Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chicago Tribune Concert Review - October 1988

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

Conwell And Young Rumblers Offer An Exciting New Wrinkle On 1st Tour

October 12, 1988 | By David Silverman, Entertainment Writer, Chicago Tribune

Tommy Conwell walked on stage Tuesday night at the Park West looking as though he had just crawled out of bed. 

His band, the Young Rumblers, looked rumpled at best. 

This was not what was expected from a new band on its first big-city date, away from their home turf. Then again, a lot of what Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers do is more than unexpected. 

While most new bands seem to be on an endless search for that "new sound," Conwell and the Rumblers have reached back, to the roots of rock and blues. The result is a brand of Rust Belt music, with shades of George Thorogood and Bob Seger, that is gritty and alive. 

After selling out shows in and around their home in Philadelphia, Conwell and the Rumblers are on the road for their first westbound trip. Riding high on the release of their album, "Rumble," their Chicago stop marked the midway point of the tour. 

The long trip has taken little of the steam from the band. They were explosive. 

Drawing mostly from "Rumble," Conwell suffered briefly from his overdramatic presentation of some nuts-and-bolts rock anthems. But he made up for it with a guitar talent that only comes from devotion and a true love for the instrument. 

His story is familiar. He cut classes in high school to play the guitar. He says he knew one day he`d play for a band and be the best. Conwell's diligence paid off in a style charged with innovation, yet respectful of the music`s basic structure. 

What gave Conwell the freedom to display his solo talents was the excellent backup work of the Rumblers. With a tight rhythm section, consisting of Paul Slikva on bass and vocals and Jim Hannum on drums, a class rhythm guitarist in Chris Day and keyboardist Rob Miller, Conwell had little to fear. If these guys didn't look young enough to be in high school, you'd think they'd been playing together for 10 years. The coordination between Conwell and Day was extraordinary. Although Day used to deal solely in heavy metal, he and Conwell steamrolled through blues, Southern rock and some offbeat rhythm and blues with authority. 

It was their ability to traverse such a wide range of music, from ballads to break down, that makes Conwell and the Rumblers so appealing. By the middle of the evening, those who hadn't heard of the band were sure to remember them. Those who knew what to expect probably got more than they had bargained for. 

What lies ahead for Conwell and the Rumblers is uncertain. They still rely on a number of covered singles, and Conwell's songwriting talents are still untested. But what they are learning on this first road test will surely add to their next release. 

For now, they represent one of the brightest new pure rock bands to come across a Chicago stage in some time.

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