Rachael Yamagata at Logan Square Auditorium

I’m not a huge fan of Logan Square Auditorium. The shows I’ve seen there have been disappointing, save for Chaperone who were good as always. My biggest issue with the venue is how the noise carries through the room. Even standing right next to the sound system, you can hear people near the bar talking. It’s infuriating if you’re trying to enjoy a show, but when the room is full of hipsters who are already “totally over it,” I guess the show becomes secondary.

We got there a few minutes late, and missed the first couple of songs by Mike Viola. Unfortunate, because what I heard from him was really good. He doesn’t tour often, but he plays around New York City quite a bit. He has a good command of the audience, and has the ability to be funny and keep everyone engaged.

My favorite moment came when he moved to piano from guitar to play a song he claimed he’d never played outside of Joe’s Pub. I didn’t know the song, as I’m not terribly familiar with his music (he co-wrote the song “That Thing You Do!” and that’s enough for me), but afterward he played a short version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that was really good. He only did about a minute of the song, and after said, “I don’t know why I just played that.” it was very short, but it showed some musical influence, spontaneity, and idiosyncrasy at play. All good things for a live show.

The gap between sets was pretty short, which I love. Rachael Yamagata and her band, including Viola, took to the stage and quietly announced themselves before launching into Chesapeake‘s first track, “Even If I Don’t.” A good start with an uptempo song that doesn’t strain the vocal chords, but gets the crowd bouncy and singing along. The next song was “Letter Read” off Happenstance, after which Rachael announced that they were gonna play a lot of new stuff, but work in some of the older songs as well.

Now, I don’t know a lot of the old songs. I recognized a few that I know I’ve heard, but I couldn’t name them. There was one old song they played at the end of the set that was amazing. I believe it’s called “The Other Side.” Brian Iwa (is that his name? Someone help me out here) just explodes on this song, and his guitar work was exceptional. Everyone in the band did a really great job all night, but Iwa shone like a lighthouse attracting all passing vessels toward him.

One problem I had with the concert, is that the vocals on Chesapeake weren’t anywhere close to matched live. The vocals were good, but on the album there’s a power and confidence behind them that was lacking in the show at Logan Square. This can probably be chalked up to touring and not wanting to destroy the vocal chords for every performance. So I found that a bit disappointing, but on songs like “Full On” (video below) and “Dealbreaker,” I thought Rachael’s voice got close enough to recording quality.

My biggest issue with the show was how talky it was. I felt like I was at a taping for VH1’s Storytellers for a lot of my time standing there. Multiple songs had introductions that lasted for minutes. I wouldn’t have minded, but so much of it was unintelligible that I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t hear what she was saying even though the speaker was less than a foot from my ear. The banter ranged from the creative reason behind some songs, to making herself available for endorsements of alcohol and blades (which, even joking, was kind of odd).

Overall I thought the show as good, not great. Mike Viola proved to be a strong opener, and the band Rachael Yamagata plays with did a great job. If I were more familiar with some of the older songs that got played, I may have enjoyed it more. As it stands, I’d be hard pressed to recommend someone shell out the twenty-plus dollars to see this show. I do, however, recommend picking up Chesapeake. It is a good album.