Betty Who put on a fun, energetic set at Concord Music Hall on Thursday, highlighting tracks from her new record The Valley.
While music is a lasting art form, that doesn’t mean people will appreciate it. That’s why I’m always impressed when a band can go out on a huge tour based solely on the anniversary of a recording. Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds 50 tour was the first one I saw, and this week I got to see The Zombies do the same with Odessey & Oracle. The album has held up better than most, and a lot of fans (especially in the States) who never got to see it performed in the 60’s now get to check it off their bucket list.
The band (featuring Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, Chris White, Hugh Grundy, Tom Toomey, Jim Rodford, and Steve Rodford) opened with an hour of songs that are not on Odessey, and I honestly enjoyed it as much as the music everyone was there to hear. It’s easy to forget that both The Zombies and their offshoots after they split had a whole slew of hits starting with “She’s Not There.” Rod Argent introduced this tune (the first he ever wrote) by dedicating it to his mother who had sadly passed away earlier in the day. What could have turned the night into a somber affair was, instead, a beautiful tribute and a great performance of a classic.
Rod and Colin both did a great job relaying stories from the band’s past. My favorite was about their first and only experience working in the movies when they were featured in a film starring Sir Laurence Olivier.
After a short intermission the band returned to play Odessey & Oracle. I kid you not, they sound as good as ever. It was like a time machine was placed over Thalia Hall and we were all transported back to 1968 through the songs and great visuals that acted as their backdrop.
It was an absolutely fantastic evening of music, and if I get the chance to go again I most definitely would. There are a few dates left on the west coast, so get tickets while you can!
Friday night I had the opportunity to sit down with the trio that make up Goodbye June to chat about their new record, Magic Valley. Really nice guys that seem to be serious about making the kind of music they’ve always loved. We talked about the Nashville scene, the humbling experience of playing to festival crowds, and the last songs to which they cried.
After that, I got to see them perform. They really get after it on the stage, and I had a great time hearing the songs I’d spent the morning with live the same night. They remain pretty true to the sound on the record-eclectic, but never backing down. It’s a fun kind of music that’s perfect for a night of drinking at a bar.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
Someone to Lose
A Magazine Called Sunset
Say You Miss Me
Box Full of Letters
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You
The Late Greats
Random Name Generator
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I’m A Wheel
The energy was boundless when The Chain Gang Of 1974 took the stage at The Riviera Theatre in Chicago last night. From the moment Kamtin Mohager stepped to the mic it was a non-stop whirlwind of limbs and faces. Chain Gang is still relatively under the radar, despite being around for a decade already, and the live performance displays years of practice and confidence.
I only wish the lighting were as good for this set as they were for AFI, because Chain Gang deserves a visual document of their music that’s as good as they are. Sadly, I don’t think I delivered that here.
I wasn’t expecting to be as into the AFI show last night as I was. It’s been a minute since I listened to AFI with any regularity (a really, really long minute). I was never super into them and a friend of mine introduced me to Blakq Audio when they first started doing that side project and I liked that quite a bit more. But then the band started their show with “Miss Murder,” which was shocking. Most bands don’t lead off a show with one of their biggest hits, and I really appreciated the move as it drew me in deeper than I thought possible.
With a new album out last month, I expected AFI to roll through that and save the songs I actually knew til the encore, but I ended up knowing a handful right off the bat. They definitely haven’t lost anything in the energy department, and the photo pit was fairly active with security keeping fans from getting up to the stage. I wish I had remembered ear plugs with the loud music and the audience screaming right behind me, but that’s really my only complaint. The lights were good-much better than I thought they would be based on a Google search to find previous shows lighting-and Davey Havok worked the edge of the stage like the seasoned pro he is.
Miss Murder, The Leaving Song Part II, Aurelia, Girl’s Not Grey, Love Like Winter, 3 1/2, 17 Crimes, Still A Stranger, Clove Smoke Catharsis, End Transmission, Morningstar, Days Of The Phoenix, Snow Cats, I Hope You Suffer, Silver And Cold
The Face Beneath The Waves, This Celluloid Dream