Bellrays | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader



There must be 100,000 black chicks in America who dream of being Tina Turner but can't find a band, and 300,000 white dudes who dream of being the MC5 but can't find a singer who can testify. Why all 400,000 of them haven't managed to locate one another is beyond me--but at least four of them have, and while the BellRays' formula may seem glaringly obvious once you've heard them, that doesn't make it any less brilliant. Soul diva Lisa Kekaula and bassist Bob Vennum started out playing straight R & B and releasing full-length cassettes, but the addition of songwriter and blowtorch guitarist Tony Fate apparently transformed their sound, and after releasing their own first CD, Let It Blast, in 1998, the quartet (with drummer Ray Chin) hit the road and began to make a name for themselves nationally. That disc was recorded live in the band's practice space, and its follow-up, Grand Fury, is culled in part from their stage shows. All but one of its 13 songs were written by Fate, and while he specializes in semipsychedelic rave-ups ("Too Many Houses in Here") and thundering laments (the antiracist "Zero P.M."), he's capable of romantic introspection as well ("Have a Little Faith in Me"). Unfortunately he and Chin have both since quit the band; Vennum has moved to guitar, Jeff Porterfield has joined on bass, and Streetwalkin' Cheetahs drummer Mike Sessa has replaced Chin. Thursday, February 8, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


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