Concert Review: Ra Ra Riot, Young the Giant, November 4, Aragon Theater

Posted on by Celeste in Concerts | 1 Comment

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Sometimes you build things up in your head for a long time and they totally disappoint you. And sometimes they still totally blow you away.

Halley went to see Ra Ra Riot three years ago and came away gushing on and on about how amazing they were and how badass the female stand up cello player was. I finally got to see them Friday night at the Aragon Theater in Chicago, and I was totally blown away despite my high expectations.

First a few words about the venue though, because that definitely set the tone for the night. The Aragon is beautiful. Pure and simple. This was my first time there and I didn’t quite know what to expect given that usually when people talk about the Aragon they talk about how dilapidated it is. Maybe it’s been renovated since then, but I was open mouthed when I walked up the beautiful sweeping staircase and into the cavernous second floor. You walk into this ginormous echoing vast space and look up and see a huge black and gold ceiling painted to look like the night sky with patterned lights blinking to look like stars. Not only that but there are sightlines for days. Ten out of ten for the Aragon.

And then Ra Ra Riot got on the stage and my night became even better. Hal’s right, the stand up cello player is a highlight, with her minimalist cello that’s just a metal frame with strings, but really the whole band as an entity is just incredible. While I’d always thought of Ra Ra Riot’s sound as fun and catchy as all get out, I’d never really thought of it as impressive, but when you get hit full surround sound with the band’s sweeping instrumentalist sound with the cello and the violin included, and on top of that you have Wes Miles strutting his stuff and blasting away in his falsetto, it’s almost overwhelming in the best of ways. The band made its way through “Foreign Lovers,” (getting a shout out from the crowd at the Chicago line of course) “Beta Love,” “Bouncy Castles,” and “Absolutely” from their fantastic 2016 album Need Your Light, as well as some hits off their 2013 album including title track “Beta Love.” During a clear crowd favorite “Water” (which is a collaboration between Ra Ra Riot and Rostam Batmanglij formerly of Vampire Weekend) a couple of members of Young the Giant came bounding onto the stage (one of whom was wearing a ginormous cat mask) and helped out with the track. Even with high expectations, the group still managed to blow me away.

Next up was Young the Giant. My expectations for the headliner were lower. Although my friends look at me like I’m crazy whenever I say I’ve never loved the band recorded, I was blown away for totally different reasons than with Ra Ra Riot. I wasn’t expecting lead singer Sameer Gadhia to put on such an amazing, high energy show, but the man came strutting out in a head to toe bright red jumpsuit (either that or it was a long sleeve shirt and pants that matched perfectly, but I’m just going to pretend it was a jumpsuit. Or is it a romper? Or do only women wear rompers?) and immediately kicked into high gear with tracks from the new album Home of the Strange including “Titus was Born” and “Something to Believe in” and some older crowd favorites, including “Cough Syrup,” which elicited a huge roar of approval from the concert-goers. Seeing his pure flair and verve when he’s onstage brings out the joy and emotion infused in the tracks much more for me than just listening to the band on Spotify.

Given the immense sound of both bands I can’t think of a better place to see them in the cavernous, grandiose atmosphere of Aragon.

Concert Review: Marillion, October 31, Danforth Music Hall

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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About three songs in to Marillion‘s set at the Danforth, singer Steve Hogarth addressed the crowd and was met with adoring cheers that practically drowned him out. It all seemed a bit much for me after only three songs, but it does go to show the level of cult fandom the British prog rockers elicit.

The band is touring behind their latest record Fuck Everything And Run (F.E.A.R.), which Hogarth admitted is a fairly dark album. Lyrically, F.E.A.R revolves around a lot of political and social commentary on the modern world, one of the highlights of which was the epic “The New Kings,” described as being about what happens when money gets involved in politics and dedicated to “those people who really don’t give a fuck about any of us.” As the band played, the words “too big to fail,” “greed is good,” and “why is nothing ever true?” flashed onscreen to drive home the point. Hogarth also got political in his stage banter at times, commenting on Mark Carney (“We now have your Mark Carney as governor of the Bank of England. He looks good in a suit, I’ll give him that …”) and new PM Theresa May (“the jury’s still out”) as well as giving a shout out to Scotland (“a country that runs on paranoia”).

While the new material was some of the best sounding stuff all night, the biggest crowd responses came for older numbers such as “Lavender” and “Kayleigh,” which I believe made it’s debut on the current North American tour this evening. As the band came out for their second encore, someone shouted out, “You’ve gotta do ‘Kayleigh!'”. “Oh yeah, you wanna hear that? We can do it if you’re arsed,” replied Hogarth. “You’ve got to sing though.” And sing they did, with Hogarth content to stand back and let the crowd sing the whole first verse, thus displaying more of that devotion they showed earlier in the night with all that cheering.

While I may not have been on board with the massive amounts of cheering so early on in the set (save it for the encore, folks), I was definitely impressed with Marillion. Having been around since the ’80s, the band was tight and impressive in their virtuosity, but most impressive was Hogarth’s performance. He’s quite an entertaining frontman, making all sorts of wild and dramatic gesticulations throughout their set that really helped to drive their performance home.

Concert Review: Tegan & Sara [Oct 28, Massey Hall] #shitfoot

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

Photo taken by Sui Mei Isles

Photo taken by Melody Lau

Tegan and Sara live is a wonderful time.

You can paint a show with any brush you want but for what it’s worth, Tegan and Sara are just the right combination of humor, humility and songs to really get you feeling good after a show. It really helps that the band have quietly developed an arsenal of tracks that can cater to a Friday night crowd.

Love You To Death is the 8th studio album released by the duo and it’s light, anthemic, hook laden music was perfect for a crowd that was ready to roll on Halloween weekend. The new album is one of my favourites of the year and I actually had to stop listening to it earlier this year to prevent burning out. The album builds on the pop formula seen in full display from 2013’s Heartthrob, which produced one of their most popular tracks, “Closer.” After hearing set closer “Stop Desire” live, it’s pretty apparent that track has a new rival for best T&S track to dance to.

Fans of the older material didn’t need to fret though, as one of the two pointed out very early in the show “only 8 out of 24 songs on this set list are new,” just in case people were worried. That kind of self aware banter went on throughout the night and it added a personal touch which is strange because we were in the cavernous Massey Hall. Of particular enjoyment was a conversation about the body aches that comes with aging and also, another moment where everyone was waving their hands and one of the duo ( i can’t tell which) casually quipped “this is the part where we do this.” Some of this material probably gets repeated on a nightly basis, but who the hell cares when it’s this enjoyable.

Concert Review: Bad Suns, October 28, Double Door

Posted on by Celeste in Concerts | Leave a comment

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There is no time in life when I would be excited to stand behind a screaming 19 year old dressed in a banana suit besides on Halloween weekend at the Double Door hosting Bad Suns. When you’re watching a quartet of brootiful men with a shiny metallic sun make infectious indie pop onstage under a moving disco ball, really a screaming 19 year old in a banana suit is just appropriate ambiance.

I spent the first thirty minutes of the show utterly confused, texting my sister, because I couldn’t understand why I didn’t recognize a single song Bad Suns were playing. Turns out the openers COIN just went hard for an hour and a half and the audience was super into it. The Nashville quartet ran through “Run” and “Time Machine” from their self titled 2015 album as well as their new 2016 single “Talk Too Much”.

As the band left the stage (and everyone checked their phones for the cubbies score) Bad Suns took to the stage under their glittering metallic sun and the moving disco ball, immediately rolling into the first song off their new album “Disappear Here” and moving quickly through “Patience,” “Even In My Dreams I Can’t Win,” “Dancing on Quicksand,” “Sleep Paralysis,” “Transpose,” and one of my favorites, “Daft Pretty Boys.” It’s a testament to how good the new album is that the crowd seemed to be more pumped for the new songs than the old (maybe also a testament to how young the band is) but there was palpable excitement at the beginning of every track, and from the first song to the last everyone was on their feet dancing. As the band left the stage (and as everyone once again checked their phones for the cubbies score) there was a chant of “Heart.Break.Er! Heart.Break.Er!” The band of course came out and accommodated. As everyone dispersed into the night to watch the cubbies finish up a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Cleveland, I think everyone who was at the Double Door would agree that Bad Suns was the highlight of their night.