5/9/23; Durand Jones, Kara Jackson; Lincoln Hall
Kara Jackson, 2019 National Youth Poet Laureate hailing from the Chicago metro area, opened with a solo acoustic set. She performed seated wearing a black dress and dark blue eye shadow. Her folk music is well written and impeccably performed. You could hear a pin drop as Jackson played through the gorgeous “No Fun/Party”. Jackson’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar and incredible voice had the audience in a trance as she ended the song and made a joke about her dress strap slipping off mid-song. She then went into the humorous reflection on relationships “Therapy” which drew more laughs and smiles from the audience. Jackson’s playful banter and song lyrics brought chuckles and a relaxed yet wistful atmosphere to the performance as she played more tracks off of her 2023 release, Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? The entire performance was very intimate and, just as quick as it began, Jackson was soon announcing her final track: the aptly titled “Dickhead Blues” (one of my favorites from her album). Although her set was just about 25 minutes, Jackson definitely made an impression and I’ll be on the lookout for any other sets she’s playing around Chicago.
After a quick set break featuring live DJ-ing of killer soul music by a member of the Indications, Durand Jones and his supporting band took the stage. Along with sunglasses, Jones was wearing the same blue striped suit and hat pictured on the cover of his solo album that was released just a few days before. The group immediately launched into the upbeat number “Lord Have Mercy”, which made it clear Jones came to put on a SHOW! His voice was impeccable and his dance moves translated into the audience following suit. In addition, Jones beautifully played the saxophone on select songs which added a wonderful sonic layer to the rest of his group, which was made up of a drummer, guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, and auxiliary percussionist. For those not familiar with Jones, he is perhaps best known as a primary member of the Indications, a retro-soul and contemporary R&B band based out of Bloomington, IN. Jones has been playing with the Indications for years before putting out his new solo album Wait Til I Get Over. Between songs Jones noted that this was his first solo show in Chicago which added to the intimacy of the performance. Also between songs, Jones performed spoken word pieces from his album over instrumental swells provided by his band before going directly into other songs from the album. This created a relatively unbroken narrative of the crowd getting a window into the personal life of Jones without losing the momentum of the set. The audience was also treated to anecdotes provided by Jones between songs, such as the inspiration behind songs like “Sadie” (a reference to a woman from his past), “I Want You” (Jones’ first love song written to another man), and “Letter to My 17 Year Old Self” (which, if I’m remembering correctly, was written between shifts working at a scientific lab). Jones made it clear that he was speaking up on some matters (such as recently coming out as bisexual) because of the actions of recent politicians acting to silence and restrict the rights of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Beyond acting as a window into Jones’ personal life and the inspiration behind songs on his solo album, the performance also showcased the talents of Jones and his bandmates. Towards the end of the performance Jones noted that he had come down with food poisoning about a month before the show which temporarily ruined his ability to sing at his usual capacity. He said he still wasn’t quite 100%, despite being able to sing well enough to make the crowd scream constantly throughout the hour-long set.
Overall the show was a great display of talent by two black musicians showing off their crafts. Both sets were very intimate, albeit in drastically different ways. If you weren’t there, I highly recommend catching either artist as soon as you can.