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Beach Slang at House Of Blues 4/6/2017

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I’m not sure who was having a better time during Beach Slang’s set last night at House Of Blues: the band or the audience. Everyone was in high spirits as they played their quick-tempered rock songs and intermingled them with some hilarious musical cues, including “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors, “My Own Worst Enemy” by Eve6, and of course “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. They even promised one fan in the crowd that they would learn to play “Two Princes” for real at their next show if that person comes.

Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how much fun they were having.

I believe this was the band’s first show in Chicago since their lineup change last year, and things seemed to go over pretty well. New drummer Cully Symington never missed a beat, and guitarist Aurore Ounjian’s nimble fingers deftly maneuvered through some great riffs. Lead singer James Alex showed a great affection for the audience and for Minus The Bear for bringing them on tour to open shows for them. He also, at one point, read a list of people he’s been told he looks like while on tour, and it was everything from Eddie Munster to Jack Black and Angus Young.

MØ At Metro 3/13/2017

March 14, 2017 Leave a comment

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This was my first time seeing MØ and it was a lot of fun. I’ve listened to her before, but can’t say I’m a die hard fan or anything. I actually went to this show to check out the opener, Tei Shi, who has a record coming out that I really like. She was a fitting warm up for the style of music MØ plays, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy her set.

Despite a long delay at the beginning of the show, and another in between sets, the fans maintained a high level of excitement that exploded into screams when she finally took the stage during the “Don’t Wanna Dance” intro. The performance was non-stop adrenaline, with MØ using every bit of the wide open stage setup, plus some when she came out into the crowd during “Slow Love.” And later she jumped into the masses and let them pass her around the sold out Metro floor like waves carrying her away from shore and then bringing her back.

 

Slothrust At Schuba’s Tavern 3/10/2017

March 11, 2017 Leave a comment

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It’s been a lot of fun watching Slothrust’s rise over the past couple of years. I’ll never forget being bored at work one day when someone from Ba Da Bing sent me the single “Crockpot” and I immediately took to it. The next day I got them to send me an advance of the record Of Course You Do and they’ve been a part of my life ever since.

Last year I saw them play with Highly Suspect at Bottom Lounge, and I was so happy to hear people singing along with songs I wasn’t sure anyone else knew. And then last night they played to a sold out crowd at Schuba’s in their own headlining slot. They treated their fans to all the “hits” and gave a preview of a couple new songs, one called “Peach” and another whose name I forgot already. They also played their cover of the Britney Spears pop classic “…Baby One More Time” to the delight of all.

Glad I got there early, as fans were already bellying up to the stage thirty minutes before the opening act started. I went off to the side where I knew Leah would be set up so I could catch her shredding some guitar solos. The lighting was a little weird so I didn’t get many shots of her wailing. I was able to catch some random moments of stillness, so I’ll count that as a win. If you want to see some footage from the show, you can check out this short clip.

The director of Slothrust’s latest video, for “Sleep Eater,” was right next to me most of the night, though I didn’t say hello. Here’s his work:

Slothrust continues west on this tour. They’ll be joined by Sons Of An Illustrious Father (who are playing in Chicago TONIGHT at Tonic Room at 9pm!) starting March 15th in Denver. Hit the band’s website for full tour info.

Jens Lekman At Metro 3/9/2017

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

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Singer/songwriter Jens Lekman has long had a talent for making the saddest songs seem fun. Whether he’s singing about a broken heart or the failings of man in the world, he can always find a way to make a beat and melody that betrays the torment of the lyrics. He’s also quite clever with his wordplay, so it’s no surprise that his show at Metro in Chicago was a good time.

He’s on the road promoting his latest album Life Will See You Now, but the set wasn’t overrun with fresh songs. He played some old classics that thrilled the audience and kept things moving rather quickly. The only banter for the most part were quick thank you’s and song intros, but he did get a good jab on Trump in at one point. A few songs in he wanted to say a few words about the “tragedy” that happened in Sweden a couple weeks ago. Jens admitted that something big DID in fact happen in Sweden on February 17, 2017…his newest album came out. He then introduced his band and they launched into “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?”

Jens was all smiles through the whole show, hitting highlights like “The Opposite Of Hallelujah,” “I Know What Love Isn’t,” and “Black Cab.” The band came out for one encore and then Lens returned solo to play “Pocketful Of Money” with a big crowd singalong to finish the show off. The crowd was still clamoring for more so Jens returned, hoodie in hand, and declined to play stating that the moment the show ended on was too perfect to ruin. However, if fans had any songs that they didn’t hear, he would sing to them at the merch table.

Wilco At Chicago Theatre 2/26/2017

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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I’ve said this many times, to myself and among my friends and anyone who would be so kind to listen to me ramble on, but it must be stated again-Wilco is the best live band in America. I only stop short of saying the world because, like “The Late Greats,” maybe there is some band I’ve never heard of that is even better. It is hard for me to imagine, though. Wilco’s ability to continue to get better after over 20 years is something I can only chalk up to some kind of divine grace that the universe has given us to make up for every moment of suffering that occurs on Earth. It’s a little miracle that I don’t take for granted.

Last night was, by my count, the 17th time I’ve seen them. I honestly only remember one instance that I didn’t leave a show thinking it was the best I’d ever seen them play (80/35, the weekend before Star Wars came out when it seemed like they were just going through the motions so we didn’t know that something huge was about to happen-for the record I also saw them at Pitchfork the following weekend when they unleashed Star Wars in full and it was amazing). They play off one another and are so in sync it can feel inhuman at times. And it’s obvious they still love playing together if you ever watch Jeff just stare as Nels wails away through a solo.

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This was the final night of a four-night stand at Chicago Theatre, a stage they had graced only once, when Conan O’Brien filmed his Chicago week there. The setlists all week were great, so I had no doubt that we were in for something special. One thing I will say for the evolution of Wilco-they’ve learned how to construct a set of music that really feels like a roller coaster. They started off nice and easy with a few laid-back tunes, including “Normal American Kids,” “Cry All Day,” and “If I Ever Was  A Child” off their latest album Schmilco. Then they got a little heavier with “Muzzle Of Bees,” “Bull Black Nova,” and hit a climax with “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.”

The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot killer led into one of the songs that marks the biggest change in Wilco’s evolution, “Art Of Almost.” I probably said this in my initial review of The Whole Love, but that song is unlike anything in the band’s past. It’s a big, loud, arena-rocking showstopper that initially seemed to come out of nowhere but has quickly become a fan favorite at every Wilco show.

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The rest of the set was a good mix of old and older songs, reaching all the way back to A.M. for “Box Full Of Letters.” Wilco (The Album) and Summerteeth got the short end of the stick, with only one song off of each getting played. But the song off Summerteeth was preceded by one of the great moments of the night: Tweedy told a story about his dad calling him in tears after Trump sent out the (thankfully) now overturned travel ban. His dad felt like for the first time his father (83) was embarrassed to be an American. That led into “I thought about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.” A very cathartic moment for myself and I’m sure many others in the audience.

Another great moment happened a few songs earlier when Jeff gave a shoutout to longtime fan Maki, who flew in from Japan to see them play. That’s some dedication right there, and I can’t think of any band I would fly that far to see (thank goodness Wilco is right here where I live). I don’t know if Maki requested the song, but that’s when they did “Magazine Called Sunset.”

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The double encore featured 7 songs, ending with the audience singing out the riff from “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” which I had never seen them do until this week. They have a video of it on their Facebook page you can check out if you’d like. It was fantastic and even these overzealous dum dums couldn’t stifle our good time.

SETLIST:

On and On and On


Normal American Kids
If I Ever Was A Child
Cry All Day
Muzzle Of Bees
Bull Black Nova
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Art of Almost
Pickled Ginger
Misunderstood
Someone to Lose
A Magazine Called Sunset
Reservations
Impossible Germany
Say You Miss Me
Via Chicago
Box Full of Letters
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Hummingbird
The Late Greats
ENCORE:
Random Name Generator
Jesus, Etc.
Locator
Monday
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I’m A Wheel
ENCORE:
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Vowws at Lincoln Hall 2/6/2017

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Last night Vowws hit the stage at Lincoln Hall to play for a crowd for which most openers could only wish. Almost everyone in the audience was not only aware of Vowws, but knew the words to the songs and were as much their for them as they were for headliner White Lies.

I was not that familiar, but found the set to be very entertaining. The duo hits a lot of Joy Division/The Cure sounds, but their bass hits are more tribal and hypnotic. I don’t know if anyone has coined the term “Industribal,” but that’s what I would call this.

My only issue with their set was that the lighting was too dark to get really good pictures (where I was standing anyway, maybe it was a little more balanced in the middle). I did the best I could.

White Lies at Lincoln Hall 2/6/2017

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve always been a fairly punctual person. I really thought showing up 30 minutes early for a show would give me a good vantage point for taking photos of White Lies and Vowws last night at Lincoln Hall. I was gravely mistaken. By the time I walked into the venue at 7:30, there were already rabid White Lies fans up against the stage-maybe 30-40. I don’t remember the last time I was at a concert where that many people showed up early and flocked straight to the front.

They must have known what they were in for, because they got a heck of a show. Vowws opening set was dark and brooding dance music with a heavy bass foundation. Very different from White Lies, but somehow they go together. There are some stark differences, though. The biggest is the tempo: Vowws take their time and get under your skin while White Lies strike quickly.

A couple songs into their set, Harry McVeigh announced that they’d put out a new record (Friends) since the last time they played in Chicago, so they were going to play a lot of that. The band didn’t shy away from deep cuts, though. The crowd erupted when he said the next song would be “The Price Of Love,” which they’ve been doing on this current tour but hadn’t played since 2011. Of the 17 songs on the setlist, five of them came from their debut To Lose My Life…. Before the set even started but after the tour manager put out the setlist I overheard a fan standing right in the center exclaim “Oh my fucking God, dude, they’re playing fucking ‘From The Stars’ holy shit!” so I think it was a very fan-friendly group of songs.

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