By: Kevin Marós

During the early minutes of Cary Brothers’ opening set this past Tuesday night at Belly Up Tavern, he promised everyone a puppy for each CD of his sold. Said puppy would be provided by his longtime friend and old college buddy, Joshua Radin. This idea really carried well throughout this Singer/Songwriter Showcase of three Northwestern University alums getting to hang out together again.

Up next was Rachael Yamagata, who may have been several years behind the boys at Wildcat U, but is possibly the most accomplished of the trio; having collaborated with some heavy hitters in the singer/songwriter world (Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst, Ray Lamontagne, & more, including our own, Jason Mraz). She referred to her intimate solo set as a Storytellers session, which is exactly how this night played out. Yamagata’s between song banter is humorous & charming and was delivered with the perfect splash of crazy. Sadly, the crowd noise carried over many of her (and Cary’s) emotional songs.

Josh Radin and bandmates started their set with three from 2008’s Simple Times (Mom+Pop), with Radin calmly hushing this increasingly chatty crowd. And like the 2 artists before him, he provided the audience with background stories and descriptions involved in putting his songs together. Radin’s latest album, Onward and Sideways , was written specifically for ONE woman. He was caught in the friend-zone with her for 6 years and when he recently found out she was single again, he put to music everything he always wanted to tell her, creating this heartfelt and emotional album.

Hearing these songs played out live (and watching his now-girlfriend listen only steps away) is like watching a movie performed in front of you. These songs are soft like kittens and could easily bring a hardened man’s heart to swell. When he comes back to town, bring your girlfriend (or girl… friend) and be ready to embrace your emotions and walk away with a smile on your face. Leaving this show, all you really want is to do is curl up by a fire with that sweetheart you finally had the guts to ask out and that new puppy of yours.

(Sorry to say, no puppies were actually delivered).