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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Frank Marino

Live in Schaumburg, IL, October, 2005

Review by Greg Olma

Frank Marino doesn't care about trends or the musical "flavor of the month". And from the response that he got when he entered the stage, neither did the sold out crowd at Chicago City Limits. Frank has often been thought of as just a musician's musician, but judging by the wide mix of people in the crowd, he has managed to appeal to just about every kind of person. Sure, there were the gear head guitar players in the crowd, but I also saw women of all ages and even a fair amount of young people, who would not have been going to concerts when Frank was at the height of his career. The continued success of "jam" bands like The Allman Brothers and The Dave Matthews Band have helped keep this musical style alive.
Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush started things off in "jam" band style with an extended version of "Voodoo Chile." I wasn't keeping exact time but about 20 minutes later, he was finishing up the song. I mention this because his playing is so enthralling that 20 minutes seems like 5. That is the true essence of jam music; knowing how to keep it interesting. "Dragonfly" and "He's Calling" followed. These two are a couple of the shorter songs in the set.
I have always thought that Frank Marino was one of the best blues players out there. He proved my point by performing a scorching version of "Red House." I have seen many bands perform this song but no one seems to nail it like Frank. While other bands cover the song, he plays it as if he wrote it. Next up we got what I consider the centerpiece of any Frank Marino concert - "Poppy." I have seen him in concert 8 times and this song has never been played the same way twice. It has a life of its own. For the next 30 minutes, Frank took us through this musical journey with snippets of "She's Not There" and "Crossroads" added to the mix. One of the things that makes Frank stand out is that he is not afraid to add covers to his set. Let's face it, he has a huge catalog to choose from but he understands that a good song is a good song, no matter who wrote it.
Juggernaut is mostly remembered for the song "Strange Dreams" but there is more to that album that just that song. With the Iraq war continuing, "Stories of a Hero" seemed to bring the message home. Just because I have not mentioned the band yet does not mean they are mere sidemen. The whole band keeps things tight while Frank adds the icing on the cake. No longer a three piece, Mahogany Rush consists of Frank on lead guitar with a rhythm guitarist (who also plays some great electric violin), a bass player and a drummer.
Most bands would have ended their show at that point but this was a Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush concert so it was only a little more than half over. The second half of the show was dedicated to the hardcore followers. Digging deep into his back catalog, he pulled out "Strange Universe," "The Answer," and "Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame." During that last one, Frank finally took a breather and let the drummer perform his solo. For the 3 hour show, this was the only time Frank left the stage. He returned to continue with "Avalon" and "Tales of the Unexpected."

As the rest of the band left the stage Frank took his solo spot which included "World Anthem" and "Electric Reflections of War." I'm not much of a fan of guitar solos but he structures the solo with songs so it doesn't come off as a wank-fest. The band came back to finish off the concert with "Try For Freedom." As I write this review, I look back and realize that I was presented with the clearest definition of what a concert should be; a band who enjoy performing music to a crowd of people who enjoy listening to that music. I think both parties walked happy this evening.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at
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