I might be the only twenty-something from the Western suburbs of Chicago who had never seen Lucky Boys Confusion live. They have a somewhat legendary reputation in my old neck of the woods, including with my younger brothers. However, being the skeptic that I am, I will admit I have always assumed this reputation to be somewhat exaggerated. So it was with fresh eyes that I attended their performance at The Canopy Club on Saturday, April 12.
This show was an example of karma in action; the relationship between performer and audience was a lesson in “you get what give.” I was able to catch the performances of supporting acts The Assembly and Inept in addition to LBC. The Assembly had a darker, less poppy sound than most bands of their ilk, which was actually to my liking. This was juxtaposed with a dance-like undertone similar to that of The Killers, also to their credit. Another strength was the similarity of singer Dave Suh’s voice to that of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness. Unfortunately, these strengths were not matched by the band in terms of energy. They seemed a little out of place and while they made semi-regular attempts at displays of intensity, they never seemed to get in a groove. The audience responded with an equally tepid amount of applause and attention. I imagine this band does a much better job in front of an audience that is there to see them specifically.
Inept hit the stage and were far from matching their name. While their athletic-cut shirts were a little tight, so was their musicianship. Being a better match for the sound of LBC was in their favor but they earned the respect of the audience with non-stop energy from the start. Inept worked the crowd with scissor kicks, hand claps and audience participation. People who had never heard them before could be found singing along to “It’s All In Our Head.” And even thought they bounced around like the proverbial whirling dervish, their sound stayed solid as a rock, including their vocal harmonies, which were never off-key. I’m sure I’m not the only one who joined Inept’s list of fans that night.
When the time came for Lucky Boys Confusion to hit the stage, the crowd was already worked up to a steady fervor. These were true fans and the chants of “LBC! LBC!” were steady throughout the night. The band came out to a trio of songs, including crowd favorite “Breaking Rules,” but there was something to be desired. First of all, the band did not do their own sound check but instead had one of their road crew members do it for them. This unfortunately led to the band asking for several adjustments during their first part of the set and seemed to distract lead singer Stubhy. In addition, LBC failed at first to live up to the energetic tone set by Inept. However, the crowd stayed with the band, and was soon rewarded with the back to back performances of “Fred Astaire” and “Bossman.” It was here that I realized that musical karma can go both directions as the crowd, fueled by a combination of alcohol and high school memories, became frenzied. The band picked up on this and gave back what they were given with incredibly strong performances of these two hits. So strong, in fact, that I have to admit getting chills. “Fred Astaire” is still one of my favorite pop songs of its day.
The rest of their set had ebbs and flows to a dispassionate viewer. Stubhy’s voice had a tendency to go flat and seemed tired, though not for lack of effort. The band was solid throughout and drummer Ryan Fergus was a force from start to finish. The crowd, however, didn’t waver for a minute as a steady stream of their favorite songs were played. Yes, this was a jukebox performance of sorts, but these concert goers wouldn’t have had it any other way. The main set concluded with another high point with an apropos cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” and originals “Hey Driver” and “Untitled” (“the radio plays our favorite song…”). The band was then encouraged to return for a well-deserved encore.
Lucky Boys Confusion gave a less than perfect performance in this instance, but there is more to live music than precision and mastery. They provided for their fans what was expected and while they didn’t hit every mark, I doubt anyone went home disappointed. Perhaps, after more than a decade of hard work and tireless touring by the band, it was the crowd who was giving back this night. They gave their all to cheer one of their favorite bands on and were rewarded with some fine musical moments. Instant karma alive and well indeed.