Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Iron and Wine

It had been a while since I had been to the Chicago Theatre; the last time was to see Tori Amos with the Bard. That had been a show during the catastrophic tonsillitis of 2009 which had finally ended with my tonsils on the cutting-room floor. Tori was as Tori always is, a dynamic and amazing presence on stage, who brings with her playing the sort of raw sexuality that makes me feel as I watch her that I am not watching someone play piano and sing, but that I am rather watching someone have full-on dirty, filthy sex with a piano that culminates in an orgasm for everyone in the building. It’s filthy, it’s hot, and it leaves you damp and wanting more. Yes, well, it is Tori Amos. That was the Abnormally Attracted to Sin tour. I bought and wore a pin that read “Goth Slut” for at least four years before it finally ended up lost in the ether somewhere. So many variety of things lost in the ether somewhere; such was my life.

The theater was still beautiful and unwieldy, with all sorts of different kinds of intricate carvings. We went through a quick security check. I checked my bag and bought a vodkait being that kind of eveningbefore going off to find our seats. We were seated in the first row on the upper balcony, which afforded a great view of the stage as well as allowing some room to stretch our legs.

Much to my amusements there were hipsters on every side of us. The theater was crowded but not necessarily packed, and I was excited to see both Widowspeak (the opening act) and Iron and Wine. I was also amused by just how many people kept going in and out to get booze, as I couldn't recall seeing that much swilling of the drink on previous shows there, but then, once I’ve camped out my seat, I rarely leave to get another drink. Drinking is what you do before the show starts, not during.

Widowspeak came on quietly and filled the theater with ethereal magical voices. Her soft lead vocal was a nice compliment to the drums and guitars and she had the floaty onstage presence of Mazzy Star. The sound was lovely, but this was when it became clear that something was not quite right in the land of sound planning. The sounds from the stage seemed just a bit off that I found myself straining to hear, even though it should have been quite easy to make a connection in this theater. The Chicago Theatre has great sound, and a good sound engineer should have had no problem with that.

Even with the sound trouble I enjoyed the set, and was only further excited for the next. Since it was between sets I figured this would be a good time to go to the bathroom, and hey, while I was out there, why not some vodka? where I was promptly carded, even though I had not been downstairs. Fortunately I was with the Electrician, who bought the drinks, but the bartender was quite adamant that I not touch the drinks. This lead to confusion all around for me alone.

Iron and Wine was up next. We got back to the hall in time to meet with a few Shimer students that were hanging out there talking to the Bard. The show was coming up rather quickly, so people were quickly back in their seats and hanging out to enjoy the Iron and Wine.

Iron and Wine, the former guitar-only act, was paired up with three backup singers, brass section, string section, and a pretty decent drummer. All together he was outfitted to bring the party to the yard, and that is really what he did. While his band was in top form, and he was lovely, his sound engineer clearly had no idea what he was doing. The sound was not managed as well as it could have been. Fortunately for us, though, Iron and Wine did the equivalent of a musical striptease, starting off with the full band and then slowly as he worked through the evening, peeling it off, slowly but surely, until he stood alone, a man naked with only his guitar, his voice, and his lovely sense of humor.

He engaged the audience, asked them for songs, joked with us, and laughed. When someone shouted out "Freebird!" as seems almost inevitably when you expose yourself musically on stage to the taunts and snide comments from the crowd, he actually started into the well-known refrain. And while he didn’t finish it, not a person in the house would have been upset if he had continued all the way to “Free as a bird now.”

We clapped our hands and swayed, and I let myself drown in the sound of it, luxuriating in musical release until we were finally dismissed to a large encore, and sent back out into the street of the bright fall Chicago night with music in our heads. The drive up LSD was glittering and had that magical city-night quality that comes at the end of a good day.

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