Jonathon Brandmeier conquers the World

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 3, 1991

Jonathon Brandmeier’s concert Saturday evening at Tinley Park’s World Music Theatre started off with a bang as the popular WLUP radio personality crashed through a video screen, wearing a Superman-style costume.

Quickly stripped of that outfit to reveal a slightly less flamboyant combination of a colorful flowered shirt, casual black pants and jacket, Brandmeier and his band, the Leisure Suits, launched the World’s summer season with a two-hour show that included satirical music, glib comedy, a little mooning and a marriage proposal.

Many of the musical numbers were repeats from previous shows, and so the concert evoked feelings of deja vu.  But while many of the songs remained the same, the presentation was different and, at times, spectacular. Backed by a tight, 13-piece band, including four horn players and two backup vocalists, Brandmeier started the concert off with the self-explanatory “We’re All Crazy in Chicago.”  Running around with abandon on the huge stage, the disc jockey exhibited an energy level that didn’t wane throughout the evening.

During the chorus of “Talking Headlines,” he grabbed a young woman from the audience, hoisted her on his shoulders and quickly spun her around, helicopter style. Then Brandmeier invited her boyfriend onstage and encouraged him to moon the audience, which he did. Brandmeier followed suit but was uncharacteristically demure, hiding his own posterior underneath a long shirt.

About a third through the show, Brandmeier read a letter from a fan whose romance with his girlfriend began at Brandmeier’s 1988 Poplar Creek concert. Mark Ludviksen came onstage and proposed to Dana Lee Ross, who had come to the concert with her girlfriends, unaware that Ludviksen would be there.  As the crowd roared its approval, the two slow danced while Johnny B. crooned the ironic “Don’t Want To Marry You.”

Later, a medley of dance hits provided some of the evening’s most fist-raising moments.  As the band segued from “Land of a Thousand Dances” to “Walk This Way,” the chunky young dancing star of WLUP’s TV commercials made a good-natured guest appearance.  Then Brandmeier and a posse of “M.C. Dwarves” imitated M.C. Hammer to a snippet of “U Can’t Touch This” and left the real gyrations to the six go-go dancers perched atop two risers.

Unlike previous shows that relied predominantly on camp, this one had just enough artistic merit to be surprising.

During “Breakin’ Up,” six drummers dressed in black unitards took the stage and played some serious military style beats that offset the song’s pop melodies.  But the art ended there, which was just as well. This was, after all, a Johnny B. show.

June 3, 1991

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