One Night of the Eli Young Band Isn’t Enough

If one night of the Eli Young Band is good, two would be better, right? And three would be ideal. Maybe four would be the best. Or possibly five. I can’t tell you what the cutoff would be. But for the Texas band’s hardcore fan base, I know one thing’s for sure. One night isn’t enough.

I saw the Eli Young Band play Monday (Nov. 18) on the last night of a sold-out three-night run at Joe’s Bar in Chicago. That alone is pretty remarkable. But I asked around, and so many of the fans I met had actually gone to the show the night before — and the one the night before that. So it’s not just a numbers game, like that’s how many tickets they’d sell whether they did one night in an arena or 10 nights in a coffeehouse. I think it’s something deeper than that.

One man told me he’d come every night because he couldn’t stay home knowing the Eli Young Band were right there in his city. And a woman told me if the group could perform three nights in a row, she could at least come and watch them three nights in a row.

And every few songs in their nearly two-hour set, the band’s quietly humble frontman Mike Eli had something nice to say to the fans — comments such as, “We appreciate you being here tonight” and “I hope tomorrow you can say, ’I got a little drunk last night.'”

They played all their hits, like “Even if It Breaks Your Heart,” “Crazy Girl,” “Always the Love Songs” and “Drunk Last Night,” plus some covers by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (“Learning to Fly”) and a little Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Gimme Three Steps”). They vary the show just enough to keep it interesting for the three-night fans, but never let it stray too far from the kind of music that attracted the crowd in the first place.

While Chicago was eager to show the Eli Young Band their love all three nights, it sounds like the band loved the city right back. When I caught up with Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson before their show, they told me what they’d been doing in Chicago when they weren’t onstage. They went to the Field Museum, a Chicago Blackhawks game, the Skydeck at Willis Tower and had some Chicago-style deep dish pizza. And despite Jon Stewart’s strong feelings on the matter , they told me they loved it.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.