The Bacon Brothers
City Winery NYC – October 22, 2023
Photos & Review – Rebecca Wolf
On October 22nd The Bacon Brothers, both residents of NYC for more than 40 years, took to the stage at City Winery NYC to entertain an enthused hometown crowd for two performances. While they are now New Yorkers, it’s quite fitting that these brothers, who show one another an abundance of love and respect, and musically collaborate like a well-oiled machine, were born and raised in the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia. Society often highlights the bonds that sisters develop with one another but focuses less on the connections between brothers. However, these brothers surely learned lessons on the merits and joys of “brotherly love” that are evident in their interactions and the music they’ve created.
The Bacon Brothers extend a feeling of camaraderie towards their band members, as well as openness and warmth to the audience. It’s not surprising that Kevin, as an actor, is more outgoing and demonstrates more playful behaviors than Michael. What is surprising (for those who’ve never seen The Bacon Brothers) is that on this small stage, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, goofing around, casually chatting with the crowd, and acting like any small-town musician, is a Golden Globe and SAG Award winning actor. While beating the bongos, strumming the guitar, and singing lyrics, Kevin Bacon is purely a full-fledged, all-in, passionate musician, in a band he created with his older brother almost 30 years ago. Little did this big-time actor know how much of a role music would play in his life and how successful at he would be.
It’s impossible to put a specific label on the The Bacon Brothers’ music, as their sound is a mixture of country, folk, rock and soul. However, there is one descriptor you can use for their music and that’s uplifting. From the moment The Bacon Brothers emerged onstage and played the first notes of “Let Me Happen to You Girl,” from 2022’s Erato, an energetic, feel-good mood wafted through the winery and had audience members invigorated and enthusiastic. Watching Kevin play bongos, with finger tambourines on both hands, you couldn’t help but smile at his passion, as his arms leapt into the air and his voice soared with an abundance of joy. These high spirits remained with Kevin throughout the performance, as he danced around the stage, alternating between bongos and guitar, jammed with bandmates and clearly displayed his love and devotion for performing. While Michael Bacon, the more serious older brother, presented with a more subtle, reserved demeanor, his enthusiasm was noted in the expressions on his face, as well as in the expertise he displayed on the guitar, cello, ukulele and autoharp.
Expressing brotherly pride Kevin shared with the crowd, “Did you know, Michael is a college professor? I barely made it through high school! Does anyone know the name for the muse of lyrical poetry? Well, Michael did. It’s Erato. I showed Michael the song and he said, ‘It needs autoharp’ So, here is Erato…with autoharp.” As the band performed this energetic, foot-tapping number, Michael played autoharp while jamming with the band’s lead guitar player Tim Quick.
Quick’s expertise on guitar, mandolin, and ukulele were highlighted during the set, including his picking skills during “Picker,” from 2020’s The Way We Love. “Kevin wrote this song for me to sing,” shared Michael. “When I was young I was a picker. I loved to collect instruments. Kevin wrote this song about my childhood, though I’m not sure how he knew about my childhood when he was so young,” the chuckled as he audience laughed along. “When you have a song called “Picker” you need someone to do the picking. So, If you’re available to do the picking?” he queried Quick, who readily obliged, as the ban joined in to perform this down-home, folksy, upbeat tune. Michael also sang lead on the album’s beautiful title number, which displayed his warm, rich vocal tones, highlighted by delicate, smooth harmonies.
Throughout the performance Kevin took moments to interact with the crowd and share his wit. “We know NYC has many choices for entertainment and we can’t tell you how much it means that you came here tonight to hang out with us,” he expressed with obvious sincerity. “Up here on this stage we have about 190 years of marriage between all of us. We’ve all been married to the same person. Not all of us to one person, but each one to the same person…and age appropriate!” Kevin exclaimed with a cheeky grin that elicited audience applause. “That’s what this next song is about. It’s “Tom Petty T-Shirt,”” he announced to applause for this beloved number.
“Is there anyone in the crowd under 50?” Kevin queried. When several hands raised, Kevin’s response, “Well that’s surprising at a Bacon Brothers concert,” sent laughter rippling through the winery. “I’m asking because our next song refers to a letter and a photograph, on paper,” Kevin said with a smirk, as he continued, “I wanted to make sure everyone understood the lyrics to our song, “Dark Chocolate Eyes,”” again generating laughter from the crowd. Kevin’s vocals, were clearly on display during this soft, tender number, highlighting his textured voice, with a bit of colorful grit.
While performing with The Bacon Brothers, Kevin presents as solely a singer/musician in a band. However, he reminded everyone that he does have another profession as he shared a songwriting tale (in case anyone could possibly forget.) “I always try to get my songs into my movies. So, a long time ago we wrote this song “Beneath Perfection” for a movie I was doing titled “Beneath Perfection.” I thought they’d slip it right in. But, that didn’t happen. It’s never happened! They changed the movie’s name to “Tremors,”” chuckles murmured in the crowd. “But, we still have this song,” he exclaimed to audience applause.
Additional songs in the set included numbers from across The Bacon Brothers’ catalog, including “36 Cents,” the title song from the band’s 2014 album, allowing Kevin to showcase his harmonica skills and “Perfect Pitch,” with both Bacons and Quick performing in a ukulele trio. “My sister taught me to play ukulele when no one else played it,” said Michael. “Then 10-15 years ago it became the rage. So, I took a song I wrote a long time ago, “Ukulele Baby,” and I put “Perfect Pitch” on top of it and here it is.” This ukulele trio further highlighted the musical versatility of these musicians and their ability to collaborate on a range of instruments.
The three additional band members included Frank Vilardi on drums/percussions, with The Bacon Brothers since 1995, Jeremy Beck, filling in on keyboards, and Mitch Beer, filling in on bass. Upon introducing the band, Kevin noted that Beer had only performed with the band for a few shows, thanking and commending him for his performance. Beer performed with such skill and enthusiastic spirit that without Kevin’s acknowledgment there would’ve been no indication Beer was a newcomer, a testament to his musical skills.
The fun-filled evening of captivating music wound down with the spirited “She-Zee-Zee (Easy on My Eyes),” a number that highlights The Bacon Brothers’ impressive harmonizing abilities. Regardless of which Bacon brother sings lead vocals, their harmonies consistently add depth and fullness to their already compelling sound. To the delight of all present, the finale of the evening was not in fact a song by The Bacon Brothers but a song that Kevin Bacon will have an inextricable link to for the rest of his days…. “Footloose.” As the band members performed with electrifying energy, Kevin kicking his legs in the air, while audience members were on their feet singing, dancing, feeling footloose and fancy-free. The Bacon Brothers never disappoint. Their music, connection with the crowd and brotherly love make for a fun-filled, uplifting evening of music.