Earlier this week I got to check out my second Brian Fallon show of the year, this time at the slightly more intimate Park West. As he noted early in the show, it’s great to be so close because he’s no better than me, I’m no better than you, we all just want to enjoy some music. The audience, sparse when I arrived around 7:15 but packed in fairly tight by the time Ryan Bingham’s set ended, seemed to agree and the evening was very much a positive exchange of vibes between transmitter and receivers.
The set list was pretty similar to the first time, with the exception that he opened with Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” featuring Ryan Bingham and also having his co-headliner join for “Handle With Care” toward the end of the set. The two make for a great pair of songwriting buddies who get the best out of each other.
While Bingham got a little political during his set, Fallon took the opportunity to clear the air. Before he went into “Long Drives” he called attention to the fact that many music critics like to write that his songs take place in a nostalgic 50’s that doesn’t exist anymore. To that he says, “No. My songs take place today. All of them do.” And then he mades some jokes about owning a Volkswagen and a Mini Cooper and neither of them are vintage. He admitted that he tends to talk a lot in between songs, which he does, but he’s a talented storyteller so it doesn’t take away from the show at all.
Painkillers is currently in my top 25 records of the year, and the song “Smoke” is right up near the top of my favorite songs, so hearing a lot of those tunes, “Smoke” included was a treat once again. The singalong aspects of “Steve McQueen” and “A Wonderfull Life” adds to the living room feel, with all those voices singing together as one. He does a great job of creating an environment where everyone feels welcome.
I like the fact that he doesn’t play any Gaslight Anthem songs. When I saw the band play during the summer of 2014 it was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to last much longer. So if he’s burnt out on those songs, I’m glad he trusts his fans enough to not feel like he has to play those older tracks to please them. Honestly, I like the songs on Painkillers more than I ever liked the Gaslight Anthem songs anyway.
Only a handful of US dates remain for Brian Fallon this year. He’s doing some east coast shows and then heading overseas for a run in November. You can check out his site for all tour dates.
Won’t Back Down (with Ryan Bingham)
A Wonderful Life
Open All Night
Behold The Hurricane
Handle With Care (with Ryan Bingham and Paul Cauthen)
The opening half of last night’s co-headlining show at Park West was beloved folk/country singer Ryan Bingham and his band. The pairing of a campfire ballad singer with the former front man for Gaslight Anthem (Brian Fallon) may seem like an odd choice to some, but given their shared love of classic rock, it’s clear they’re a match made in heaven. They came together during the set for a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and a couple more times throughout the night.
I’m not terribly familiar with Bingham’s work, but I know enough that I could enjoy some of the better-known songs. I found him to be a very charismatic guy, and his band is as good as any touring group out there right now. He dedicated the song “Sunshine” to his friends in North Dakota fighting against the pipeline being built on Native American land, which was a sweet way to bring attention to the issue.
It’s been over a year since Bingham’s last new music came out, but the fans on hand in Chicago didn’t seem to mind hearing some old favorites. The highlight for me was “Hallelujah” off his 2010 record Junky Star.
It’s been about 5 years since the last release from Philly’s Hoots & Hellmouth released new music. They were singing about a wrecking ball a full year before that other popular song about wrecking balls came out, but it’s been quiet on all fronts since then. Which makes In The Trees a hotly anticipated record for fans of the band like myself. Yesterday they put out the first video to introduce us to new music. The song is called “Diction,” and it’s soulful and emotional and makes great use of the vocal range lead singer Sean Hoots possesses.
In The Trees comes out October 28. The band will start touring October 5, with a date here in Chicago on October 9th at Tonic Room. For all dates, click here.
Last night The Felice Brothers brought their Life In The Dark tour to Chicago for a set at one of the most intimate music halls in town, Schubas Tavern. This was the sixth or seventh time I’ve seen the band, and they just keep getting better. Life In The Dark is a brilliant record, and the deep, contemplative tunes play well in a small room. The sound system and lighting at the venue has improved greatly in the past year, so not only did the band sound amazing, I was also able to get some pictures.
The setlist wasn’t one that I would’ve made (in fact I posted my dream setlist on Twitter yesterday and it was very different from what was played). Then again, I didn’t have stuff like Triumph ’73 on mine and that song absolutely should be enjoyed live where you can really feel all the heartbreaking beauty that lies within. Eight or nine of the 22 songs played came from the new album and the others covered pretty much the whole discography so far. My number one anticipated song got played, so I was happy. It came during the car section of the show, with “Honda Civic” preceding “Lincoln Continental.”
As a band, The Felice Brothers are a joy to watch. Greg Farley’s unending energy is contagious. I love watching James mouth the words to every song the whole night whether he’s wailing away on the accordion, tickling the ivory’s, or singing himself. Ian brings it all together with his intense concentration. During one song he focused on a spot far out in the back of the crowd and did the whole number just staring at it angrily. It was honestly horrifying-do not cross Ian Felice (who, from a brief interaction I had with him, seems like a very nice guy).
The set was pretty long for a Tuesday night at Schubas, but the crowd didn’t want to leave. After the initial set ended with “White Limo” the cheers kept up for a solid five or six minutes until the band returned. They did a blistering three songs, including a cover of Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” “Marie,” and “Frankie’s Gun.”
Last night Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins brought the Rabbit Fur Coat Tenth Anniversary tour to Chicago Theatre. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since Lewis’s solo debut-it sounds as good today as it did in 2006. The night brought a lot of great music, and a few special guests, that really honored the spirit of the album.
After an opening set from the Cactus Blossoms, the lights went down and Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins walked the aisle by candlelight singing the a capella harmony of “Run, Devil, Run.” It was a beautiful way to start the show, and their voices projected all around the theatre with no microphones. Thus began the Rabbit Fur Coat half of the show.
This particular album is one of my favorites, and about a quarter way through “Born Secular” I realized that I’d been shortchanging the importance of The Watson Twins contributions to it. They’re the backbone of the whole thing-it literally would not work without their voices. That thought reminded me that I should probably tell people to check out their albums without Lewis, specifically Talking To You, Talking To Me.
Frankie Lee came out to play with the Cactus Blossoms and the rest of the band on “Handle With Care.” We were missing Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Ben Gibbard, but these guys made due and sounded great.
After the intermission the set changed from a backdrop of the Rabbit Fur Coat hallway cover, to The Voyager‘s rainbow of color. The second half of the show featured selections from throughout Jenny’s solo career, including a song from the Nice As Fuck album that came out this year. She hit on Acid Tongue, played “I Never” from the Rilo Kiley days, and did a few from The Voyager. She also played two new songs that seem like strong contenders to feature on her next album.
The whole evening was a great celebration of the Rabbit Fur Coat album and a nice retrospective on the career Jenny Lewis has had so far.
After 20 years of existence, Wilco spent 2015 reminding everyone why they were heralded as “America’s Greatest Rock Band” in the first place. Their Star Wars album stands up against the best works they’ve done, and let Jeff Tweedy and co. show off their fun side that had been kept under wraps since 2009’s Wilco (The Album). Now the band returns with Schmilco only 13 months later, leaving fans to wonder if the band can strike gold yet again.
It’s certainly a different kind of record than Star Wars. The fuzzed-out rock and roll of their last release gives way to music more in line with Wilco’s alt-country and folk roots. Which isn’t to say there isn’t room to get weird. “Common Sense” begins like a fairly traditional Wilco song, but quickly evolves into something else entirely. Steel drums rattle around some discordant guitar plucks, adding a whole new wrinkle to Wilco’s repertoire.
I feel like I don’t need to get too deep into the album, since my review isn’t going to change anyone’s mind on Wilco-you either love them or are stupid (jk you aren’t stupid, you just don’t have good taste in music-jk you’re taste in music is probably great). Wilco is still the best band, and one of the few that can put emotionally deep and resonant songs next to catchy pop tunes and make them feel like they fit together somehow. They still wear their love of The Beatles and Dylan on their sleeves and proudly take the music they grew up on to the next level.
One thing different on Schmilco, and I’m certain many people will disagree with me here, is Tweedy’s voice. These songs feature his best vocal performances in a long while. Not sure if he’s doing something different, but it’s working. There’s always been a sweetness to his tone, and a knowledge of melody, but he seems comfortable in a way he never has. Maybe getting older has helped him let go of some of his insecurities.
Here’s a link so you can find participating record stores where you can hear Schmilco ahead of its release date on Friday. Listening parties will be happening today, September 6th. Times vary, but seem to fall between 5 and 7pm. The record only runs around 40 minutes, so you might get to hear it twice!
I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend in Chicago! If you went to North Coast, chances are you saw some good music, enjoyed some local food, and spent three days in beautiful weather. The final day of North Coast may have been the best, with music from Zedd, Matt & Kim, Action Bronson, Tauk, and The Polish Ambassador-to name a few.
Sarah Hess was on site once again to photograph the event for us, and she’s delivered some great shots to make you feel like you’re right there-again or for the first time!
You can check out our shots from previous days at North Coast by clicking below: