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Mike Golden & Friends Celebrated The Past, Present And Future At Tonic Room

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 13, 2015 8:00PM

Photo via the Mike Golden & Friends Facebook page
Archie Powell & the Exports. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Mike Golden & Friends. The ampersand is certainly having its day in the sun here in Chicago. In the past two years, Powell and Brooks permanently won their places in the local music scene's heart with the best releases of their careers. Now, Golden is poised to take 2015.

Last Friday's headlining set at Tonic Room was a celebration of past, present and future for the Chicago singer/songwriter. Barely a year out from Utopia, hands down Golden & Friends' best and most cohesive album to date, he's already looking forward to new material coming out this summer. Before getting too far ahead of himself though, Golden kicked off the show with a look back to the piercing, near a capella melody of "The Stage" (off 2010's Trees Pt. 2 EP).

Golden isn't a flashy frontman. With an average build and style, he was simply another face in the sold out crowd Friday night until he took the stage. It was at that point we discovered what the hype behind him was all about.

Armed with only an acoustic guitar and a tambourine at the start of his first set, Golden approached the mic and the previously chattering audience turned to face him at whiplash speed. His instant control of a crowd was especially notable.

Golden's songwriting was another aspect of his appeal that made itself immediately evident. Obviously, we'd heard his records before catching a live show but Golden's minimalist performances of the first few songs of the night highlighted their strong backbones. A pop-soul single like "Hey Jane," typically noted for its guest verse from Vic Mensa, still held up without the production and without any help on vocals.

Slowly, Mike Golden's Friends began to join him onstage and before long the show's energy level had hit its peak. The gradual ascension was symbolic when considering Golden's history at the Lincoln Park venue.

It was Tonic Room's Thursday night open mic that helped launched Golden's career five years ago. Some 150-plus shows later, Friday's setting was yet another bridge between past and present. As Golden's swirling cast of Friends and his catalog continues to grow, we won't be surprised to see him selling out venues twice that size soon.