Category Archives: TVD Chicago

TVD Live Shots:
LCD Soundsystem at the Aragon Ballroom, 11/6

LCD Soundsystem wrapped up three sold-out nights at the Aragon Ballroom Monday evening.

Touring in support of their most recent (and excellent) work American Dream, the band appears more polished than ever and continues to be one of the most exciting live acts on the planet. Simply said, they put on the best disco dance party I’ve ever attended—and likely will ever attend. Until, of course, their next show.

Spoiling the crowd with an array of new and old hits, the heat index in the Aragon quickly spiked off the charts. The sweat unabashedly drip down every body in the Ballroom. It didn’t matter. We danced ourselves clean.

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TVD Live Shots: Arcade Fire and The Breeders at the United Center, 10/30

Arcade Fire brought their Infinite Content Tour to the United Center Monday night, treating the crowd to an in-the-round setup. It was quite literally a boxing ring equipped with a rotating stage positioned in the middle of the arena. The effect? A more intimate, club-like feeling in what is otherwise a venue better suited for sporting events than concerts. I dug it, along with their stellar lighting (bonus points for not one but two disco balls) and thoughtful production.

Arcade Fire is just one of those bands that really comes to life live. Their songs have such anthemic qualities and there’s just so much to watch; so much talent to witness. It’s like a game of musical chairs—who’s going to play what instrument next? And because of that, my expectations are high at their shows.

So I’m happy to report that they exceeded my expectations yet again. This is a band that gives their hearts and souls to their fans, night after night. And from the look of it, they have fun doing it too. The setlist favored their latest album Everything Now, but pulled from their entire discography. It was a pre-Halloween dance party, as many attendees rocked some incredible costumes.

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TVD Live Shots:
Tori Amos and Scars
on 45 at the Chicago Theatre, 10/27

Tori Amos brought her Native Invader tour to the Windy City for a beautiful night of songs last Friday. At times, I forgot it was just one woman on the stage, as her impeccable voice, her piano mastery, and her commanding presence filled The Chicago Theatre. She is, and always has been, a thrilling performer.

The setlist spanned her impressive discography and she even managed to throw in a couple of lovely covers during her “Fake Muse” segment—Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Jim Croce’s “Operator.” Each night Tori’s setlist evolves, so there was an air of anticipation in the theatre. But the audience was visibly and audibly thrilled, particularly after “Yes, Anastasia,” “Take to the Sky,” and “Precious Things.”

British pop trio Scars on 45 opened the show. Tori’s U.S. tour continues through early December, and a ticket to one of them is worth every penny.

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TVD Live Shots: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile with Jen Cloher at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 10/26

When I first heard that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were coming out with a collaboration album, I had two thoughts: (1) musically speaking, that makes a ton of sense, and (2) this is gonna be a good album. (Spoiler alert: it is.)

Now, after watching them play together for the first of three Chicago shows in honor of the Empty Bottle’s 25th birthday, I wonder if it’s possible that they were separated at birth. Tall, slender, and flanneled, their long, dark hair covered their faces as their guitars and voices conversed with one another. Just two musical soulmates born across the world from each other, destined to meet to eventually spoil us all with their creative riches.

It was a memorable evening to say the least. It’s always a treat to see Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, but to see them play together was a full-on dessert tray. They seem perfectly paired, bouncing sounds back and forth. Their chemistry is natural, innate. It’s a fated partnership for sure—one that I hope will continue to give us a Lotta Sea Lice.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/17

3:18 PM | The last day of Riot Fest ’17 is underway and the crowd is very happy to see local fellas, The Orwells, take the stage. Frontman Mario Cuomo shimmies and screams, occasionally flashing a mischievous grin at the crowd.

4:00 PM | The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It by playing it in full. It’s a scene of pure jubilation. Everyone is smiling—the crowd, the band, security, my fellow photographers. I even take a moment to see if I can figure out how to ska after all these years. (Verdict: rusty for sure but just like riding a bike.)

4:22 PM | We’re standing in the photo pit waiting for Cap’n Jazz (another Chicago band—yay!) to begin and the head of security is telling his guys that one of them needs to take a break. “Already did, boss,” one responds, holding up a half-eaten monster of a ham sandwich. “No, I want you to sit. I want one of you to take a break,” bossman reiterates. “We’ll be dead tomorrow it doesn’t matter,” another jokes. “No seriously I wanna work this one,” Mr. Ham Sandwich says mid-bite. “This guy is crazy. He goes nuts.”

4:38 PM | Mr. Ham Sandwich is 100% correct. “We’re Queens of the Stone Age thanks for coming!” lead singer Tim Kinsella jokes, minutes before leaping into the crowd to get tussled around while still singing. Their set is one of the most memorable—and best—of the weekend.

5:09 PM | Gwar just entered the press area and I’ve never seen so many industry professionals lose their composure all at once and to this extent. I mean, reporters are begging them for selfies. BEGGING. Literally everyone is ignoring their assignments to get photos with these sci-fi, man/beast, heavy metal warriors.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/16

1:57 PM | The lines to get into Riot Fest are huge today. Well, one line, I should say: the women’s line. Security has divided us by gender despite the fact that male security guards are patting down both lines. I’m obviously not the only one trying to figure out why this makes any logistical sense. Behind me a woman jokes to her friends, “The patriarchy ruins it again!”

2:18 PM | I’m drawn to the sound at the Roots Stage. Turns out it’s Black Pistol Fire. I like their sound—it’s solid, bluesy hard rock. And I like their stage presence—high energy.

2:48 PM | Well Peaches has arrived…in a vagina hat and shaggy pink body suit. Provocative as ever, she’s taken over the festival. She’s all anyone can talk about.

3:15 PM | WTF is up with this small ass crowd for Shabazz Palaces? I blame Peaches, whose crowd continues to grow as she dances and leaps into the audience singing lyrics such as “Whose jizz is this?”

3:21 PM | Ok, here comes the crowd for Shabazz. They’re filling in and grooving now.

4:00 PM | Supergroup alert! Dead Cross has taken the stage. Mike Patton is wailing into the mic and the crowd is losing their shit.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/15

2:18 PM | Aaaaaand we’re off! The final festival of the good weather season here in Chicago. Shockingly, it’s a scorcher today and I notice a lot of people in black taking cover in the shade.

2:38 PM | I catch the second half of Liars’ set and Angus Andrews is rocking a white tutu. Combined with his white tank, it appears as if he’s thrashing across the stage in a wedding dress. An excellent start to Riot Fest.

3:05 PM | Saul Williams is a spoken word master and he’s doing his thing right now. “Your punk rock ain’t that punk rock…if it doesn’t make fascists explode,” he tells the crowd. They cheer in agreement.

3:27 PM | I am now taking a moment in the shade with everyone else. The spot happens to be in a sound melting pot zone—you can hear three stages at once. X + Saul Williams + Four Years Strong = the first supergroup of the weekend.

4:12 PM | The Buzzcocks are bringin’ the punk all the way from the UK. Nostalgia is in the air.

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TVD Live: Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park, 9/2–9/3

PHOTOS: DENNIS McDONOUGH | Millennium Park was swinging with New Orleans grooves while tipping the scales in favor of the jazz-oriented city’s more edgy sounds when the Chicago Jazz Festival took over the park on Labor Day weekend. There were lots of homegrown players as well as the cream of the crop of New York’s young stars, and one very special musician from South Africa.

Mary Halvorson (pictured below) is known as a guitar player’s guitar player and she has been setting the standard in New York for over a decade. For her show in Chicago she brought her octet with Susan Alcorn on pedal steel, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Ingrid Laubrock, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, trombonist Jacob Garchik, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Ches Smith.

Halvorson is known as a prickly, jittery player who writes very inventive music. With the octet she was able to showcase her compositions which move from pastoral to a fierce storm. On the lyrical second song, the trumpeter’s solo was a majestic clarion call.

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TVD Live Shots: Green Day and Catfish and the Bottlemen at Wrigley Field, 8/24

Green Day put on what was easily the most exhilarating performance that Wrigley Field has seen all summer—and that’s saying something, given the ballpark’s abundant and star-studded 2017 concert lineup. Also, it’s worth noting that what was arguably the most fun and celebratory show at Wrigley all summer was the cheapest one. (Thanks Green Day for making your shows affordable.)

Where to begin? There was a drunk bunny tossing toys into the crowd, pyrotechnics, Billie’s leaps, Mike’s facial expressions, Tré’s tutu, jokes, a t-shirt canon, so many fireworks, sing-a-longs, Chicago-centric covers (“Shout,” etc.) and rally cries. (In general: theatrics galore!) Multiple fans were pulled from the crowd to sing and stage dive. One, “Ritchie from Glenview,” was given the guitar he was brought to the stage to play. I mean, the band gave so much to the crowd that we might as well have been contestants on a game show.

Seriously though, Green Day is incredibly generous to their fans. And I’m not talking about their giveaways. They’re kind, considerate, and loyal to their fanbase. They played every single song as if it was their last time playing it. Ever. How they still have this much energy 30+ years later is beyond me. The band was juiced, the crowd was juiced, and it made for one hell of a fun ride. Even Billie Joe referred to it as “one of best nights” of his life. In awe staring out at Wrigley Field, he confessed, “Never in my fucking life did I ever think we’d be playing Wrigley Field.”

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TVD Live Shots: James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Wrigley Field, 7/17

I’m starting to forget that baseball is actually played at Wrigley Field because it’s becoming one of my favorite concert destinations. One week ago James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt took to the stage at Chicago’s historic ballpark for a night of easy listening nostalgia.

Bonnie Raitt opened the evening with a fun set and some surprise covers—notably, the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and INXS’ “Need You Tonight.” But the emotional highlight came during her stunning version of “Angel from Montgomery,” a song that’s not just special to me but, she noted, her as well. In between songs she took in the sights, “I hope wherever my folks are they’re digging this view right now.” She also expressed her gratitude to James Taylor, a lifelong friend, before he joined her on stage for “Thing Called Love.” “It’s an astonishing thing to be here tonight and on this tour,” she remarked.

James Taylor kicked off his headlining set with crowd pleaser “Carolina in My Mind.” His demeanor suggests that he’s the nicest, most considerate, wonderful man on the planet. Seriously, if you couldn’t tell by listening to his songs, you can tell by watching his interactions with his band and the crowd.

He’s funny too. During “Sunny Skies” home videos and photos of James with his dog (who he later described as having a “potato body”) ran across the monitors. He explained, “If you run out of sexy you gotta go cute,” to a roar of laughter from the crowd. The set carried on with one hit after another from his deep catalog of music, culminating in another duet with Bonnie (“You Can Close Your Eyes”) to conclude the evening. It was a memorable summer night at Wrigley—one that I won’t forget.

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