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James Durbin Rocks Chicago

His Own American Idol

by Kristen Mitchell – February 3, 2012

Rocker James Durbin definitely learned a thing or two from his time on American Idol—and he showed it this past weekend at Austin’s Fuel Room in Libertyville.

Opening band New Medicine set the stage for Durbin, rocking the audience with hard-hitting electric guitar riffs and Beastie Boys-reminiscent rap, particularly in “Race You to the Bottom,” where lead singer Jake Sherer encouraged the audience to, “Look at the person next to you and CHUG!”

The packed house at Austin’s was fully charged when Durbin finally took the stage with “Stand Up,” the popular anthem from his recent album Memories of a Beautiful Disaster. Durbin’s fan base was varied but obviously dedicated: yelling lyrics as Durbin turned the microphone to the audience. He followed “Stand Up” with the powerful “Higher than Heaven,” a song about the time before he met his wife Heidi, proving his vocal worth with the highest pitched note I’ve heard a rock singer hit since Steven Tyler.

Lead guitarist Dylan Rosenberg (Archer) took control of each song with his Les Paul Gibson solos, and shirtless drummer Jeff Fabb (In This Moment) showed his skill, tossing his drumsticks in the air mid-beat. Other highlights included “Love Me Bad,” which started with a simple guitar melody and honest lyrics, and eventually broke wide open into an extremely punchy chorus—a soon-to-be cross genre hit for sure. Other highlights included “Love in Ruins” and the much tougher “Outcast,” a tune led by Mick Mars guitar riffs.

While concerts full of leather and studded belts usually aren’t my style, Durbin’s energy and passion for rock was infectious. “There’s nothing like playing a bar,” he yelled through a megaphone scribbled with permanent marker. “This is where rock ‘n roll is. Hell yea!”

Durbin’s performance left me convinced. He has a raw talent that packs a lot of punch and a presence on stage that’s going to take him from American Idol contestant to selling out shows across the country in no time.