MacIntosh Review: Freedy Johnston and Tom Freund Deliver ‘Perfect’ Show at Hotel Café

Freedy Johnston and Tom Freund delight at Hotel Café - Photos by Dan MacIntosh

Freedy Johnston and Tom Freund
Hotel Café
January 26, 2023

Review and Photos by DAN MACINTOSH

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Freedy Johnston and Tom Freund may seem like a strange double bill, as Johnston is a lovably quirky singer-songwriter, whereas Freund is a more straightforward, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter. However, whether performing together or solo, both artists filled the intimate Hotel Café with extremely enjoyable songs and singing.

Tom Freund at Hotel Café – Photos by Dan MacIntosh

Johnston came on first, accompanying himself only on an acoustic guitar. He opened with “We Will Shine,” and closed – of course – with “Bad Reputation.” In between, though, he sang some deep cuts from his now-long career, which dates to the late 1980s. One called “Tucumcari,” for instance, dates all the way back to his debut album, The Trouble Tree. He even threw in a wonderful new song called “The Lonely Drummer, which tells the funny and true story of how he was once fired for being the drummer in his first band, when he did not actually know how to play.

Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) joined Johnston to added vocal counterpoint often throughout the evening, including vocal harmonies to “Down in Love” from Can You Fly. Freund also joined Johnston (as Johnston returned the favor later in Freund’s set) to play standup bass on “The Lucky One.”

Freedy Johnston at Hotel Café – Photos by Dan MacIntosh

It’s no hyperbole to say Freund is a multi-instrumentalist. In addition to his bass and guitar work, the performer also played ukulele, piano and harmonica. The only instrument on stage he didn’t touch was the drum kit. One imagines he could have rocked the percussion, too, had he really wanted to.

While his songs were less awkward than Johnston’s, some – like “Wounded Surfer Boy” – create intriguing character studies. Freund accompanied himself on piano for the gospel-like “Brokedown Jubilee,” and sang to his standup bass playing during the jazzy “Digs.” He surrounded himself with a bunch of instruments and utilized nearly every one of them at one time or another.

Johnston joined Freund again to cover Pete Townshend’s hopeful “Let My Love Open The Door,” before having Johnston send the audience home with “This Perfect World.” This last song was appropriate because, in a truly perfect world, every concert would conclude on such a high note.