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Reilly’s rock screams Youngstown attitude

Ike Reilly is an Illinois native and still lives in Libertyville, but he’s a man who feels right at home in a “Youngstown Hates You” T-shirt.

That’s what he was wearing while working out the morning of a phone interview to preview his upcoming show Friday at Westside Bowl.

“I have no problem repping that shirt,” Reilly said with a laugh.

Reilly and the characters who have populated his songs for 20 years have that underdog, chip-on-their-shoulder attitude that the Mahoning Valley knows all too well. He’s gotten his share of Bob Dylan comparisons for his tales of working class characters for whom the good, old days are a distant memory, but his music always has had the blues rock swagger of a band like the Rolling Stones, even when he’s playing solo.

Reilly’s recent Youngstown gigs have been solo shows, but Friday he will be backed by his band, the Ike Reilly Assassination, for the first time in about five years, which is sure to make it a more raucous affair.

And the band is bigger than usual, with Reilly’s sons Mickey, Shane and Kevin joining him on the road (he wasn’t positive, but Reilly was pretty sure they would be in Youngstown). It’s something that started during the COVID-19 pandemic when, like many musicians, Reilly turned to livestreaming shows on social media when actual gigs were impossible.

“Musically, it’s been great,” Reilly said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine playing with them, let alone touring with them.”

What impresses him most is how comfortable they are in front of an audience.

“When I was a kid, I had to drink 12 shots of Jameson before I could sing in front of anyone,” he said. “For some reason, they’re very uninhibited.”

Traveling with his sons hasn’t inhibited his behavior on the road which, judging from some of his on-stage comments at past Youngstown shows, let’s just say Reilly has a really good time when he comes to town.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, our lifestyles have merged,” Reilly said. “That’s all I’ll say on that. They haven’t added any serenity to the tour, that’s for sure.”

Reilly is on the road promoting his 2021 album, “Because the Angels,” which lyrically takes aim at corrupt politicians (“Little Messiahs”), those who romanticize the past (“F— the Good Old Days”) and his own shortcomings (“The Muhammad Ali Museum”).

“Laura” is based on a true story about seeing a childhood crush years later and finding her far less attractive as she starts spewing her racist beliefs. One of the first places Reilly ever played that song was at Youngstown Calvin Center in 2017 for one of his solo gigs. Since then, the song has evolved with a more country arrangement, thanks to pedal steel guitar from Matthew Stoessel.

“We didn’t set out to do ironically,” he said. “I don’t think someone said out loud, ‘Let’s make this a country song and see if anybody’s head explodes.”

The band did 15 Midwest dates in the fall in support of the album, and Reilly said the new song “Healing Side of the Night” quickly became one of the anchors of the setlist. Friday’s show in Youngstown kicks off a 12-city run of East Coast and Midwest dates.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with how we sound and how we’re playing,” Reilly said. “There’s a certain intangible thing that the recordings don’t capture.”

If you go …

WHO: Ike Reilly Assassination and Johnny Stanec

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Westside Bowl, 2617 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: $15 in advance and $20 day of show with tickets available through Eventbrite.

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