The Black Lillies may be on their Stranger To Me tour, but they’re no strangers to the Mercury Lounge in Tulsa, where they could be found last Friday night. Having released their new album, Stranger To Me, in late September, their first new album in 3 years, the band has been touring nonstop the last six weeks. Besides a new sound, which means no more female harmonies and no more pedal steel, there are few changes. Sam Quinn on bass, still plays barefoot, Dustin Schaefer still oozes California surfer dude cool with his longer locks and expert electric guitar work and Bowman Townsend is still on drums, although his hair has gotten longer over the years. Two of the only noticeable, but small changes would be the fact frontman Cruz Contreras has abandoned his custom Havstad hat to sport his mop of salt and pepper tinged curls and that he reaches more often for the electric guitar than he does for the acoustic. The band has embraced the major changes over the last couple of years and made them their own, reinventing themselves, tightening up their sound and giving crowds a reason to come see them yet again.
Friday night’s show was dynamic from the opening chords of “No Other Way” to the last note of the final encore song, “Comfortably Numb”. Playing for almost two hours, to include a three song encore, the rest of the set was filled with a mix of songs from all five of The Black Lillies albums. The majority, of course, coming from the most recent album, Stranger to Me, but two of my favorites, “Two Hearts Down” and “Tall Trees” off the 100 Miles of Wreckage album made the setlist, as well as a reworked “Hard to Please” from the album of the same name. “Ramblin Boy” and “Ruby” from Runaway Freeway Blues also made an appearance.
Most of the songs off of Stranger to Me came from the band’s “Sprinter Sessions” a weekly series they did on Facebook Live, in order to write and test out new material from the road. This album is also the first time that the majority of material wasn’t written solely by Cruz Contreras. I’m still getting acquainted with the new album, as most of the other albums I already know by heart, but the standouts on the album, as well as live are “Earthquake,” a love song, which blends the guys voices wonderfully in the chorus and “Midnight Stranger,” which oddly wasn’t part of the “Sprinter Sessions”, but fits wonderfully into the complete album. With its catchy lyrics, you’ll find yourself singing “Midnight Stranger” even when you aren’t listening to it.
Finishing the set with the aforementioned three song encore was a chill inducing cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart”, with Sam Quinn on lead vocals. I’ve heard the band cover this quite a few times, but their version of this song never gets old and inevitably it always gets the entire place singing along with them. “Whiskey Angel” the title track from The Black Lillies first album was the second song in the encore and “Comfortably Numb” another stellar cover with Dustin Schaefer on lead vocals shut the place down. If you haven’t had the chance to hear The Black Lillies live, please do so. You won’t regret it. I’ve seen them live no less than eight times and every performance is just as good as the first time I saw them.
You can find the tour schedule for the band here: http://theblacklillies.com/tour/