Feast for the Ears Chicago Tribune
Web-posted Saturday, November 29, 1997; 6:03 a.m. CST



By Jay Hedblade, Special to the Tribune

Moxy Fruvous? On Thanksgiving night? Who's going out to hear no-name live music when slipping into a tryptophan-induced coma is not only easier, but almost inevitable?

Apparently a fair number of Chicagoans either finished off their meal with a lot of caffeine, or Moxy Fruvous is rousing enough to counteract the sleepy effects of basted bird. Schubas played host to the Toronto-based four-piece band Thanksgiving Eve (the first of two nights at the venue), and those who slouched to the show were rewarded with an intimate, humorous and inspired performance from this little-known, but fervently followed band of Canadians (who celebrate Thanksgiving in October).

While such live favorites as "King of Spain" and its rap reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" were sure-fire crowd pleasers, Moxy Fruvous really showed its mettle when highlighting tracks from its latest and most accomplished release, "You Will Go to the Moon." "Michigan Militia," with its first-person take on extremists, has an edgy quality onstage that drives home the frightening subject matter without preaching or losing its dark humor, while "Your New Boyfriend" was preceded by a parody of NPR-style call-in shows that had the crowd doubled over.

Though rock bands doing "skits" between songs is usually a tenuous proposition at best, Moxy Fruvous sidesteps the precious nature of such indulgence with a hyper-intellectual wit that is keenly tempered with down-to-earth self-awareness. A very pointed attack on U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf before the millennia madness paranoia of "Stuck in the '90s" could have all too easily lost a crowd won over by the lighthearted nature of the show's opening numbers. That the lengthy diatribe not only fell on attentive ears, but received rounds of applause, is a prime illustration of Moxy Fruvous' unique ability to communicate directly to the heart with equal doses of humor and passion.

With its overtly interactive brand of music and performance, Moxy Fruvous emotes a grass-roots, populist appeal that can touch even the stodgiest listener. Drop Woody Guthrie on a barstool next to Tom Waits, and you're getting close to the chemistry that came from the stage Thursday night. "Thank you for deviating from the American imperative," member Jean Ghomeshi said upon greeting the large crowd he had drawn on a night normally reserved for leftovers and football. Giving thanks, however, was hardly the band's job this evening; that pleasure was reserved for the audience.

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