I was seven years old when the Del Fuegos were at their peak, so it’s safe to say I have nothing previous upon which to base their Wednesday night show at the Historic Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee. What I did see is a band that looks like they never stopped playing together — if there was any rust, it was shaken off in the shows prior to Milwaukee.
The Del Fuegos haven’t done a formal tour in more than 20 years, but you never would have guessed it by listening — they were in sync from start to finish. The rhythm section of Tom Lloyd and Woody Giessmann is about about tight as it gets. Lloyd broke one of his bass strings within the first five song, but that gaffe only allowed the crowd to be treated to an impromptu version of the often-covered “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.”
If there is still tension between brothers Warren and Dan Zanes, you’d be hard pressed to see it. They had friendly banter throughout the show, including a discussion about who has the more “family” ready record: Dan’s Grammy-winning efforts, or Warren’s most recent record, I Want to Move Out in the Daylight, which was inspired by his recent divorce.
Whether the song was an oldie like “Hand in Hand” or “Shame” or a newer track like “Friday Night” (off their new EP, Silver Star), the grooves were infectious. Despite frontman Dan Zanes’ attempt to get the crowd dancing, very few obliged. Most were content to sit back and applaud at the appropriate times. It’s frustrating to see a band give so much energy and effort, but only get a milquetoast response from the audience. The Del Fuegos deserved better. Dan Zanes has said “It always felt to us that the gig never happened if people didn’t dance.” I wonder if the 10 people dancing last night made the show happen.
It’s a shame there wasn’t more of Milwaukee to see it. I should spend this review talking about how fantastic the Del Fuegos set was, but the crowd deserves a talking to. Milwaukee had an opportunity to see a spectacular set by the influential ’80s rockers, yet the crowd was maybe 100-125 people. Even when they busted out their biggest hit, “Don’t Run Wild,” most in the crowd didn’t budge from their seats.
Although they all have day jobs they love, for purely selfish reasons, I hope this isn’t the last time the Del Fuegos take to the stage.
Here are the notes I took during the concert: