Freedy Johnston | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Freedy Johnston


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Freedy Johnston is a somewhat winsome, somewhat mopey singer-songwriter whose reedy voice and nagging melodic sense combine nicely with an almost uncomfortably tactile songwriting knack. The central thematic device in many of his songs (a proud but eager outsider comes to the big city) has reverberations both biographically (he's from a tiny town in Kansas and now lives near New York City) and musically (he plays unadorned, folky rock in an age of baroque alternativism). He writes songs about both these phenomena, and digs deep enough to hit bone. In "Responsible," the character hitting the city is the daughter of the singer, who looks on with a mixture of fear, nostalgia, and hope. And the first song on his 1992 album Can You Fly is "Trying to Tell You I Don't Know," an embarrassingly naked account of his life as a musician and a frustrated attempt to explain the allure. Even Johnston's thinner songs (I'm thinking of "The Lucky One") have goofy, lilting melodies. If tonight's less-than-ideal gig--he'll be playing with one other guitarist as an opener for the Cowboy Junkies--isn't your thing, wait until later this year, when he'll probably be back behind a new album he just finished with Nevermind producer Butch Vig. Saturday, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Herman Nuhoff.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment