“I would not have come to see us in eight-degree weather,” Low Cut Connie singer, pianist, and bandleader Adam Weiner said as he took a seat behind the ivories at The Back Room @ Colectivo at the start of band’s headlining set Sunday night.
Between the frigid temperatures, the impending work week, and the disappointment/hangovers much of the city was nursing after yet another premature Packers postseason exit, many people probably shared Weiner’s sentiment and opted to stay home. However, a respectable audience of “Tough Cookies” bundled up, masked up, and made their way to the East Side venue, and were handsomely rewarded for doing so with an all-around excellent show from a potent one-two punch that heated up the Back Room on an otherwise frigid night.
Before Weiner and his Connie cohorts took the stage, opener Robert Finley started the show off in grand fashion. At the age of 67, the veteran musician is finally earning some long-overdue attention on account of Sharecropper’s Son, his 2021 record that beautifully chronicles his childhood in the fields of rural Louisiana, the semi-recent loss of his eyesight, his unflappable faith, and various other aspects of his incredible life.
While he only played a couple choice cuts from that album (the record’s title track and a cover of “All My Hope” that featured his daughter on backing vocals), he treated the early attendees to a distillation of “45 years into 40 minutes,” that included a stripped-down, soulful cover of “I Want To Make It With You” and two Delta Blues-tinged songs about being cheated on that prompted some laughs from other otherwise captivated crowd. In between songs, Finley—who says he’s gone “from the cotton field to Beverly Hills”—further endeared himself to the already-won-over audience with some harmless dirty jokes, tales of small town life, and inspiring messages to never quit chasing dreams.
After Finley’s departure, Weiner and six accompanying band members crowded onto the cafe-turned-concert hall’s stage risers and kicked off an 85-minute set that wouldn’t have seemed at all out of place in a stadium or arena. Though the Philadelphia-based project has been around for more than a decade and has released six albums while building a passionate fan base, Low Cut Connie’s notoriety has grown considerably since March of 2020 on account of its founding member’s weekly “Tough Cookies” livestream concerts he shot in his home. Even if the project has reached millions of listeners virtually since the start of the pandemic, Weiner’s gratitude to be back in front of a real-life audience was evident throughout the show.
“I never thought we’d get to do this again,” Weiner said at one point, offering a rare moment of seriousness in an otherwise energetic traversing of Low Cut Connie’s voluminous catalog. The headliners made the most of the opportunity to be back on stage, doling out five-part harmonies on timeless crowd-pleasers like “Boozophilia” and “Hey! Little Child,” among others. During “Angela,” Weiner played a good portion of the song while standing atop the piano bench on one foot. He’d frequently abandon that bench throughout the set to dart around the stage and interact with audience members between his true-to-album piano playing.
Though hearing favorites like “Charyse” and “Dirty Water” and a number of other expected set staples with a full-fledged backing band would have been well worth the price of admission on its own, Low Cut Connie peppered a few surprises into the evening as well. First, they reluctantly decided to play “The Fucking You Get For The Fucking You Got,” a request a Milwaukee fan had made a long time ago. Later, the band left the stage for a spell and Weiner honored the recently departed Ronnie Spector with a touching solo piano rendition of “Be My Baby” (complete with audience assistance on the chorus). Finally, Finley was brought to the stage once more, where he’d sing his standout single “Souled Out On You” as Low Cut Connie provided backing instrumentation. It was a highlight of a night full of high points and even higher spirits.
After turning up the house lights instead of bothering with encore posturing, Low Cut Connie ended the evening with an especially lively rendition of “Private Lives” that got all in attendance moving more than any other point of the night. Yes, the pandemic is far from over and, no, things are nowhere near “back to normal.” Still, finally getting to see two acts who’ve seen their popularity explode on account of the output and the outlook they’ve managed since March 2020 was reason enough for some Tough Cookies at The Back Room to feel glad they’d ventured out into the cold against all odds last night.