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Hugh Laurie brings housecall to the Vic

Hugh Laurie | PHOTO BY MARY MCCARTNEY

Hugh Laurie | PHOTO BY MARY MCCARTNEY

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Updated: October 11, 2013 2:26PM



Hugh Laurie is best known to American audiences as television’s cantankerous, Vicodin-addicted Gregory House. The curmudgeonly physician played guitars and Hammond organ on various “House” episodes, hinting at Laurie’s lifelong musicaltalents. With a tour supporting a new album called “Didn’t It Rain,” the doctor is traveling the country making house calls ­— if next Wednesday’s date at Chicago’s Vic Theatre could be considered as such.

Laurie is a quintuple threat in the entertainment industry. As comedian, actor, writer, director and musician, you’d think he was challenging David Bowie’s status as pop culture’s favorite chameleon. If nothing else, fans of British humor can be certain that Laurie is funnier. His foppish recurring role in the BBC’s time-hopping period comedy “Blackadder” and his ’90s-era comic partnership with Stephen Fry should suffice for proof. BBC’s “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” often featured musical comedy, with Laurie singing and playing various instruments.

With his versatile, eight-piece Copper Bottom Band, Laurie celebrates styles ranging from New Orleans R&B and gypsy jazz (“The St. Louis Blues”) to Gospel (“Didn’t It Rain”) and fiery tango (“Kiss of Fire”). Vincent Henry’s clarinet threads Dixieland into the mix, too.

Lest anyone consider this to be another actor’s vanity project, Laurie cuts loose on piano alongside guest Taj Mahal during the rollicking “Vicksburg Blues.” “Wild Honey” gives soulful tribute to Dr. John’s barrelhouse piano and thick Louisiana drawl. As an Englishman, Laurie not only possesses impressive chops, but impeccable taste in American roots music.

Grouchy old House himself could probably adopt concert staples like “St. James Infirmary” and Champion Jack Dupree’s tale of fiendish addiction in “Junker’s Blues.” He might also identify with the misanthropic namesake shuffling through the bluesy “Stagger Lee.” Nonetheless, wide smiles like those first sparked by Laurie’s comic gifts are expected at the Vic.

♦Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16, Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, $47.50 (18+over). (773) 472-0449; jamusa.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/157QD4X

Jeff Elbel is a Sun-Times free-lance writer. Email: elbel.jeff@gmail.com



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