“I just wanted to be honest about everything, from my musical influences to my story,” muses Neal Francis. After years of dishonest living such sincerity is jarring from the
30-year-old Chicago-based musician. Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in
sobriety, Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms and rock n' roll.
Loose lineups, tight arrangements, and an impeccable aptitude for simple, punchy pop hooks have defined Doc Robinson’s recent, robust catalog of “backyard BBQ breakup music.” In 2016, Nick D’Andrea and Jon Elliott emptied their backpack full of soulful influences and stitched the band together as a melding of their two favorite artists (Smokey Robinson + Dr. Dog), enlisting a rotation of Columbus’s finest R&B players as All-Star bedrock.
Now, after four records in two years, as well as a long stint supporting Ohio upstarts CAAMP, Doc shifts into a new era for the young, accomplished band after D’Andrea’s amicable exit to pursue his talents solo.
Now, Elliott slips into the Smokey role, guiding the band into a new era, where the loss of D’Andrea is softened by the treasure trove of feel-good hits left in the pair’s wake.
No doubt Doc will evolve and shift shapes—going with the flow is kind of this project in a nutshell—and as they find their new voice in 2021, they’re the ideal band to bring the backyard vibes back.
- Advance: $18.00*
- Day of Show: $20.00*
All attendees of the Neal Francis concert in The Ballroom at Taft Theatre on November 11 must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 OR have received a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours prior to entry to the event. The policy is being enacted in an effort to safeguard the health of concert-goers, touring artists and employees, and to prevent another shutdown of live music which devastated the business amidst the pandemic in 2020 thru May of 2021.
In attending the event you certify and attest that you and all individuals in your party attending the event will follow the below regulations:
• All fans will provide printed or digital proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of the event, OR will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (at least two weeks after final dose) at the time of the event and provide proof of vaccination – either the original vaccination card, a digital copy, or a printed copy of the vaccination card with an appropriate ID matching the name on your documentation.
• Unvaccinated fans under 12 years of age will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours of the event and will provide proof of negative result prior to entering the venue.
• Unvaccinated fans over 12 years will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours of the event and will provide proof of negative result prior to entering the venue.
• These terms will apply to all members of your party before they are allowed to enter the event and to any users of the tickets purchased by you.
Chicago-based musician Neal Francis will showcase his smooth vocals, soulful style and uplifting vibe in The Ballroom at Taft Theatre on Thursday, November 11. Doc Robinson will join the show as support.
About Neal Francis
On his new album In Plain Sight, Neal Francis offers up a body of work both strangely enchanted and painfully self-aware, unfolding in songs sparked from Greek myths and frenzied dreams and late-night drives in the depths of summer delirium. True to its charmed complexity, the singer/songwriter/pianist’s second full-length came to life over the course of a tumultuous year spent living in a possibly haunted church in Chicago. The result: a portrait of profound upheaval and weary resilience, presented in a kaleidoscopic sound that’s endlessly absorbing.
The follow-up to Francis’s 2019 debut Changes—a New Orleans-R&B-leaning effort that landed on best-of-the-year lists from the likes of KCRW, KEXP, and The Current, and saw him hailed as “the reincarnation of Allen Toussaint” by BBC Radio 6—In Plain Sight was written and recorded almost entirely at the church, a now-defunct congregation called St. Peter’s UCC. Despite not identifying as religious, Francis took a music-ministry job at the church in 2017 at the suggestion of a friend. After breaking up with his longtime girlfriend while on tour in fall 2019, he returned to his hometown and found himself with no place to stay, then headed to St. Peter’s and asked to move into the parsonage. “I thought I’d only stay a few months but it turned into over a year, and I knew I had to do something to take advantage of this miraculous gift of a situation,” he says.
Mixed by Grammy Award-winner Dave Fridmann (HAIM, Spoon, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala), In Plain Sight finds Francis again joining forces with Changes producer and analog obsessive Sergio Rios (a guitarist/engineer known for his work with CeeLo Green and Alicia Keys). Like its predecessor, the album spotlights Francis’s refined yet free-spirited performance on piano, an instrument he took up at the age of four. “From a very early age, I was playing late into the night in a very stream-of-consciousness kind of way,” he says, naming everything from ragtime to gospel soul to The Who among his formative influences. With a prodigy-like gift for piano, Francis sat in with a dozen different blues acts in Chicago clubs as a teenager, and helmed a widely beloved instrumental funk band called The Heard before going solo. Along with earning lavish acclaim (including a glowing review from Bob Lefsetz, who declared: “THIS IS THE FUTURE OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS!”), Changes led to such triumphs as performing live on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” sharing the stage with members of The Meters at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and touring with such acts as Lee Fields & The Expressions and Black Pumas.
Recorded entirely on tape with his bandmates Kellen Boersma (guitar), Mike Starr (bass), and Collin O’Brien (drums), In Plain Sight bears a lush and dreamlike quality, thanks in large part to Francis’s restless experimentation with a stash of analog synths lent by his friends in his early days at the church. “My sleep schedule flipped and I’d stay up all night working on songs in this very feverish way,” he says. “I just needed so badly to get completely lost in something.” In a move partly inspired by Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, In Plain Sight takes its title from a track Francis ended up scrapping from the album. “It’s a song about my breakup and the circumstances that led to me living in the church, where I’m owning up to all my problems within my relationships and my sobriety,” says Francis, whose first full-length chronicles his struggles with addiction. “It felt like the right title for this record, since so much of it is about coming to the understanding that I continue to suffer because of those problems. It’s about acknowledging that and putting it out in the open in order to mitigate the suffering and try to work on it, instead of trying to hide everything.”