For the second time in two years, Chicago-based singer-songwriter Joe Pug wowed a crowd of about 75 at the garage turned music venue, Kilby Court.
Pug, who is touring behind this year's "The Great Despiser," simply knocked over the audience with his heartfelt vocals and seemingly endless batch of over-the-top strong lyrics. He also lightened the mood of the somewhat somber material with humorous stories and introductions about life on the road and the songs.
Backed with minimal support from guitarist Greg Tuohey, bassist Matt Schuessler and drummer Dave Burnett, Pug, pictured above, was clearly the star of the show. But in a literal sense, it's the power of Pug's poetry in songs like "Hymn #101," that controls the performers and the audience. That song proved to be a sly tribute and was dedicated to the late Levon Helm, former drummer of The Band, who died last month, shortly after appearing with Pug in March. The Band never performed that song, but its lyrics make it seem like something that would have easily fit into The Band's repertoire.
The 70-minute set was greeted with strong applause after each number and a general sense of awe at Pug's handiwork as a lyricist and singer. Whether belting out the title track of his latest album, "The Great Despiser," or playing "Nation of Heat," from his first EP, Pug's fans at Kilby Court seemed to love everything he played.
Other standouts were "Speak Plainly, Diana" and "Hymn #35," "Nobody Man" and "One of Many."
He encored with "How Good You Are." Here's a take on it from 2011 with the same personnel Pug employed at Kilby on Thursday. Here's hoping that the next time Pug is in town, he'll draw a bigger crowd in a hall better suited for his top-shelf abilities. Nothing against Kilby, but The State Room is a venue perfectly suited for Pug and his audience.