We first became aware of Eliza Neals JCAST in Jersey City in 2016, after a recommendation from her neighbor and friend Janet LaValley. Our first time seeing her at a full-fledged concert was at Chan's in Rhode Island last year. We were delighted when she played practically in our back yard at 9 Wallis in Beverly earlier this year.
When we heard she was coming back to 9 Wallis in December, we knew we had to be there.
Eliza is a powerhouse vocalist who also plays piano / keys. Trained as an opera singer, she was mentored in the art of the Motown style by legendary singer/songwriter Barrett Strong. She is one of the hardest working indie blues acts out there, and has a great relationship with fans. She sent us a message asking if we'd be coming to this show, and we were happy to tell her that we already had tickets.
We arrived at the show and got settled at our table. As Eliza's husband Jay came out to the stage to set up gear, he spotted us and called out to us. "Craig, Stephanie! Great to see you guys!" He gave me a hug and complimented my Davy Knowles T-shirt (we had seen Davy perform here at 9 Wallis in October). We really enjoy grass roots artists who appreciate their supporters. This reminded us of when we used to see Kristin Hersh back in the day; her husband/manager Billy O'Connell was equally gracious.
This show was a CD release party for her new EP "Sweet Or Mean". There was no opening act. Eliza took the stage in a silver sequined mini-dress and a faux-fur shrug. She looked amazingly fierce, though she quickly ditched the shrug due to the heat.
This show featured special guest Rusty Scott (Roomful of Blues) on an honest-to-God B3 with lesley speakers and everything, which added additional texture and nuance to the already tight band.
She and the band just returned from a successful tour in Spain, and the band was absolutely on fire! Definitely the longest show we've seen from them, too. The set was a great mix of originals and covers, including the entire Sweet or Mean EP. It was the first time we had seen some of these songs performed live.
Songs like Living with Yo Mama, Pawn Shop Blues, and Take Your Pants Off are cheeky, fun crowd-pleasers. Eliza shows off her impressive vocal range on songs like Ball and Chain, Another Lifetime, and Can't Find My Way Home.
Cold, Cold Night seemed particularly poignant, and Eliza introduced it by saying that it was inspired by the true story of a mother whose son got mixed up with the wrong crowd and was imprisoned for a murder that he didn't commit. It is a hauntingly beautiful song.
After the 2 hour plus show, we ran into Demarcus Edward Sumter (drums), who shook our hands and thanked us for coming. As Rusty Scott walked by, we told him that we thought that the B3 was a great addition to the sound and that the band was really tight. He thanked us and said it was the first time that he had played with them.
We chatted with Jay and Eliza at the merchandise table. We already have Sweet or Mean, but I bought a copy for our friend Francis for Christmas, and Eliza signed it for us. She thanked us for coming and said that she considers us to be family. We asked about their recent Spanish tour, and she said that it was amazing. She praised Jay for driving through the snow-covered mountains to get from one gig to the next.
Eliza and Jay are incredibly #sweet, but she and the band put down some #mean blues! Catch Eliza Neals the next time she's in town.
This iteration of the Narcotics includes:
Drums: Demarcus Edward Sumter
Bass: John Abraham
Guitar: Frankie Maneiro
B3: Rusty Scott (Roomful of Blues)
- Knock, Knock, Knockin'
- Ball and Chain
- Pawn Shop Blues
- Blackish Gray
- Livin' with Yo Mama
- Bitten By the Blues
- Another Lifetime
- You Ain't My Dog No More
- Jekyll and a Hound
- 10,000 Feet Below
- Cold, Cold Night
- Can't Find My Way Home
- Miss You
- Take Your Pants Off
- Red House
- Voodoo Woman
- Hey Joe