It was right around the first of the year, the time when bands and artists announce their spring and summer tours. A time when, deep in the throes of winter’s doldrums, we dream of warmer days ahead; perhaps walking to work from the “L” without several layers of space-age fabrics protecting us, baseball teams not mathematically eliminated from post-season contention and the days when we have to make the Sophie’s choice: which show to go to when choices are abundant. As the show announcements came fast and furious, the third week of May was shaping up to be unbeatable; like a Cubs/Cards weekend series, a rapid succession of can’t miss shows.
First was [lastfm]Paul Simon[/lastfm], doing two dates: a big show at the palatial Chicago Theatre, then he announced a second date, the night before at the considerably smaller Vic Theatre. [lastfm]Echo & the Bunnymen[/lastfm] realized the 30th Anniversary of their debut had come and gone, so they decided to tour in celebration of that milestone by performing ‘Crocodiles’ and ‘Heaven Up Here’, front-to-back. Then, [lastfm]Elvis Costello[/lastfm] announced that he was reprising his ‘revolving songbook’ concept, which had a successful run in Chicago back in 1986. And the [lastfm]Cars[/lastfm] broke a nearly 25 year hiatus and were not only releasing a new record but hitting the road. And as it happened, those four bands/artists were all playing the same week!
Could it be done? See each of those shows in a single week? Read on…
[photogallerylink id=52655 align=left]As the schedule shook out, Elvis Costello was the first show of the week on Sunday; he brought the Imposters (two former Attractions and a Cracker) and his revolving songbook to the Chicago Theatre for what was dubbed the “Revolver” Tour, (foreshadowing alert). The concept was simple, a giant wheel peppered with a cross-section of Elvis’s songs (my iTunes library count is over 400 songs and the wheel had 40, just 10% of his catalog) and ’concepts’. Attendees were chaperoned onstage to spin the wheel, wherever it landed, Elvis would summon the proper guitar and off they went, the spinners got to spend the song(s) onstage at a makeshift lounge. A full set, two encores, nearly three hours and thirty-two songs or so later, the audience had been treated to a wonderful evening of witty banter, a amazing selection of (almost completely randomly selected, there were a few cheats) Elvis Costello songs and a few choice covers (Beatles, Stones, Smokey Robinson, Prince). Then I hit the airwaves and later grabbed some sleep to rest up for Monday night.
[photogallerylink id=48605 align=left]As Elvis Costello proved, you can bring intimacy to a 3600-seat venue, however, the opportunity to see a top-tier artist, 50+ years into a Hall Of Fame Career at a venue half the size rarely presents itself. It did with the presence of the legendary Paul Simon Monday night, who brought himself and cast of eight to the friendly confines of The Vic. My wife Carla is a huge Paul Simon fan, from the Simon & Garfunkel days to present day and she made it known that if was to see ONE show this year (even as a 38-week pregnant woman) it was THIS one. Thankfully we were able to finagle actual seats (thanks Nick and John) for the show, which was a delight. At some point during Paul’s 2+ hour show, each of his bandmates (except for Paul, slacker) played at least two instruments apiece. The drummer played a simple bass drum/hi-hat rhythm while playing a Telecaster, the guitarist doubled on baritone sax when needed and so on. The set was the perfect blend of new and old, heavy on ‘Graceland’ and dipping back to the S&G era with “The Sound of Silence” and “The Only Living Boy In New York” and a nice reading of “Here Comes The Sun”. The wife and I were impressed with the set and there was no rush-to-Illinois Masonic Hospital drama, the baby’s still in utero.
Night three featured a Liverpudlian band but was the only night that did not feature a Fab Four song. Echo and the Bunnymen brought the Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here albums (their first two) to life, once again at the Vic (I scored the SAME free parking space each night, no I’m not telling where). While those two albums may not contain the band’s best known material, the set(s) didn’t lack strength or power. To my ears, the Heaven Up Here material packed a bit more punch with an epic like “Over the Wall” pummeling the Vic crowd. After performing the two albums, the band returned for a few encores rich in the material that made them famous: “The Killing Moon”, “The Cutter” and “Lips Like Sugar”. Though we scarcely understood a word Ian McCulloch didn’t sing (his banter was a bit, mumbled) we all left thrilled.
With today (Wednesday) being my wife’s birthday, I opted out of making tonight my fourth night in a row seeing a rock show (she’s a big Cars fan but again, she’s VERY pregnant and I enjoy being married) so you’ll have to be my eyes and ears for this one. Lemme know how it goes, OK?