by singer Ryan Adams in Rolling Stones magazine as the “best songwriter that not many people have heard of.”

Opener Kenny Roby on guitar. (Photo: Jennifer Lunz)

 

Opener Kenny Roby and band (Photo: Jennifer Lunz)

I enjoyed his strong, country vocals and good guitar playing. His songs vaguely reminded me of the band Mumford and Sons, but was more gentle and subtle. He sang each song with emotional intensity and really seemed to have a feel for his music. The cellist and violinist were an excellent addition to Roby’s City Winery performance. If he ever comes back to Chicago, I would be interested in hearing more of his music.

Joan Osborne’s concert at City Winery was a great, entertaining experience. Seeing her at such a small, intimate acoustic venue reminded me of why I love her music and also love seeing her perform live.

For more information on Chicago City Winery, please visit http://www.citywinery.com/chicago/. To learn more about Joan Osborne and her upcoming tour dates, visit http://www.joanosborne.com. Kenny Roby’s website personal website is http://kennyroby.net.

 

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