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Sister Hazel

Live in Crystal Lake, IL, July 2008

Review by Gary Hill

When you go see a band like Sister Hazel live and you’ve never seen them before, you’ll have somewhat of an idea of what to expect. You certainly should know that you are going to hear their radio hits – and this band has a lot of them. If that’s all you are going there for, you’ll probably be surprised. While Sister Hazel creates some great music on album, that’s only part of the picture. This group really takes it to a whole different level live.

The first thing you will notice about Sister Hazel when they hit the stage is that this is the real deal. These guys play the songs just the way they are on the album. That’s not to say that it’s like you are listening to the CD. These are real performances full of passion and energy. What it means is that the group doesn’t bother with a lot of stage tricks to divert your attention. It also means that they can reproduce the studio sound live incredibly well. That means that there aren’t a lot of tricks going on in their recordings. It means that all of these guys play really well, too.


I’d have to say that the talent of this band is right up there with progressive rock bands – who certainly get more credit for being monster musicians. These guys are tight. They play music that isn’t simple – even though it sounds that way. They make changes and alterations with the feeling that they are one unit, instead of a bunch of separate guys all doing their own thing.. They seem to think like a unit. Playing together for many years will do that for you. Sister Hazel certainly benefits from that consistency, but ultimately it’s the fans who benefit through a stronger show.


The group not only bring their great songs to the stage, but they also include bits of other songs by other artists and in some cases, full covers. You know, it takes a band that is confident to decide that a great song is a great song no matter who wrote it and bring it out for live shows. It also takes a  great band to play someone else’s song and own it – and I don’t mean “pwn.” I mean truly make it their own – to the point where you question whether this was actually their track to begin with.


Mind you, the majority of Sister Hazel’s set was their own mega hits – and those are definitely crowd pleasers. LA musician Keaton Simons joined them on stage, too and they tore into a classic Allman Brothers track and it was simply incredible.


I guess the other aspect I should mention is the rapport with the audience. These guys talk to the audience and really seem to connect. They can be serious, but they can also be very funny. All of these things make fans have a better experience. When you put it all together, though, the picture is that Sister Hazel is one of the most professional and fun bands you’ll ever have the chance to see live. It was my first time at a SH show. I certainly hope it won’t be the last. If you haven’t seen them, by all means get to a show.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at
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