From the Archives: Untold Stories Series – BoDeans return to Indy, minus a founding member

NOTE: For whatever reason, there are columns/stories I write that never get published on the Rockforward blog.  Why is that?  I have no good explanation.  I mean, it’s my blog.  All I have to do is write it, spell-check it and hit publish.  Weird, don’t you think?  In the face of such insanity, I have created a series called Stories Untold: The Mysteriously Unused Works of Rob Nichols  (I am nothing if not a little bombastic when it comes to series titles).  So enjoy the first in the series.  It’s one written last fall, preceding the first Indy appearance by the BoDeans since Sammy Llanas had abruptly left the band.  We came to find out it was a long-simmering breakdown between Kurt Neumann and Sammy. (Read Kurt’s terrific Q&A with the Pollstar website or Chicago Tribune’s interview for  Sammy’s version)  The band soldiers on, embracing the name and the history, and released an album (American Made) this year – the first minus one of the two distinct voices of the band’s 25 years together. Take a listen here.

And if the story below feels a little dated,  it is. But it’s now part of a series, man.

(originally written October, 2012)
When the BoDeans make an appearance at the Vogue on October 6, it will be the first time that the band will play an Indianapolis show without founding member Sam Llanas. The singer – one of band’s two singers, along with Kurt Neumann – is no longer part of the group.

Llanas, a high school friend of Neumann’s, didn’t show up for a BoDeans show in Winter Park, CO, and officially left the group five days later.

According to their Wikipedia entry, the split was due to “differences of opinion” that had been “going on for years”, said Neumann.

Nuemann will continue under the BoDeans moniker, and has added Jake Owen to take the spot of Llanas. Their website (bodeans.com) has new pictures of the band – minus Llanas – and have five shows scheduled through November 4.

According to the web, the group is working on a new studio album for 2012. Llanas has a new solo album titled 4 A.M., which came shortly after the latest BoDeans album, Indigo Dreams, was released this summer.

So what do we make of the split? As I wrote in Nuvo in July, 2010, “I can’t remember walking away (from a show) thinking that the band hadn’t worked hard at making a connection. The sound they make is unique.”

At the time, I wrote that the new album, Mr. Sad Clown, was thoroughly BoDeans, and the unique blending of two voices the reason they survive.

REVIEW – Mr. Sad Clown – Rob Nichols – July, 2010

Without the Everly’s like harmonies, it is difficult to imagine the band not changing it’s sound; the BoDeans morph into the Kurt Neumann Band. And I am good with that.

But the BoDeans in my head is Sammy and Kurt, teaming up to harmonize through “(She’s a) Runaway” and “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Good Things”.

That will be gone.

We will get a chance to see an early version of the new lineup, with the Indy show the first of the aforementioned five shows. The band has used Indianapolis as one of their regular stops over the past 20 years and the local fan base seems loyal and always appears by showtime to fill up the Vogue.

It is BoDeans name on the marquee.  In Indy, there is value in that brand.  It will be up to the remaining membesr, especially the remaining, likeable frontman Neumann, to make the new lineup work.

The show will surely contain the rock and rolling deep catalog of familiar, midwest-flavored BoDeans songs, and it will probably be a little bittersweet for fans

But carry on, my man.  Carry on Kurt.  Because we still need American rock and roll.  It will be different, and it will be the same.  Played with some heartland passion and with a band that is a little sweaty and confident, it will work.

Check back in a year.  My guess is you will still be on the road, and just maybe, happier than ever.

(editor’s note: The band has continued to tour, and came back around to Indy for a show in June, 2012  -still rocking and still singing BoDeans songs.  And that’s a good thing.)

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Concert Review: Bodeans Rock and Roll the Vogue – Again

another Bodeans show in Indy - another rock and roll blowout
another Bodeans show in Indy - another rock and roll blowout

While there are no guarantees in rock and roll, a BoDeans show at the Vogue is something that rarely fails to inspire an audience with the joy of rock and roll. And there’s always a little bit of muted pain too, because just below the surface of many of Kurt Nuemann’s and Sammy Llanas’ songs are bits of melancholy, rejection and loss.

And because this is a band that may deserve a little more success than the music business has given them.

The two singer/songwriters, who are the BoDeans, pulled into Indianapolis on Friday night, and had, by the end the 16-song, 110-minute show, given the mostly 40-something roots rock fans a reminder of where the buzz started for the band. The songs and music off of the band’s 1986 debut album “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams” carried the most musical weight and lyrical resonance, and the bands performance helped remind why that album deserved it’s remastering and re-release earlier this year.

Opening with the ethereal “Pretty Ghost” from 2008’s “Still “album, the band proceeded to then knock out two from 1993’s “Go Slow Down”, with the blending of the singer’s voices shining on “Idaho” and then getting the audience bouncing with “Texas Ride Song”, highlighting Bukka Allen’s accordion playing. He was featured prominently on that instrument throughout the evening, giving a uniqueness of sound to add to the harmonies and Kurt’s’s guitar playing, always a integral part of the gig.

After “Everyday”, from their new record, came a surprising early set inclusion of one the band’s regular show closers. “Good Work”, from 1989’s “Home” with it’s Chuck Berry riff and breakneck pace was the first spot for the band to get sweaty and dirty, hear the drums crashing, and crank both the crowd and band energy levels.

Subtly, the sound mix was short of great. While the band would end up trumping what Lucinda Williams had done with her encore three days earlier at the same venue, her house sound mix was superior to the less distinct and at times boomy sound on Friday; simply not as crisp for the BoDeans, though never bad enough to hinder the performance. I moved around to numerous spots in the theatre, searching for a “best” spot. To the right of the soundboard proved to be as good as it got. Within 15 rows of the stage, the volume coupled with band and crowd energy was also a good position, making up for nuances not in the mix.

From LHSD, Sammy introduced “Still the Night” by asking how many had seen them before (big cheer), thanked the audience for being their “little family on the road” and promptly jumped into the song that never fails to get a BoDeans crowd excited. Smartly, they dropped in a lyrical and musical snippet from “Hey Pretty Girl”, from their 1996 “Blend” effort, and was a sweet little teaser for hardcore fans who picked up on it. By the end of the song, the band was again chugging hard, something they did throughout the night – extending the songs, not with noodling, but finding another rock and roll gear.

“She’s a Runaway”, also from the first album, was recast at half speed, as Sammy, who began the song slapping his palm on his acoustic guitar strings, told the audience after playing it that “sometimes Mary needs a new dress”.

Following the sweet harmony showcase of “Stay On”, it was again back to the first record for “Fadaway” and then the sugary melody of “First Time” from their new record – It’s a pretty pop song, memorable in it’s simplicity.

After the slow dance version of “Naked”, they played “Feed the Fire”. The rocker from “Go Slow Down” is usually overshadowed by the same album’s more familiar upbeat burner “Closer to Free”, but on this night provided a podium for the band to drop pieces of classic rock songs onto the end of it. “Gimme Shelter”, “In the Midnight Hour”, “Gloria”, “Light My Fire” and Sly Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher” found places on the back end. The aforementioned “Closer to Free” closed the set, giving the 600 or so at the Vogue a pairing to keep them wanting more.

Unlike Williams’ trio of encore songs that had fallen a bit flat, the BoDeans used their set coda to do what Sly Stone wanted.

“Misery”, one that sits in it’s groove and burns, kept the connection between band and crowd working, with a spot-on audience effort, shouting back on the call-and-response chorus.

“You Don’t Get Much”, from the excellent “Home” record started with Kurt’s best Edge/U2 channeling (the group had opened for U2 ‘s stadium tour before recording the album) and ended with Kurt and Sammy facing each other at center stage, then heading to stand on the front monitors. They did the same with “Good Things”, shredding the song as they finished, and again six inches from each other’s face before talking, smiling and finally simultaneously jumping up and down to the beat to bring the tune to a crashing finale.

Sam and Kurt and the rest of the band were having obvious fun, sweaty and grinning at the end. It’s what we have come to expect from the BoDeans. They delivered again.