Words: Robin Zimmerman | Photos & Video: Michael Lepek
Alligator recording artist Toronzo Cannon is on the fast track towards a Chicago blues ambassadorship.
His touring schedule for the last month has covered everything from Switzerland and Mont-Tremblant, Canada to blues festivals in Butte, Belgium and beyond.
But, Cannon’s busy schedule also means that his Windy City gigs are now fewer and farther between. That’s just one of the reasons why there was such a buzz going on over his recent turn at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.
For a $10 cover charge, people who packed into FitzGeralds were privy to one of Chicago’s best blues bargains.
The fans who came out on a Tuesday “school night” went back to their Wednesday workday raving about Cannon’s sizzling show.
It was the latest incarnation of WDCB radio’s “Bluesday Tuesday” with host Tom Marker. The longtime deejay was broadcasting the show live for the first time. The crowd was loud and it was Standing Room Only on the dance floor from the moment Cannon kicked things off.
While the left-handed guitarist pulled out all stops at FitzGerald’s, his right-hand men also get huge props for flexing their musical chops.
Cannon’s band mates -- Luca Chiellini on keyboards, David Forte on bass and Pookie Styx on drums -- enhanced the front man’s performance and turned in some stellar solos.
The band came out blazing with “Mrs. From Mississippi,” off Cannon’s highly-acclaimed CD, The Chicago Way.
Strong renditions of other tracks from The Chicago Way included “Midlife Crisis,” “Been Better to You,” and “When Will You Tell Him About Me”.
Cannon also dug into his Delmark catalog for “John the Conqueror Root,” which showcased his chops, while paying homage to Jimi Hendrix. While Cannon has been heavily influenced by the sixties-icon, he also grew up in the shadows of Theresa’s Lounge and called out about his commitment to keeping Chicago blues alive.
Much has been made about Cannon’s day job as a CTA bus driver. He referred to the struggles he sees on a regular basis before ripping into a strong version of “Pain Around Me.”
He also took a page from Buddy Guy’s playbook and went out on the floor for the crowd-pleasing “Fine Seasoned Woman.”
Another of the night’s highlights was a raucous sing-along for “Walk it Off,” which induced a loud “Cause that’s the Chicago Way” refrain from the FitzGerald’s faithful. When it came time for the second set, there was no let up.
Playing everything from “Money” to “Born Under a Bad Sign,” Cannon finished with a bang and left the audience hoping he returns to FitzGerald’s in the very near future.