The Texas-born Eli Young Band felt quite out of place in the cold Milwaukee climate on Thursday night, but after putting on a great show at The Rave, I think it’s safe to say the audience warmed them up a bit.
The band started with "Dust," a great way to begin the concert. This song was the first song I bought from this band on iTunes, so it was a nice flashback to how I became a fan. I liked the visuals the band had on the screen behind them as well. For "Fingerprints," the band had a picture of the album artwork, the fingerprint, on screen, while for many of their other songs, they had videos of cars driving down country roads that looked like they could be part of official music videos – a cool effect.
For "Always the Love Songs," the vibe and the music toned down a lot, providing a good break from the upbeat songs. The audience seemed to respond well and correspondingly got into a chill mood. Speaking of chill, the band then complained about how cold it was in Wisconsin. We’re sorry, but we can’t do anything about the cold!
Lead singer Mark Eli told the audience that their music video, "Love Ain’t," was the band's most popular music video, leading into the song itself. At more than two million views on YouTube so far, it's no wonder it’s so popular: It tells the love story of a quadruple amputee soldier who comes home from Afghanistan and his girlfriend, who dropped everything to be by his side through recovery. The audience loved the song, with lots of people were singing along to every word.
Before "Skin & Bones," Eli said his wife just had a baby – but he jokingly claimed to do all the work. Eli also said the guitarist, James Young, had a baby too. (Eli did none of the work there.) Either way, "Skin & Bones" was a great song to go along with that personal tidbit, perfect for swaying to the mellow-paced music and savoring every word of this popular tune.
Eli announced this was the group's 20th year of music making, even though in the beginning of their years together as a band, they were just "messing around." The band then moved into "Radio Waves," a song they said they hadn’t performed in a long time but was requested by someone. Released in 2009, the song might have been before many audience members' time as a fan, earning a subdued response, but at least Young had a great time jamming out on his guitar.
Eli reiterated that Milwaukee was too cold, pointing out that the beach was inactive. Then the band sang "Saltwater Gospel," which by far one of the audience's favorites. We’re sorry Milwaukee doesn’t have an active beach around this time of year – and we definitely don’t have saltwater – but the song was still great.
The videos went psychedelic and strange for "Drunk Last Night," representing the thoughts that might go through a drunk mind, flying through images of Native Americans, people in jumpsuits and sunglasses, gongs and other images flashed across the screen in odd colors and low resolution. But the audience wasn’t phased; we were all still singing along and clapping by the end of the song.
Moving on, the mash-up of covers by the Beatles and Genesis seemed out of place. I didn’t come to a country concert to hear classic rock, though it certainly was creative to mash up those two songs – and the audience seemed to enjoy both songs, as well as the encore of "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. The audience got hyped, singing along and fist pumping. The covers showed off the band’s skills and versatility, but I wished they had sang some more of their original work, such as "God Love the Rain" and "Never Again." Not only are those two songs some great tunes, but also they’re some of the band’s fresher stuff from their newest album, "Fingerprints."
I was very happy to hear "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" as the band's last song before the encore and "Crazy Girl" as its first encore song – both classics by that band. But again they could’ve ended the concert on something original rather than a cover of someone else's tune.
Still, it was a great concert – and I hope the cold Milwaukee weather doesn’t prevent the Eli Young Band from coming back for another show.
"When it Rains"
"Always the Love Songs"
"Skin & Bones"
"Drunk Last Night"
"Come Together" (Beatles) and "That’s All" (Genesis) - mashup
"Even if It Breaks Your Heart"
"The Middle" (Jimmy Eat World cover)