“Who are these from?” Ike Reilly asks the waitress as she slides a tray of shot glasses onto the front of the stage at Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium Friday night, where Ike is a few songs into a late-starting set with his band, The Ike Reilly Assassination. The waitress motions towards the back of the room and Ike squints into the lights.
“Some rich motherf---er?” He says it in a tone that gets a laugh but still sounds a little like an accusation and then bends down to claim his shiny glass from the collection on the tray.
That is essential Ike Reilly. You never really know what he is thinking – even when he says exactly what is on his mind. And you never quite have him figured out. For example, right when you start to think that “Valentine’s Day in Juarez” really is just a “drug song/ buddy anthem” – as Ike describes it from stage a few minutes later – Ike turns the repeated lyric “Yesterday I smoked/ today I don’t” into “Yesterday I dreamed/ today I hope.”
There may just be something deeper to this guy…
But even without a deeper level – on the surface Ike still has plenty to offer. The small-framed Chicago rocker – whose weathered face and rough-around-the-edges demeanor calls to mind a Hollywood mobster – made his voice sound as desperate and disillusioned as his songs deserve as he and the band spent the first half of Friday’s set pounding through most of Ike’s latest release, Hard Luck Stories.
The four guys that complete Ike’s Assassination play henchmen to Ike’s rock ‘n roll crime boss persona. They are young and talented – and can’t quite keep from smiling behind their leader as they hit the solos and the chord changes. Accentuating his control, Ike occasionally hops off the front of the stage and turns to face the band as they hit an instrumental crescendo – waving his arms like a crazed conductor.
The crowd at Jim Porter’s was small and scattered throughout the bar’s main room, mostly ignoring the dance floor space in front of the stage in favor of the darkened corners. But the band did their best to see this as a challenge. The energy coming from the five sweaty guys banging around on stage was enough to finally convince quite a few to head up front when the band started into one of their better-known numbers - “When Irish Eyes are Burning.” And the band’s blazing closer – “Whatever Happened to the Girl in Me” - got people riled up enough to clap through the emcee announcement of what else was planned for the evening and finally solicit an encore.
Ike and company lumbered back on stage after a few minutes and for the first time all night, Ike didn’t seem to have a quip or comment.
“We really weren’t planning on another song,” he says bashfully. “Any requests?”
Photo: Brian Eichenberger