Saturday, October 28, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Viva Voce w/ Silversun Pickups @ Empty Bottle

I got in free to this one because my brother was the road manager for Silversun Pickups’ last tour. So that’s pretty sweet. Even though we didn’t get there that early, we set up right in front of the stage. The lead singer proceeded to draw as much attention as possible to my brother which was highly entertaining for me and the band, but not so much for my bro. They played a superb set – very rawkin’, much more so than their last show (at Schubas). I don’t have an easy time remember their track names for some reason, but they played nearly every song on their new album. The crowd was really digging them, most notably the drunken fraternity brothers standing around me. They were awfully excited. I was battered about the head and neck, but I suppose it kind of added to the show.

Viva Voce was doing a Black Keys thing with just guitar and drums and loops and stuff. They were a bit plain in my opinion, but I only really caught about two or three songs as I went to hang out backstage with the other bands in the smokiest room I’ve ever had the pleasure of breathing in (first opener was The Kingdom – nice guys; too bad we missed their set).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

OWR: Smiles of a Summer Night

89: Sparkling

Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Who w/ moe. @ United Center

Going in, we didn’t know who the opener was, but were thoroughly bored half-way through their first song. Eventually, the mentioned their name and I was at least pleased with myself in that moe. sounded exactly as crappy as I expected them to. The two “highlights” for me were (a) one song that was a blatant ripoff of a more obscure Jimi Hendrix song and (b) when they played a song with a chorus that went “OK, all right, OK, all right.” That pretty much summed up what they were shooting for.

The Who were infinitely more inspiring. We were sitting about sixty yards back, but on the floor – with an excellent view of the stage. They came out with little fanfare, playing “Can’t Explain.” After that, was “The Seeker”. At this point, the crowd was really mellow – partly due to the sleepy opener, partly due to the fact that most of them were in their 50s. Finally, the band launched into “Who Are You” and the crowd brought some energy. The band fed off that energy and showed more themselves. They kind of strike me as the most successful garage band of all time. There was nothing fancy about the show – yeah, they had screens and stuff, but it was basically just a band playing. They rawked pretty hard when needed. On drums, we had Zach Starkey. Yes, that Starkey. Pete Townshend’s brother was playing backup guitar, too. Townshend impressed me, even though he came across as a bit pompous. However, Roger Daltry’s persona is very endearing and personable. That’s damn near impossible to do at the United Center, so I was impressed with him as well. Instead of playing all their new songs, they did a six-song medley from their new album – each track ended up being about two minutes long. Clearly the crowd is there to hear the hits, but this didn’t bore them too much because each song was so brief. Great idea.

The musical highpoint of the show was Eminence Front. I’ve always liked that tune and for years did not know who recorded it. Towards the end of the main set, Daltry started coughing and punching his chest. Apparently, he had an allergic reaction to someone or something in the front row. He left the stage and the band played My Generation with Townshend on vocals instead. This was probably the emotional high point of the show, and was a pleasure to watch. The fans were more into this one than any other. They took a break and came back with Won’t Get Fooled Again. In my opinion, the pinnacle of the Who’s career is Daltry’s scream of “YEEEeeaaaaahhh!” towards the end of that song. I was worried he wouldn’t be able to hit it after the coughing bit, and while he didn’t nail it perfectly, it had every bit of wail you could ask for and made me feel like I got my money’s worth.

All in all, good show. I wouldn’t spend that much to see them again, but at least I can say I saw them and they were good. A better crowd would have made a huge difference, but what can one expect at the UC?

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

OWR: Hoop Dreams

94: Phenomenal

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Eric Bachmann w/ Richard Buckner and Richard Buckner w/ Eric Bachmann @ Schubas

In hindsight, I still can’t tell whether it was a good idea for me to spend six and a half hours at Schubas. At least it’s smoke free. At the end, my back and left knee were killing me. But it was definitely worth it. Richard Buckner was about to begin and Chrissy wisely said, “Let’s go right up front.” We were standing about five or six feet away from him. The ensemble consisted of Buckner and Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard. The set was a bit weird in that there was no dead air. Between songs, he would put chords or harmonics or some finger picking into a loop until he grabbed another guitar, tuned it and went immediately into the next song. Consequently, no one knew when a song had ended and nobody gave any applause. Couple that with the fact that he was playing a ton of songs from his new album, and it made for one confused crowd. He did throw us a couple of bones early in the set, playing two from Since (Believer and Goner w/ Souvenir), and one from Devotion & Doubt (A Goodbye Rye). But the rest was mainly from the new album (which I picked up after the show and is excellent, if a bit short).

Eric Bachmann had two talented ladies with him – one on violin and cello, and the other on keys and percussion – both doing an excellent job on backup vocals. They led off with New Drink for the Old Drunk and proceeded to play nearly his entire new solo album. Without question, the pinnacle of the night was Man O War. There’s something amazing about Bachmann’s vocals live. He hits every note the same as on his album, but there’s something more expressive and meaningful when he plays live. It seems like you hear his lyrics better, but I think it’s more likely that he somehow communicates them better, if that makes sense. Like the emotion comes through more clearly. They closed their main set with You Must Build a Fire, and it was completely captivating. Erik and I both commented during the break that when we saw Crooked Fingers play that song at the Abbey Pub, it moved us even though we’d never heard it before. This version may have been even better. I can’t remember which song was the first encore, but they closed with Little Bird (quite possibly my favorite song off the new disc), and it was great. Really tight, moving, beautiful show. At this point, I decided that there is no way I’m missing any upcoming Erich Bachmann shows (no matter who he’s playing with).

So I immediately put that into effect by sticking around for the second show. Bachmann started late, and again played nearly his entire album. The setlist was very different, starting with Islero (with the violin replacing the mariachi trumpet) and going into Man O War. It didn’t have the same punch as before (when it was in the middle of the set), but that could have been because of my supper of four pints of beer. They did Andalucia again, and it was better than in the first set. Everything else had a bit of an edge off it, but they were still superb. Instead of Build a Fire, they played Sleep All Summer (I would have preferred Coldways, but it was still solid). There were a few other people who were there for both shows, including one obsessive indie guy who seemed a bit off. Of course, he’s standing directly in front of Eric Bachmann, and his cell phone goes off right at the beginning of the second song. He lost all his indie-dork cred in that one moment… They closed with So Long, Savannah which is now another one of my favorites.

This time for Buckner, Brad and I were standing about three and a half feet away from him – right against the stage. If he had opened his eyes at all, it would have felt like he was singing directly to us. His voice has such a presence when he actually sings out. On his older songs, he chooses to mix them up to the point where he almost seems like he’s mumbling. I never realized what a skilled guitarist he is. He and Gillard were remarkably in time with one another. Of all the new songs, the one that stood out the most was Spell (“Now you’re talkin’”). But many of them were excellent and played well live given this setup (no percussion or bass). It’s really hard to comment on the tracks he played since they all ran together and there wasn’t much time to process it all, but again he played some of the old favorites. It seemed like Dents and Shells was avoided completely and like he played maybe just one track from Impasse. Too bad as I think a lot of those songs are excellent. Brad took off at 12:15, and I thought it had to be near the end of the set, but they finally wound things down at 1:00 with Fater (“Leave and travel well”), but not the a capella version – he had all kinds of cool effects behind him. I found this set to be vastly superior to his earlier one, and I was glad I stuck around for both. I really wish I had the new album before the show, but it only came out two days previous.

Sorry this review ended up being a bit long. But it was six and a half hours…

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Band of Horses w/ Chad VanGaalen @ Metro

Chad VanGaalen is certainly a weird dude. He was alotted 45 minutes, but chose to play only 20. He did play my favorite song of his, Echo Train, but I believe that was the only one from Infiniheart. He seemed extremely nervous and self-conscious as he began, but still, 20 minutes is weak. We were wondering if he realized how short his set was. Too bad as I thought he was just picking up.

That left the crowd pretty flat for Band of Horses. We had to wait about 40 minutes for them to take the stage at their appointed time. No idea why they couldn't come on early, but it's one of those mysteries.

Ben Bridwell's scruffy beard and crooked grin compliment his manic jitters and force a resemblance of some kind of muppet on ecstacy. They opened with "Funeral", much to the crowd's appreciation (I wouldn't say delight as they had all been lulled to sleep by Chad's early exit). They then went into "Wicked Gil" and things got snappy immediately. Everyone was into the show from this point on. Bridwell is kind of nuts the way he jitters and flashes his grin during the songs, but it comes across as endearing rather than immature or wild. There was less banter with the crowd than at Pitchfork, but perhaps that was because the crowd was subdued. In the middle of their main set, they played a couple of new ones and another new one towards the end that was way upbeat and totally great. Covers during the set included "Darlin' Darlin'" by David Allen Coe and a slowed-down bluesy version of Showdown by ELO (weird witout the strings, but they pulled it off really well). "Great Salt Lake" appeared late in the set and was more rawkin' than on the album (they opened with a more straightforward version of this at Pitchfork). The main set closed with "I Go to the Barn Because I like The".
Encore kicked off with "Monsters", which is such a super encore track. Then they played a cover which Kyle said very much resembled a Radiohead song, but I'm not sure which one. None of the five of us could place the song they played.

All in all, great show. They claimed to be playing "every song they know how to play," but Chris and I were both disappointed that there was no St. Augustine. It was worth staying up late on a Tuesday for this one!