Gary U.S. Bonds | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Gary U.S. Bonds

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Gary U.S. Bonds's early-60s hits--"New Orleans," the epic "Quarter to Three," "Dear Lady Twist," and a few others--exemplified the rock aesthetic at its most jubilantly unhinged. As the band brayed deliriously behind him, Bonds rasped, mewled, and bellowed tales of debauchery and lust, the rough production muddling his vocals to the point of semicoherence. Thankfully, Bonds doesn't try to recapture his raucous youth on his new disc, Back in 20 (M.C.): the fidelity is crisp, the arrangements are savvy, and the overall feel is more Texas roadhouse crunch than teen-party rock 'n' roll. But the 65-year-old's voice still sounds youthfully exuberant, and his rhythmic sense is unerring--on some phrases he articulates so forcefully that his voice almost serves as a percussion instrument. He delivers a crusty warhorse like Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae" with grits-and-gravel immediacy, and on "Bitch/Dumb Ass" he and a surprisingly bluesy Phoebe Snow trade a series of deliciously barbed insults, turning the misogyny of rocker machismo on its head. The biggest surprise, though, is his cover of "I've Got Dreams to Remember," the classic soul ballad given a definitive reading by Otis Redding. It takes guts to tackle material so linked with a legendary figure, but Bonds pulls it off, revealing the tender heart beneath the hard-bitten pose. Harper opens. $20. Friday, August 13, 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

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