Review: Thee Sacred Souls Return to Thalia Hall with an Amazing Night of Soulful Songs

Thee Sacred Souls are no strangers to Chicago, especially Thalia Hall. Having played local venues quite a bit last year including the Thalia Hall Block Party, Thee Sacred Souls feel like they're right at home at the Pilsen mainstay. And with a sound that is as deeply soulful and danceable as there is, it's no surprise that their return garnered a pair of sold-out shows. Alongside Jalen N'Gonda, Thee Sacred Souls gifted a packed and ready to groove Thalia Hall an incredible night of soulful songs.

Before Jalen N'Gonda came on stage I wasn't entirely familiar with his sound but within moments there's no doubt that he was about to deliver a show-stealing performance. Standing alone on the Thalia Hall stage, N'Gonda seemed completely at ease as his incredible songs grabbed a hold on the crowd. His voice was immaculate giving every song a sense of importance in grace. It honestly felt like discovering a long lost gem of a soul singer and it truly felt special hearing him perform.

N'Gonda's setlist was a perfect combination of original songs and covers from Etta James, The Shirelles, Gene Chandler and more. At times it felt like a musical history lesson especially when N'Gonda pointed out Chicago was home to Vee-Jay Records, one of the first Black-owned record labels in the US.  But it was his voice that was the true star of the set captivating everyone with its undeniable quality. "Just Like You Used To" was a clear standout in his original songs, embodying that Daptone sound wonderfully. I can only imagine what N'Gonda's songs sound like with a full band backing him and I hope I get to hear it soon because his performance is still running around in my head.

Even with a bar that high set for the night, Thee Sacred Souls were able to meet and surpass it. This evening the core group of vocalist Josh Lane, bassist Sal Samano and drummer Alex Garcia were joined by a nice set of musicians and backup singers to help fill out their gorgeous sound. "Overflowing" kicked things off as usual, giving the crowd a beautiful taste of what was to come.

It would be easy to write off Thee Sacred Souls as just a throwback kind of band, but they really are so much more. Every track of their self-titled debut album, of which they played nearly every track, is such a poignant and pristine example of what modern soul can be. Thee Sacred Souls hearken to the past without imitating it and add enough present day swagger to make it feel timeless.

No stage can truly contain the energy of Thee Sacred Souls and Thalia Hall is no different. Throughout the night Lane would find himself at the edges of the stage, just a little bit past then onto equipment or in the photo pit, and eventually into the crowd itself. Thee Sacred Souls sounds ache for that human connection and Lane was more than happy to indulge as he belted out tracks while the overjoyed audience surrounded him.

And of course no Thee Sacred Souls set could come to a close without their biggest song. The first track of their album is typically the last song you'll hear at one of their shows and for good reason. "Can I Call You Rose," synonymous with the band, with members of the crowd constantly hoping for it to be the next song played. All that hope reaches a boiling point and once its spot in the encore comes it's cathartic. It's a developing song of adoration, one that gave Thalia Hall just one more reason to feel the love that night.

All photos by Julian Ramirez.

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Julian Ramirez