I Was There: Idles – Lincoln Hall (Chicago) – 8/1/2019
Thursday night was a late one with Idles taking the stage a little after midnight. The drowsiness of a late weekday night melted away like butter on a hot pan when the the Bristol group took the stage.
Before Lincoln Hall was blessed with Idles, A Place to Bury Strangers opened. Now I have listened to this group in the past, but have never seen them perform live. The sheer volume that came from the trio was absolutely over the top and terrifying. A NASA shuttle launch was coming out of the speakers right into my ear hole.
Outside of the skull shattering noise, A Place to Bury Strangers played an awesome set. The lighting was interesting with strobe lights going into the crowd and eventually with the trio setting up shop in the middle of the floor. There was some sort of wacky blue lighting going on as they played in the middle of the venue floor. I was afraid to take a real good look as I was convinced I was going to get sucked into a wormhole.
When it comes to Idles, Frontman Joe Talbot was the star of the show. Connecting and interacting with the crowd again and again. Never afraid to speak his progressive attitudes or what was on his mind. When someone asked Joe’s thoughts on new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Talbot responded by saying that “Boris is a racist piece of shit”. Later in the show before “Mother” Talbot told that crowd that on in front of us on the stage were five feminists. Love it or hate it, there’s something special about someone who isn’t afraid to say what is on their mind and what they believe in.
Idles are really a special group. Terrific eye opening songs about issues that cut deep and mean something. There’s a reason why their album was among Sleep So Late’s Favorite Albums of 2018. Idles performed 13 songs and each one had more energy in it than the last. Highlights included “I’m Scum”, “Mother” and “Danny Nedelko”. When the group closed with “Rottweiler” it felt like the perfect ending to a perfect night.
It will be interesting to see what direction Idles will continue in. Whatever it is, we have something really unique on our hands with this group. Do yourself the service and see them play if you can.
I Was There: Peter Bjorn and John – Lincoln Hall (Chicago) – 12/5/2018
One of the things that struck me with Peter Bjorn and John is how they genuinely and wholeheartedly love music and performing live. About halfway through the set Peter Morén spoke into the microphone about how it amazes him that he gets to play in front of a full room of people. He almost couldn’t believe it.
Peter and Bjorn were energetic throughout the entire show. Peter made his way down to the crowd a handful of times. This included a moment were he laid down on his back in the middle of the floor surrounded by concertgoers that followed him down to the floor.
The band played a good selection of tunes from their newest album Darker Days (which is great by the way). “Gut Feeling” was received to a buzz of energy from the crowd. Excluding “Amsterdam” and its glorious shakers, tunes from Writer’sBlock were missing for a large part of the show. You could tell the crowd was getting antsy. Fear not, PBJ delivered with an encore that featured all the hits from their monumental 2007 album, Writer’s Block.
“Young Folks” and its iconic whistling brought out all the iPhones, but the biggest and best moment of the night was a very long version of “Up Against The Wall”. This version featured a cut of “The Chills” and even a cover of “Transmission” by Joy Division. Peter was on top of a large speaker as he belted out “Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio!” over and over again.
At the end the trio left the stage for a final time, completely gassed but full of smiles. Everyone there could tell that these guys unequivocally love what they do.
(Sandy) Alex G – Thalia Hall (Chicago) – 11/4/2018
(Sandy) Alex G got up on stage at 10:30 PM. Any other day would be fine, but it was Sunday and the Scaries were in full effect. Monday would arrive soon, dragging work along with it. Why the hell are you playing so late? What about me – the working man?
Who cares? It doesn’t matter I would go watch him play anytime of the day.
(Sandy) Alex G jammed through a set that featured 23 songs. Opening with “Whale” and immediately following into “After Ur Gone” which featured an out of control solo from the guitarist. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the name of the guitarist. If you’re reading this (which you are most definitely not) you could jam and are very talented. (Sandy) Alex G’s style on stage was a little strange. The stage featured no light show or even a stage banner. While playing nearly every song, (Sandy) Alex G would turn around and play away from the crowd for a minute or two. It wasn’t right or wrong, just something that I haven’t ever seen live.
I know nothing about drums other than they make noise, but I also noticed that the drums were set up a little differently. It was like if Neil Peart were playing and someone photoshopped out the majority of his drums, but forgot to delete a really out-of-place one. A cymbal was hung up awkwardly high. Again, something that I don’t think is too common.
The main set ended with “Sarah”. “Sarah” is a great track by (Sandy) Alex G and one of those that sounds sweeter live. Those funky flute sounds came from the keyboards which was kind of surprising – maybe not, after second thought.
The comparisons to Elliot Smith are not farfetched with (Sandy) Alex G. The talent and songwriting is there. The cymbals may be a little too high up for comfort, but (Sandy) Alex G put those Sunday Scaries to bed.
Courtney Barnett –Riviera Theatre (Chicago) – 10/18/2018
This is the second time I have seen Courtney Barnett at the Riviera Theatre. The first time was almost two and half years ago when she was touring, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. I think it’s safe to say that she has enhanced her craft over those two and half years.
The confidence flowed as Courtney performed a whopping 8 songs (8 out of the 10 total) from her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. She may have found the perfect set opener with “Hopefulness”. The tune has a nice buildup before ending in an explosion of sound. It’s a great song to open with and one we should all hope Courtney continues to use.
The set was long (5 more songs compared to 2016) and featured a nice blend of the new and the old. An interesting part of the show was when Courtney Barnett played “Small Talk” which was just released earlier in the month. Out of all the songs she played live, “Small Talk” seemed to be the one she was having the most fun playing. You could see the genuine joy on her face as she was playing along. There The set also featured two covers: “Houses” by Elyse Weinberg and “Everything is Free” by Gillian Welch. For “Houses”, Waxahatchee joined Courtney and band on stage for an awesome performance. Waxahatchee, who opened for Courtney Barnett was excellent.
If Courtney Barnett makes her way to your city on this tour, go catch the show. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be watching an artist in their prime.
Have you ever gone to shootaround before an NBA game? You know how every single shot that goes up, goes in? Well that’s Weezer. Bucket, after bucket, after bucket. They make playing live seem almost too easy.
Weezer were pulled into playing at Riot Fest after injury struck Travis Barker and Blink 182 (They actually covered “All The Small Things” at the show) had to cancel. The show they played featured all the hits and was lights out. The band went straight into it with “Buddy Holly” to open and ended up playing 20 songs that included all the fan favorites and 5 covers. One of the more unique parts of the show was when the band covered “Always Together” by The Turtles. This cover featured a break half way into the song that resulted into a snipped of “Long View” by Green Day. It was a double cover.
Weezer’s stage presence was outstanding. Rivers played the audience like a conductor. Riot Fest featured two large stages nearly right next to each other. In one instance, Rivers disappeared from one stage and appeared on the other. There he played two song that were played solo and with acoustic guitar. The first was Weezer classic, “Island in the Sun” and the other was a cover of “Take On Me” by A-ha.
Weezer has just mastered the live performance with song selection, being unique, and having fun with the crowd. I don’t know if there is a better headliner for a music festival.
Balkans were a four-piece group from Atlanta, Georgia. Back in the day, Spin Magazine actually them named one of their best new 5 artists for June 2011. A bit after that, the band went on hiatus. During that time, guitarist Frankie Broyles went to go play with Deerhunter (another A-town Band) for their Monomania album. Although they didn’t do anything for years – they officially folded in January of 2017.
Their self-titled debut album Balkans is just a rockin’ album.
“Troubled and Done” starts off with a short guitar riff before the drums and the rest of the instruments and vocals kicks in. The lyrics aren’t wonderful, but the song is made memorable with neat guitar riffs and fast paced tempo. It would have been interesting to see this band grow and develop further with more releases. Man, what could have been…
Anyway, You Should Probably Listen to “Troubled and Done” by Balkans.