July 14, 2017

The Weekend of Wonderful Sounds

As summer finds itself in full swing, I've seemed to have upped my concert repertoire over the recent months, and rather swiftly, I might add.

I've headed to shows all throughout the city [and a few burbs] that include: Tool, Rhiannon Giddens, Gary Clark Jr., Air, The B-52's, Gorillaz, and Natalie Merchant [Phish is on deck for Sunday]. All of these were fantastic shows. I'm going to delve into a few details about two of them, which is particularly easy because I saw both artists this past weekend.


I'll take you over to Northerly Island where I saw Gorillaz on Saturday, July 8th. Now this was a band I had been quite enthused with over the past decade and then some. I remember being 18 [yeah, I was late to the party] and running into the Jamba Juice I was working at, only to Zach Braff my co-workers by putting my headphones in their ears and playing 'The Sounder', insisting that they needed to hear it. I remember hearing that for the first time and it being a song I had to listen to over and over.'Ghosttrain' was another favorite at that point in time.

I'm pretty amped on their latest album, as it possess a glorious hype and overall different vibe from their former work. Saying that, Gorillaz always tend to do their own thing and it's rather difficult to compare songs as they vary significantly, as do their albums. Please, let us not forget 'M1 A1' which always enthusiastically scares the hell out of me, but gains a groovy rock ability mid-way. Their concert delivered for new fans and those who have been there since the beginning. They kicked it off with 'Ascension' where I thoroughly lost my shit. There are so many great songs to dance to on Humanz that it really accentuated my hype. I believe I danced the entire concert. You couldn't not.

When they slid gloriously into 'Last Living Souls', it warranted another mind-losing session as I've loved that song for too long not to see it played live. 'Charger' was a serious shock to my system because I didn't even see that coming and it's one of my favorites off the latest. I fell in love with 'Out of Body', which I had heard before, but apparently not thoroughly enough. That was a song that required some righteous grooves. Everything continued to be outstanding all the way until they closed it up with 'Demon Days', which could not have been more appropriate. Such a beautiful song and a great way to send us off. It's always fun being the first U.S. show, we were the fun experiment for the new setlist, which is pretty lovely.


Now I'll take you over to The Chicago Theatre on the following day to see Natalie Merchant. The show I had been looking forward to since March [which really doesn't seem like that long ago, but still]. I had seen her before in the same venue in 2010 where she did various works from Leave Your Sleep, the album that was comprised of poems that were converted into songs to almost become lullabies, which was pretty stunning [a favorite - 'Adventures of Isabel' and this simply highlights how amazing her vocals are] She did include a few older hits near the end, but was primarily focused. This tour was 3 decades of work compiled into one show, which made it a beautiful mystery. I did not know what to expect, but I knew what I was hoping for.

She opened with 'Lulu' which I was not familiar with, but enjoyed quite a bit. She went into 'Ophelia' where I needed to stand up and lose my mind and body in a groove and fully take in what I was hearing. The song I had been anticipating hearing live for so long now. I can say that it has consistently been one of my favorite songs throughout most of my life, there's just something entirely captivating, something so tragic about it that really resonates with me. How a woman finds escapism in the personas of such different woman that all hold a distinct power. It just makes me feel incredibly strong, whilst pulling on me emotionally.

 It was absolutely remarkable. She made her way through her set list highlighting crowd favorites and hidden gems. This was the show for an avid Natalie Merchant fan. It seemed to be such an odd thing that everyone pretty much remained glued to their chair. I get it, not all of her songs have a beat that pulls you out of your seat, but I just feel a bit lazy when I'm sitting down at a concert, it just feels disrespectful. At one point, I felt a hand around my waist and someone asking me to sit down so that "people could see". At first I thought it was a guard and complied, until I realized it was another patron at the concert. This irked me a bit and next time I got the urge to dance [uh, a song later?] I made sure I put myself in a spot that was more secluded and continued to sway while they played, and then remained there for some time. Natalie Merchant has a knack for some witty crowd banter. A woman shouted out something to the stage, in which she replied "Is Ma'dam okay? Do you need attention?" or to another inaudible shout "Are you speaking French?". And of course when she brought politics to the table and crushed a few vibes of the willfully ignorant crowd, but not I. Rock on! She earned that right after making beautiful music for over 3 decades. Oh, the glory!

Highlights: Carnival  /  Wonder  /  Life Is Sweet  /  Don't Talk  /  Kind and Generous

While I am very familiar with quite a few of her albums, both solo and from 10,000 Maniacs, a few songs slipped the familiarity base, but I'm sure there were songs like that for everyone, especially the few she played from Leave Your Sleep. Overall, I think everyone had a marvelous take-away from the experience. A truly captivating and moving concert for so many.

The real magic came when near the end of the show, she had asked if any ladies wanted to come on stage and do backup vocals. OBVIOUSLY. As I was already seated near the front, I knew I could hop up on the front set of speakers and slither my way around to make it happen, AND HAPPEN IT DID. I found myself ON STAGE for a packed house at The Chicago Theatre. It was truly phenomenal. Not only is Natalie Merchant one of my all time favorite artists [the adoration has been there since age three], but The Chicago Theater is my favorite venue in this city [I have the coordinates tattooed on my body]. When we got up there, me and three other ladies, she said a quick hello and told us what we were going to do, and expressed a bit of nervousness because the truth was that none of us really knew how this would go over. Our mic got put in the stand and we sang the backup vocals for 'Ladybird', a song I unfortunately was pretty unfamiliar with. However, our task was not too daunting and was a true honor to execute. I had so much fun, and being that close to Natalie and taking her cue to sing was incredible. I loved looking out at that crowd, where I could see past my past selves dancing within the aisles and rushing the stage to get a closer view, and the sea of people that were die-hard Merchant fans. Getting into the groove near the end was such an experience, I loved being on that stage, and for a moment, it made me seriously reconsider some life plans.

Once we were through, she took us to the side of the stage where she gave us hugs and thanked us, while we thanked her for all she had done. She is truly a one-of-a-kind creature. Such a magnetism and uniqueness to her being. I am forever grateful I got to experience just how kind and generous life can be.

Looking back now, I still cannot believe it. It was definitely something I had to come down from and really process. The whole weekend was really just over-the-moon. I am so glad that I got to experience both of those artists live and really delivering such an amazing collection of work. It was interesting to hear a song titled 'Carnival' at both shows, although very different tunes, of course. While it was a crazy busy weekend, it was so worth it. I do really wish I had gone with someone to see Natalie, however, I suppose the experience was better had alone. I got to share it with those who filled the theatre, those people that have let her music take them on a journey. And those are the perfect ones to enjoy it with.

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