Sunday, September 30, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
On Monday night, sweet Monday night, Chicago rained. Originally it was a bright and sunny day but it devolved into passing rain and crazy late-September cold. It was fall, it was beautiful, and I loved it, which was great. With only a few short days in Chicago, I wanted to see if it would be possible to take in a band. Within a few minutes of searching I realized there was almost nothing to see in the city—or at least, my go-to resource was not sending up any flags.
I took a gander at Lincoln Hall, which frequently had shows I wanted to see, and was surprised to my bones to see a Monday-night listing for Maximo Park. Maximo Park was definitely a band on my "must see live" list. I debated back and forth, and decided to put off buying an actual ticket until Monday morning.
When Monday did finally roll around the real issue became not that I was feeling crushed for time, and pressured to work, or that the weather was quickly becoming less pleasant. It was, in fact, because the venue had been changed, and I almost chose not to go. Lincoln Hall is actually a really pleasant venue to see a show in and I've learned to truly enjoy it. However the show had been changed over to Schubas, I suspected because the Monday-night turnout was perhaps not that good.
Lincoln Hall I knew. Schubas I didn't. Or at least, I knew about it and wasn't sure it would be a great venue. With some debate I finally decided to do it anyway, because I cared more about the music than the room—although I was worried the sound might suck and the venue might be too crowded and flat and annoying. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
The evening began with a lovely Mexican dinner at Mia Terra. While I wanted to be there in time for the second opening act, I wasn't that fussed on the sound of the first opener. The second act, The Neighbourhood, has a wonderful blend of low-fi pop that I found very enchanting. I also enjoyed one particular song, "Female Robbery," a great little ditty about women not getting what they wanted. Good times.
I managed to finish dinner and get down to Schubas in time for The Neighbourhood, but much to my chagrin they chose to do their EP set in order and started with the song I most liked. I could forgive them though; they were young, charming, and gifted young men, and I will be excited to see what they have for the future.
The band that I was there to see, though, was Maximo Park. I was hoping they would be a good live show. The venue was small, but I managed to get a place on the stage that I figured would work, I wasn't dead front and center, but there had been some stage squatters there long before I got there. However, I was in the second row, which wasn't bad. I was also behind something, so there was no one in front of me interrupting my view of the stage, even better.
Even though it was Monday night and the show didn't start till 10, I was excited, and the tired swept out of me as the boys from England took the stage. And all I could say was...Wow.
I had seen a lot of bands, and I have to say, even with some of the most amazing shows I had seen this year, this was absolutely one of the best live acts I had ever seen. The energy that Paul Smith brought to the stage was absolutely stunning. When musicians write music, when a band releases it, the music goes into the wild. In the wild it catches up with the fan, the music lover, the person who is experiencing a moment and in that moment that song just speaks perfectly to them and to what they need. The person, the music aficionado, the random person having that moment, they learn every word to the song. They play the song over and over again, it is on perpetual repeat until the moment passes or something new replaces it. They sing along, they know every word and when they sing along, whether it is in or out of key, whether the words or right, or the accent is funny, they sing and it is so impassioned that every word drips with the sentiment and the emotion of the moment, the situation, the resonance with which a song sings to a specific person.
When Paul Smith took that stage and began to sing, he didn't just sing the songs. It wasn't just seeing him sing or perform, it wasn't just his voice, transcendent and beautiful. It wasn't the bouncing of the pianist who did jumping jacks in time to the beat, or the sweat-soaked brow of the drummer, the patient perfection of the guitarist. It wasn't the beleaguered roadie preparing the next round of guitars for the next moment on stage. What made the show so perfect was the fact that Paul Smith vocalized every word of every song with the same passion of the fan, the person who emoted as they listened and sang along. Ever single word had the passion, the pain, the plight, the love, the desire, the jealousy, the freedom of the music fan. He sang like a man possessed by the feelings of every person who had ever been touched by his music. And it was beautiful. It was amazing; it was perfect; it was transcendent.
I was so wrapped up in it I could forgive the happy-go-lucky glitter goth German who kept bumping into me. I could forgive the ridiculous heckling from the crowd and the call for B-sides and obscure tracks that even the band wasn't sure of playing. The band had a beautiful rapport with the crowd, with each other, and the show was the smoothest, most flawless of shows I had ever seen. The sound was perfect for the venue, the size of the audience most appropriate and the music...well...yes.
All in all a perfect way to spend a Monday evening.
Later, walking back to the car in the rain, I could only think of the music, and how it was obsession on stage for over an hour: sweet obsession, sweet projection, sweet and concise understanding of all the fans, and all the lovers, and fighters, and rebels and misanthropic writers in the world who had come to enjoy the show.
And while the critics thought that "Hips and Lips" was the best track off the new album. I disagreed. I loved "The Undercurrents."