The year 2017 has been a pretty spectacular for new music, with St. Vincent dropping her polished pop masterpiece, “Masseduction,” and Tori Amos delicately dissecting the relationship between man and mother earth on “Native Invader,” but there was still a noticeable void in terms of straightahead rock and roll. Enter Bully’s latest release, “Losing,” full of fuzzy guitars, down-and-dirty baselines and twisted howls that could only have been inspired by good old-fashioned heartbreak.

On Nov. 7, Bully graced the stage at Thalia Hall armed with a setlist dominated by “Losing” songs and peppered with the perfect amount of “Feels Like” tracks. Prior to the Nashville rockers taking the stage, New York-based punks Big Ups set the scene with a menacing good time. Dripping with dry sarcasm, vocalist Joe Galarraga introduced the new track “Contain Myself” saying, “This is kind of like a dance song.” In fact, the noise, rage and recurrent beats of the track triggered head-banging and body-moving from all in attendance.

Big Ups

“F*ck yeah, Chicago! This is why you are our favorite city to play,” Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno said after leading a screeching version of “Focused” early in the night. The band has strong ties to Chicago as “Losing” was recorded at the legendary Electrical Audio Studios, where Bognanno once worked as an intern.

Patient distortion paired with Reece Lazarus’ driving bassline on “Spiral” rose to a sonic peak amplified by the ideal acoustics of Thalia Hall. “This is easily the most beautiful venue we’ve ever stepped foot in,” Bognanno shared later in the set. Guitarist Clayton Parker’s well-crafted lead wove in and out of the pockets of “Trying” with its bouncy pop melody guided by Bognanno’s pitch-perfect wails. A sparse and commanding solo from Bognanno highlighted “You Could Be Wrong” while Wes Mitchell’s new wave rhythms echoed the message of “Feel the Same.”

Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno

The instantly recognizable intro of “Trash” generated cheers from the crowd, who drove any lasting lovelorn emotions away with cathartic dancing as Bognanno described miserable feelings of rejection. Bully lingered in “Feels Like” territory for a bit with a ferocious and raw rendition of their breakout hit, “Milkman,” timeless in its existential examination.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and judging by Chicago fans’ enthusiastic response to Bully’s latest release, “Losing” will go down as the catalyst for a great live music experience. The album is available via Sub Pop, and Bully is touring across North America throughout March of 2018.

Head over to www.bullythemusic.com to stay up to date on the band’s latest news.

Laurie Fanelli

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...