PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Legendary singer Mavis Staples returned to her home town for two nights at Thalia Hall this past weekend. She was supported by Chicago-based group, The Flat Five.
The show opened with the sweet sounds of The Flat Five. Making old songs sound new again with their jazzy arrangements, The Flat Five covered a wide range of material including The Free Design’s “I Found Love” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Mother Beautiful.” They peppered the set with witty banter telling the audience, “We are well aware we’re you’re appetizer,” before clearing the way for Mavis.
Mavis Staples entered the stage to a standing ovation and took her time to greet each fan with a wave before she settled into her first song, “If You’re Ready.” After the first few selections Mavis exclaimed, “We’re happy to be home!” It was a homecoming reunion as she listed the friends and family that came out to see her. When a fan shouted “I love you, Mavis!” she replied, “I love you, too!” and turned to the audience, “You know, that’s my cousin.”
Baltimore’s Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, better known as the indie dream pop duo Beach House, have spent the last decade (and then some) cultivating a cult following. And for good reason.
Their sound is nostalgic, cozy, familiar. It’s like snuggling into your favorite blanket. Beach House songs wrap around you—they hug you and even, at times, kiss you. And in winter, every Chicagoan needs a good hug. And kiss.
So it’s no surprise that the band, now a quartet live, kicked off the month of March playing in front of a sold out crowd at the Vic Theatre. Victoria took a liking to the Vic: “It’s beautiful,” she mused. “Run down in all the right ways.” And the crowd took a liking to their set, which focused on songs from one of their two 2015 releases, Depression Cherry, as well as Beach House classics from “Teen Dream,” “Bloom,” and “Devotion.”
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | After a snowy week in Chicago, the “Summer is Forever II” tour came through town for two sold out nights at Thalia Hall. Three Californian bands, Wavves, Best Coast, and Cherry Glazerr took the stage to remind us of rays of sunshine and the hot days ahead.
Cherry Glazerr started off the night with our first taste of summer. Clementine Creevy’s sugary sweet vocals about snack foods and friendship were given an edge with heavy strumming guitar. Creevy’s small frame created a large presence as she moved about the stage, even coming to the edge to sing to fans. Much of the audience was impressed and unable to help themselves from head-bobbing and dancing. At the end of the night many concertgoers walked away clutching a copy of their latest album, Haxel Princess on pink vinyl.
Best Coast brought summer night vibes with their set consisting of a pleasant mix of new and old. Frontwoman, Bethany Cosentino’s fierce stance was silhouetted making her a powerful force as the band played favorites such as “Do You Love Me Like You Used To?” and “Crazy For You.” Cosentino alternated between guitar and a star-shaped tambourine using those moments to let loose and dance to their appealing poppy rock songs.
Atlanta rapper Future just embarked on a nationwide tour in support of his most recent mixtape, “Purple Reign.” Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom was the second stop on the sold-out tour, which also featured Ty Dolla $ign and DJ Esco among others.
Unfortunately I missed over half the show because the promoter was convinced I wasn’t approved to photograph (I was) so by the time the mess was sorted out, I had been standing at will call for over an hour and had missed Ty’s set as well as part of Future’s set. (I wish I could say this sort of issue for concert photographers is a rarity but it’s definitely not.)
Anyway, from what I did catch of the show, I have nothing but good things to say. I haven’t seen a crowd enjoying themselves as much as Future’s crowd in a long time. The room was steaming hot and everyone was dancing, sweating, smiling, and singing along. It was like walking into summertime Chi and the vibe was contagious.
Brooklyn punk quartet Parquet Courts played a sold-out show at Pilsen’s Thalia Hall last Tuesday in support of their forthcoming and fifth studio album, Human Performance.
Attendees got a taste of their new songs, as well as a mixture of tracks from their previous releases including fan favorites such as “Stoned and Starving” and “Black and White.”
It was a solid, energetic and headbanging-worthy set from a band that continues to turn heads—and for good reason. Their talent, passion, and charm are a winning combination.
Yes Yes Yes! Four years after releasing The Rip Tide, Zach Condon—better known as Beirut (at least in the music world)—has returned once again to delight our ears with his latest album, No No No.
Zach and the other talented members of Beirut (Nick Petree, Paul Collins, Aaron Arntz, Ben Lanz, and Kyle Resnick) are close to finishing up a worldwide tour that recently rolled through Chicago.
They treated the sold-out crowd at the Riviera Theatre to their distinctive indie blend of baroque pop, Balkan-inspired folk, and world music. And while they played some tracks off their latest release, they didn’t shy away from playing older fan favorites (“Scenic World,” “Nantes,” “Postcards from Italy,” etc.). It’s nice to have this band back!
“How was Janet?” has literally been the only question I’ve been asked since I photographed the first night of her three-night stand at The Chicago Theatre. My response? Well, from the 60 seconds I saw through my camera lens, she was phenomenal.
Welcome to the glamorous life of a concert photojournalist! My fellow photographers and I were escorted in for the last 30 seconds of her first song and permitted to shoot from the sound booth until 30 seconds into her second song, at which point we were escorted out. But HELL I GOT TO PHOTOGRAPH JANET JACKSON—so who gives a F!
Here’s what I was able to process in a minute: Janet is still smokin’ hot. Janet can still sing her ass off. Janet can still dance her ass off. Janet doesn’t need to rely on major theatrics, as every other pop star in the world does, to convey her message. Janet is an equal opportunities employer, as her band and backup dancers are all shapes, ages, and cultures. In short, Janet is still a mutha f-in BOSS.
Go see the queen of pop!
Two years ago Leon Bridges was washing dishes in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. This night, he headlined a sold-out show at Chicago’s Vic Theatre, just one of the many stops on his first national tour.
He’s become almost an immediate sensation, reaching people of all ages and demographics with his particular style of ’60s soul. He’s old school soul with a new school twist.
In the same way that Charles Bradley channels James Brown and St. Paul and the Broken Bones channels Otis Redding, Leon Bridges channels Sam Cooke. His sound, his look, his show is like stepping back in time. And it’s fun.
Newcomer Kali Uchis kicked off the evening.
Fall might have hit Chicago, but Jamie XX and Derrick Carter teamed up to bring a straight-up sauna-inducing slew of beats to Concord Music Hall last Thursday.
Legendary house producer—and one that Chicago is proud to call its own—Derrick Carter kicked off the evening with a two-hour set of constant dance-worthy moments. Jamie XX followed with his own 120 minute set of acute orchestration, peppering hits from one of the best albums of the year, his In Colour, with rarities that will soon achieve a regularity of play thanks to his epic live DJ sets.
While Chicago was spoiled with a Derrick Carter opening set that was worthy of a closing one, Jamie XX is still worth the price of admission should he be coming to a town near you this year. If nothing else (and there is certainly much) Jamie XX has resurrected the disco ball from its disco prison. Trust me, the light show is a vision.
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters ended their three-year tour in Chicago this past week. It was also FirstMerit Bank Pavilion’s final show of the summer season at Northerly Island, and it proved to be a memorable one.
At 67, Robert Plant still possesses a powerful and commanding presence. His voice has lasted through the years and he’s hitting notes with ease and regularity—notes that have made Robert Plant, well, Robert Plant. The Space Shifters are accurately named, effortlessly shifting from one sound to the next.
Plant has never been afraid to incorporate world music into his solo work, so it was interesting to see those influences appear in the Space Shifter’s reworkings of Led Zeppelin classics. The reinterpretations were, on a whole, skillful and savvy. The arrangements sounded more intricate, more eastern, and less straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, the results being Zeppelin Lite. Or maybe World Zeppelin. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s not.
With the Space Shifters, Plant has once again morphed his sound while still playing reverence to his roots.