BoDeans bring new album (and line-up) to Atlanta

Live review: BoDeans with Heather Luttrell at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 6/20/12
Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas were the songwriters/musicians/singers who made up the sound of Milwaukee’s BoDeans going back to their first album from 1986, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams. The distinctive vocals from Neumann and Llanas (especially Llanas) encapsulated the sound of the band. Sadly for fans, Llanas left BoDeans in 2011. Neumann carried on – now with total creative control – and released American Made earlier this month. The sound leans less toward roots rock and more to a country rock sound.

The absence of Llanas is a blow to that unique BoDeans sound, but Neumann has done a fine job in setting a high bar and delivering a very good album. And to see this band live is an enhanced experience. Everything sounds better when they’re onstage. “Good Work” got things rolling in a quick way, followed by “Flyaway” from the new album. This track is currently getting video play on CMT. On “Stay,” Neumann explained that he wrote this one for his two daughters and explained how he asked them to stay young, since he was constantly on the road and missing out on their lives. This is a bittersweet song for any parent. (“Why must you say goodbye? / Why don’t you stay a while?”).

The evening was a mix of old favorites and new sounds from Made. Strangely, they complemented each other. On the hit “Fadeaway,” Kurt showed off his exceptional guitar work on a song that has evolved with a hint of reggae. On the fantastic “Good Things” (from the debut), the listener may be reminded of Springsteen‘s “Badlands.” Maybe.

BoDeans have managed to stay relevant in a world of everchanging musical genres and overnight Internet sensations. The sound was tight and beautiful, and as a live act, BoDeans are hard to beat. The encore was a short two songs. First, “Still The Night” thrilled the fans. When Neumann sang, “If I can hold you tonight, I might never let go,” many female fans appeared to concur. “Closer To Free” finished out the evening. The tune that became the theme song for the TV series Party of Five was also the band’s biggest hit. It was a barn burner and everyone knew the words. Although not a sold-out show, the energy in the house said otherwise.
The band is covering the U.S. through early October. Catch them in a town near you: TOUR.

Atlantan Heather Luttrell had opening slot duties and wowed the crowed with her powerful and soulful voice. You may remember her as a contestant from the 2005 reality show Rockstar: INXS, in which she was aiming for a spot with the legendary 80s band. The fact that she lost out to J.D. Fortune is possibly a good thing, as this opportunity may have boxed her in (and according to the merch guy, “Do NOT ask her to play any INXS!”).

Her vocal stylings were more along the lines of a countryfied, folksy Janis Joplin. During her acoustic set, Luttrell was accompanied by her father, who stood next to her playing slide guitar. (“The whole ‘Daddy’ thing isn’t as weird when people find out he’s really my Dad.”) It was a good sound and local fans were supporting her in force.

Watch Heather sing “Georgia On My Mind.”

Keep an eye out for this talented songwriter. Check her tour schedule HERE.

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