It’s well known that serving up the funk and soul is not an easy business. It takes a dedicated, energetic, and visionary artist to be the spark and to consistently move people to music.
But Neal Francis must be built for it. One of the most exhilarating forces on tour and recording albums these days, Francis’ sound and style are from another time but intentionally tuned for today’s listener, who in many cases needs to be coaxed to let loose at a live show.
Last week at The Atlantis in Washington DC, attendees were more than willing to let Francis and his red-hot band lure them into the groove, and the Chicago-based quartet blew the roof off the new two-floor venue with a scorching set that pulled from the songs he’s been crafting since going solo back in 2019.
Listen to Neal Francis’ recently released live album, Francis Comes Alive, via Spotify:
Few might have noticed him standing in a dark corner with a toque pulled down low, but Neal was mingling with fans before he walked out on stage and was joined by guitarist Kellen Boersma, bassist Mike Starr, and drummer Collin O’Brien at The Atlantis on Dec. 7.
Using vintage gear and with an uncommon swagger that is both captivating and quite contagious, Neal and his crew dazzled, and the alluring band leader shared early on that he was fired up to be “back in DC on official business.”
Francis — again, not to be confused with Neil Frances — has plenty to be thrilled about heading toward the New Year: He recently released his first official live release, Francis Comes Alive; he just hosted a series of big band shows with The Texas Gentlemen to support the forthcoming vinyl, and he’s got one more major date scheduled, a New Year’s Eve bash in Denver.
Watch Neal Francis perform his track “Can’t Stop the Rain” Live at Thalia Hall via his official YouTube channel:
While fans last week in DC didn’t get the full band treatment, they certainly enjoyed Neal and his gang in an intimate setting as the lively songwriter showed why he’s generating so much acclaim and garnering so much respect from fans and fellow artists far and wide.
Don’t Call Me
Very Fine, Pts. 1 and 2 (I think)
Can’t Stop The Rain
Gimme Gimme (The Heard cover)
Don’t Want You To Know
Say Your Prayers
She’s a Winner
When You’re Gone
How Have I Lived
Here are home-developed, home-scanned 35mm motion picture film images of Neal Francis along with the night’s opening act, The Psychodelics, performing at The Atlantis in Washington DC the night of Dec. 7, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Ryan Vock.