Concert Review: GoGo Penguin, September 23, Lincoln Hall

Preface: The first three paragraphs of this review are self-centered narrative. To read the rave review of GoGo Penguin, please feel free to skip to the 4th paragraph.

Embarrassing fact: I haven’t been to a show in 9 months. 9 months! I could have had a baby! I could have traveled around the world! I could have fled the USA to escape our new political regime (but Ricky wouldn’t agree to marry me so I couldn’t. Thanks for nothing Ricky.) Did I? No. Nothing as exciting as any of that. My explanation (not an excuse by any means) is simply the boring details of every day life mingled with a move from the 202 to the 312 (i.e. DC to Chicago).

So I’ve been in Chicago – nervously wondering how to “redebut” myself to the concert scene – meanwhile not making any significant progress or ticket purchases (indecision for the fail!). Then, Friday, the answer came from above. And by “above” I mean from my 6’2″ concert buddy who moved to Chicago from DC several years ago and has kindly taken me under his wing since my move. His simple text: I know a great band, GoGo Penguin, is coming through Lincoln Hall Saturday. Want to join?

I must admit I didn’t say yes right away – I was nervous! What if I hated it? I went through all the things in my mind that I didn’t love about concerts: late set times, overly chatty bands, crappy venues, bad track selection – the list went on and on. But… what the heck? After a few minutes of nervous snacking (I’ve fallen into a bad Frito habit since moving to Chicago) I texted: Yes. Send. Done. Best decision ever.

GoGo Penguin was phenomenal. The timely and scruffy-but-well-groomed trio hailing from the UK took the stage right around 10 PM after their delightful opener (Mattson 2) finished a lovely set. Double bassist Nick Blacka played a perfect MC role – graciously thanking the appreciative Chicago crowd for hosting the trio’s first visit to the Windy City and introducing drummer Rob Turner and pianist Chris Illingworth. They diplomatically fielded Manchester versus Real Madrid taunts and entertained the audience’s banter just long enough to be polite before always returning the focus to the prize of the night: the music. GoGo Penguin delivers an amazing mix of traditional jazz with acoustic flare. The balance between the three instruments is always impeccable, keeping the listener on his or her toes just enough while also providing a relaxing, almost hypnotic beat. I honestly don’t know how these three jive so well – you’d think it would take endless hours of precise practice – but the feeling of improvisation and unique composition is palpable in each piece. I loved it. Everyone loved it. It’s hard to pick a favorite track – the band’s newest album Man Made Objects is a masterpiece and their other albums are equally as fantastic. If I were to recommend one or two tracks for the new listener, it would be “Protest” or “All Res” – but I’d urge you to explore the band’s library and definitely catch a show.

No excuses.

Posted on by halley in Concerts