Monday, February 17, 2014

Concert Review: Duke Street Kings at Mayne Stage (February 14, 2014)


On Friday night, I had the opportunity to see The Duke Street Kings featuring Michael McDermott perform at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. If you live in the Chicago area and haven’t been to Mayne Stage for a show, you should make a visit to the stage your 2014 resolution. Located a few steps from the Morse stop on the red line, Mayne Stage is a cozy theater with good seating, an old-fashioned atmosphere and a quaint bar/restaurant attached. The venue offers some interesting alternative programming, I’ve twice been there to see live recording of my favorite podcast, Filmspotting.

The Duke Street Kings took the stage on February 14 for what was billed as their third annual all-Springsteen show. The lead singer Michael McDermott is an original performer in his own right who has released several albums since the early 90s and is currently a member of The Westies. He acknowledged during the show that for many years he resisted the comparisons to Springsteen, until he finally came to embrace them. This was included in one of several bouts of storytelling interstitials that furthered the comparison to Springsteen. In the same breath, he also noted he’d been plagued by comparisons to David Hasselhoff, but I think he looks more like Colin Farrell.

The show definitely attracted a certain demographic – it’s safe to say the median age was older than at a Springsteen concert. The setlist leaned heavily on Springsteen’s early catalogue and Darkness on the Edge of Town in particular – which the band played with raw intensity and impressive instrumental accomplishment. I believe the 1987-era “Tunnel of Love” and “One Step Up” were the most recent tracks they played. It would have been nice to see them try their hand at some of the songs from The Rising or Magic or even High Hopes for novelty’s sake. But they stick to what works and the crowd was lapping it up, cheering in unison to “She’s the One”, clapping along to “Badlands” and crooning to “Growing Up”. I was particularly delighted that they concluded their encore with a rocking rendition of “I’m Going Down” that really brought down the house. Long a favorite song of mine, this was one of the best covers of “I’m Going Down” I’ve ever heard.

McDermott admitted he didn’t have the stamina of The Boss (but then who does) and the band took a brief break in the middle of the show. At this point the venue played a string of Springsteen music videos on the big screen, which was an event in itself. Seeing “Glory Days” on such a big screen was beguiling and I’d happily pay admission to see a Springsteen music video anthology screened in a venue like this. Can someone please organize this?

While The Duke Street Kings don’t play very frequently, if you do have the opportunity to see them you’ll appreciate their technical accomplishment, enthusiasm and reverence to the material. They join The B Street Band as one of the better Springsteen cover bands out there.