Sam Llanas has talent.
Sam Llanas has talent.

Milwaukee Mafia still has it

What a night for music it was Saturday night at Shank Hall.

Back in the day they were called the Milwaukee Mafia. Victor DeLorenzo, Sam Llanas and John Sieger.

Today they are all older, smarter, better than they ever were and able to bring a crowd to its collective feet in admiration.

And what a thrill it was to see Llanas back onstage and, I think, better than he ever was.

The evening started with 1913, the two percussionists one cello group that can raise goosebumps. Their final song, a mysterious version of Ravel's "Bolero" was one of the best versions of the song I have ever heard. Unusual and excellent.

Then John Sieger and Semi-Twang took over, playing stuff from their current album, "Wages of Sin," and other Sieger songs that grab you by the neck, shake you from head to toe and leave you with a smile on your face and trouble breathing.

Finally it was Llanas' turn, with his sparse new band. I was never a huge BoDeans fan, mainly because I wasn't a huge fan of the songs. I thought they were immature and sometimes reached too hard for popular hooks.

But this new Llanas is wonderful. His hair is grey and even disappearing a little on top. But he can command a stage like few singers I've ever seen in Milwaukee. His voice has lost none of his trademark rasp. If anything he's even more in control of the stuff he sings.

He's out on the road promoting his solo album, 4 a.m. (The Way Home). The record features Llanas songs plus an incredible cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit, "Nobody Loves Me."

If anybody ever asks you if there is great music in Milwaukee, send them to see the Milwaukee Mafia in action.


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