Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blistering the Lakefront, Metallica Proves They're Still Quite Mighty at Soldier Field -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

w/ opening acts Avenged Sevenfold and Local H
Soldier Field, Chicago
June 18, 2017

It's certainly no big deal compared to life's real hassles, or worse, but relatively speaking, going to concerts at Soldier Field is a pain in the ass.

I don't have any particular problem with crowds, but getting there and inside can be a bit of a chore and getting out of the stadium, to & onto public transit and home can be time consuming at best and--due to poorly crowd-controlled bottlenecks--even a bit treacherous.

Logistically, I much prefer to see "big concerts" at the United Center or, outdoors, at Wrigley Field.

But only the biggest acts can fill a football stadium, not just with their fans but with their music, and when they do it can be quite galvanizing and enthralling.

Hence, while I devoted 10 hours to going to see Metallica at Soldier Field on Sunday night--just 2 weeks after doing so, twice, for U2--during the 2 hours & 15 minutes the headliners were onstage, nothing else mattered.

Despite sitting near the back and top of the stadium.

Though I know I wasn't the only one to see U2 and Metallica at the home of the Chicago Bears--meaning not just my pal Paolo who was with me at both, but various people encountered on post-show buses--these might strike some as wildly disparate bands (and crowds).

But though their musical styles are clearly different, I see plenty of parallels as both bands have been around for 35+ years and have remained hugely popular with little dissipation, despite some missteps that have brought detractors. And excepting Metallica's bass player--due to the tragic 1986 tour bus crash that killed Cliff Burton; his replacement Jason Newsted later gave way to Rob Trujillo--both quartets continue to exist with the same four members that played on their debut albums.

You can read my U2 review here, but besides both bands being able to sell out Soldier Field and deliver stadium-sized shows that were musically, sonically, visually and emotionally sensational, it was also notable how greatly each dwarfed their opening acts, who themselves are able to fill arenas as headliners.

I mean no disrespect to The Lumineers--who opened for U2--or Avenged Sevenfold, who delivered a strong set that clearly revved up and resonated with much of the Metallica crowd.

Both are popular bands who have played the Allstate Arena and similar (approx. 12,000-17,000 seats for concerts) venues nationwide. Of course, neither was accompanied by the full battalion of visual accoutrements in their opening slots, nor do I know their music nearly as well as the bands I paid to see.

But the performances at Soldier Field by U2 and now Metallica, each comprised of guys in their 50s, didn't just attest to their statures as genre-defining all-time greats, still popular enough to fill the largest venue in any city they play, they were better than their younger counterparts' by--in my estimate--a power of 10. In terms of songs, presentation, polish, grandeur and, simply, enjoyment.

Though back to my teens I was a fan of heavy metal--Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Ratt--the thrash metal of Metallica was initially a bit too harsh for me (and to this day, I'm not much into their "Big Four" contemporaries Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth).

I still recall wandering into my local record store--Record City on Oakton St. in Skokie, IL--presumably in 1983/84 and unwittingly encountering a Metallica record signing, with the long-haired quartet and hundreds of fans who looked like them. I regret that I wasn't intrigued or prescient enough to get in line.

I subsequently had friends that were more into Metallica than I was, so I heard a good bit of them, and first saw them as part of the 1988 "Monsters of Rock" tour at Alpine Valley (with Van Halen, Scorpions and Dokken). But it probably wasn't until the self-titled "black album" exploded in 1991 that I truly became a fan.

Though I like several of the Metallica songs, including the five played at Soldier Field--"The Unforgiven," "Wherever I May Roam," "Sad But True," "Nothing Else Matters" and the concert closing "Enter Sandman"--I appreciate the album has softer edges than the four preceding Metallica albums.

So I have never been and am not now the most devout headbanger.

I recognize that Metallica can seem like brand name shorthand for "heavy metal" and that--like U2 over the years--they've had questionable moments that may have sapped the hardcore fandom of some. (e.g. the middling Fuel and Re-Fuel albums that seemed to focus on their haircuts, their adamant opposition to Napster, the therapy-sessions documentary, though I happened to like Some Kind of Monster.)

Everybody has an opinion, and mine is no more right than anybody else's. But the loquacious background above is to explain my point-of-view on Metallica, as opposed to at least one dubious friend and, seemingly, the Chicago Tribune freelance critic Bob Gendron--who wrote this quite negative review of the Soldier Field show that counters the experience of me, Paolo, several nearby fans directly and seemingly 50,000+ indirectly.

As neither an acolyte or apologist for the San Francisco-based band, I truly believe that for 135 minutes on a gorgeous night along Chicago's lakefront, at Soldier Field, Metallica fucking rocked.

And I loved every minute of it.

To their great credit, and unlike many legacy acts I also unabashedly love live, Metallica played 5 songs (of 18 total) from their latest album, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct.

And all of these cuts, including the title song that opened the show, plus "Atlas, Rise!," "Moth Into Flame" and more, felt entirely at home among songs dating back to 1982.

Early in the show, lead singer/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield proclaimed that Metallica doesn't care about their fans' skin color, religious beliefs or who they voted for, not in a way that espoused hatred or dispassion, but to tolerantly denote the concert as a gathering "to celebrate our similarities."

Backed by powerhouse drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Rob Trujillo, Hetfield then launched into "For Whom the Bell Tolls," from 1984's Ride the Lightning.

The powerful mix of new and old songs continued for the first half of the show, but once "The Four Horsemen" was performed--it's from the 1983 debut Kill 'Em All and not overtly familiar to me--it was a thunderous gallop through old glories, albeit with some softer interludes (such as on "Master of Puppets").

The brilliant "One"--sung from the perspective of a savagely injured World War I veteran and, incidentally, a song title shared with U2 (see this sublime merging of the two "One"s by the late Chris Cornell)--was heightened by poignant video imagery and, though less obviously so given the "spaceship" now within the colonnades, the concert's setting within a 1924 venue named to honor such soldiers.

Hetfield noted that this was the first time Metallica had played Soldier Field, and with video imagery on "Battery" referencing the band's first-ever Chicago show--in 1983 at Metro--he and his mates were openly gracious for the support & loyalty of their fans.

After "Enter Sandman" seemingly sent everyone--or almost everyone--happily off to bed...eventually, the lights re-darkened for a brief "Thank you, Chicago" movie to be shown, clearly shot and edited in part during the show.

It's easy to be cynical about a band of such vast popularity, with the money to do whatever it wants, but sucker as I may be I appreciate touches like a summation film, especially as it really wasn't necessary.

Sometimes in being swept up by the music, writing rave reviews and awarding @@@@@ not so infrequently, I wonder if I'm overenamored by too many bands and concerts.

Especially when contradicted by other reviews--however contrary they may seem to fans' opinions--or disbelieving friends who weren't there.

But I make no apologies; even if "wrong," I'm blissfully so.

And in this case I'll repeat myself with probably all I needed to say to begin with:

Metallica fucking rocked.

I should note that in addition to Avenged Sevenfold, who were good but not in a way that makes me want to seek them out again, Chicago's own Local H opened the show. I have a couple of their albums from the '90s and had seen them at least once way back when. It was nice to hear "Bound for the Floor" and "High-Fiving MF" among a solid 45-minute set.

Friday, June 16, 2017

For Your Thoughtful Consideration: Don't Talk Throughout the Show, Don't Text During the Movie, Arrive on Time, Wait for the Pitch and Other Ways to Respect Those Around You -- With a Code of Conduct for Live Events

Last night, I attended a free performance of William Shakespeare's Richard III at Indian Boundary Park in Chicago.

Presented by the Fury Theater, this was part of the Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks program.

With about 30 people and one large dog assembled on blankets and sling chairs in front of the park's impressive field house--which served as the play's only piece of scenery--it was a decidedly more relaxed environment then indoor theater or even ticketed shows al fresco.

Although, as usual, my rapt attention and plotline comprehension were challenged by the Shakespearean language--and I won't be writing a formal review--I was tremendously impressed by the troupe of young performers' obvious dedication in delivering a 3-hour drama with fine acting and quite passable dialects. (Performances run through tomorrow).

But throughout the first act, a couple of guys sitting near me engaged in ongoing conversation that made me want to scream, "STFU!" and prompted me to move my chair for Act II. (Shut the F up, for those needing the long version.)

I don't know that the chatterboxes were loud enough for the performers to hear, but they consistently impinged on my concentration and enjoyment.

As noted, this was a relatively low-key affair, and typical theater taboos such as audience members occasionally taking a picture, checking one's phone, having a snack or knitting throughout the show didn't seem too egregious. (Being in an O'Hare flight path also offered acoustical challenges.)

Richard III by the Fury Theatre,
during which a couple of patrons openly chatted away.
As Act II was beginning, a friend who lives near the park stopped by and I--now sitting a good distance from any other patrons--felt fine in softly exchanging a few pleasantries.

So I don't mean to sound like a scold, tyrannical librarian or killjoy, but I think deference should always be paid to those putting on a performance and those wishing to enjoy it without undue distraction.

Yet at least from where I often find myself sitting, it seems rudeness abounds.

I have long been comfortable going to concerts, theater, sporting events and movies by myself, and perhaps not having anyone to talk to has made me (hyper?) sensitive to conversations happening around me.

But with the cost and effort involved in going to almost any type of live event, I don't understand why people insist on carrying on casual conversations that distract from their focus, let alone mine.

Again, what I'm whining about is overt inconsiderateness, not a few occasional words with one's friend, wife, etc.

Monday night I went to see Elvis Costello at the Huntington Bank Pavilion with my frequent concert and theater mate, Paolo. I am not suggesting we sat there in abject silence. Part of the fun of going with a companion is the ability to banter--slyly,  softly, between songs!!! and topically:

"The acoustics are really good."

"Was that one he wrote with Burt Bacharach?"

"Steve Nieve is amazing."

But while the songs are being sung, I would tell even Paolo to STFU, although like me, he's busy singing along reverentially.

I've said repeatedly, and not facetiously, that rock concerts--and other cultural art forms--are, for me, akin to religion. I am not condemning those who, non-disruptively, go to socialize, drink, hang out, be seen, etc., but I don't.

While each song being played might not be my favorite, how do I know it's not that of somebody sitting nearby? And the people onstage always deserve to be heard more than I do.

So I don't think it's ever proper to talk over the music. 

As Elvis Costello plaintively sang this classic Monday
night, some audience members opted to loudly converse.
Yet during a portion of the show where Elvis Costello was playing some of his most contemplative songs--including the plaintive "Almost Blue"--accompanied only by pianist Nieve, there were people around us carrying on conversations quite loudly and continuously.

To which some might say, "Why don't you ask them to quiet down?"

Occasionally I do, but I've typically found that those who thoughtlessly engage in rude chattering aren't those prone to apologetically honor a polite request to "Please keep it down."

So it tends to become more hassle than it's worth.

Hence, I'm writing this article, realizing that it's really only venting. (If you haven't noticed, the Seth Saith masthead is meant to represent a black hole.)

Now before I get too preachy, let me admit that while I always aim to be mindful of other fans around me, and respectful to those onstage, I myself may not be someone you wish to sit next to.

At concerts, I tend to take a good number of photos--mostly on a small, silent digital camera--so that I have some useful ones for blog posts, and typically take and share one iPhone photo on Facebook.

At many theater performances, I jot down notes in a small notebook to aid my recollection in writing reviews.

Though I try to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible, I realize that anyone doing anything unusual nearby can unintentionally dilute one's locked-in focus, and if anyone asks me to stop, I do.

No one has, at least not since a few years back at a concert when I was writing notes into my phone. A man nearby thought I was incessantly texting, and perhaps the phone's light was distracting to him, so I stopped doing so. Now I'll discreetly use a pen and notebook, even at concerts if I wish to notate something.

So I certainly appreciate that some people may just be oblivious and not intentionally rude. Others, through no real fault of their own, may not know the proper decorum.

At a recent performance of My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, a couple teenage boys, clearly in attendance at the behest of their parents and disinterested in Eliza Doolittle, were talking, checking phones, giggling, etc.

This annoyed me to the point of moving to another seat, but I blame the parents more than the kids.

Matt Davidson's grand slam for the Chicago White Sox on June 13.
If he had hit it on the previous pitch, my view and photo would have
been blocked by patrons returning to their seats at a bad time.
So the point here isn't to condemn anyone for being human or having fun or acting like a teenager--even if they're 70--it's to suggest that if you're at an event with performers onstage and others watching, do your best to be courteous and considerate.

Life happens, and there are always understandable exceptions, but largely off the top of my head, the following would comprise my:

Code of Conduct for Live Events

Arrive on time and find your seat at least 10 minutes before the performance starts. I get that work, kids, babysitters, traffic, transit, etc. can be a challenge, but in having gone to over 2,000 live events (concerts, theater, ballgames, etc.), I remember being late just once. And it still bothers me that I missed the first song of Beauty and the Beast due to a 2-hour traffic jam on the Eisenhower back in 2001. So it boggles me that at every show I go to, people straggle in past the ticketed time, struggle to locate their seats, climb over people across the row, and then--at concerts and ballgames--often get right back up to go get beer.

● Stop talking and turn off your phone before any part of the performance begins. The Overture isn't a yellow light. It's a red light. Shut up and focus, or appreciate that others wish to. (This is a theater tip, but courtesy at concerts and ballgames is never a bad thing.)

● Do not carry on conversations during any type of show. If you need to say something quickly, whisper, ideally between songs or scenes. I don't care if it's Hamilton or a children's dance recital, Metallica or Shakespeare in the park, people are there to focus on what's being presented. Be mindful of that. If you're disinterested, still be polite & respectful or discreetly step out.

● Turn your phone off, completely, at the theater--including movie theaters. Unlike some, I still love seeing films on the big screen, and I often try to go at uncrowded times. Still, I invariably encounter people unable to spend 2 hours in the dark, without their phone emitting bothersome light. And at live theaters, don't be that person who thinks they've silenced their phone only to have it ring--in the most loathsome way at the most inopportune time.

● Don't constantly go in and out of your row. I get it, people like to drink. And people have to pee. Often these go hand in hand. But the more times you leave your seat--to get beer, and then naturally, to go the john--the more times you make everyone else stand up to let you out. Enjoy yourself, but consider that others are trying to focus a bit more seriously.

● At sporting events, leave & return to your seats at a proper juncture. Tuesday night I was at the White Sox game against the Orioles, in a good box seat belonging to my friend. The Sox were up 2-1 in the 6th inning and had the bases loaded. Matt Davidson was at the plate. During a pitch, people in front returned to their seats and blocked my view, oblivious to the game action, or others' interest. On the next pitch, Davidson hit a grand slam. I know it wasn't the World Series, but even there people seemed unaware about impinging on the visibility and focus of other fans.

● Respect the fans behind you in deciding whether to stand up. I know this is a tough one. I've been at concerts where I wanted to stand, and everyone was sitting. I've been at others where I was happy to sit, but one person was standing in front of me. I respect the passion, fandom, desire to dance, etc., but I think courtesy has to rule the day.

● Don't shout stupid stuff at the performers. I couple years I saw Neil Young do a solo acoustic at the Chicago Theatre, marred by idiots rather frequently screaming out indecipherable song requests, bellowing "I love you, Neil!" at inappropriate junctures and other such nonsense. I get sometimes wanting to hear favorite songs not being played, but respect the performer you paid to see and never make the show about you.

● Think of others. And be receptive to polite requests. As I tried to candidly note above, nobody gets it right all the time, and some may have differing perspectives that infuse their actions. But just try to be respectful of those onstage (or on the field, etc.) and those sitting around you. If somebody asks you to keep it down, or not take photos, or turn off your phone, or to sit down, don't respond belligerently. Apologize as appropriate, and if you think they're impinging on your enjoyment, politely try to find an alternate solution, like changing seats if possible.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rummaging Through -- and Reshuffling -- 'Imperial Bedroom' with the Imposters, Elvis Costello Remains a Compelling Attraction -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Elvis Costello & the Imposters
Huntington Bank Pavilion
at Northerly Island, Chicago
June 12, 2017

Though 40 years removed from the prickly punk who defied Lorne Michaels' order not to play "Radio Radio" on Saturday Night Live, as an artist intent to do things on his own terms Elvis Costello's aim remains true.

So while he joined many a legacy artist in touring with the promise of a classic album in full--The Joshua Tree, The River, Moving Pictures, The Wall and Songs in the Key of Life are among those I've seen performed--the man born Declan MacManus deviated from the norm by sprinkling songs from 1982's Imperial Bedroom among the 31 he played in sum, far from the original sequencing. (See the Chicago setlist on Setlist.fm)

Due perhaps to high winds that may have abbreviated the terrific 140-minute show just a bit, Costello even omitted two album tracks--"Little Savage" and "Town Cryer"--which seem to typically be played, along with Imperial Bedroom's 13 other songs, at most other tour stops. 

But I don't think many in the relatively small but clearly appreciative crowd minded this too much, as Costello and his backing band, The Imposters--featuring two of the original Attractions, pianist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, plus bassist Davey Faragher and a pair of female vocalists--sounded fantastic along the lakefront. 

The quality of Costello's material--on this night comprised almost entirely of songs written before he turned 30, even though the 62-year-old has remained rather prolific--is quite estimable, but whomever ensured the acoustics would be so good at a makeshift outdoor venue on a night that was initially quite warm & humid and later ensnared by strong lake breezes also deserves a hearty round of applause. 

Costello often plays the far-more-pristine Chicago Theatre, and the Englishman astutely referenced that many in Monday's crowd likely missed his show there last October because it coincided with a Cubs World Series game. 

Guilty as charged. Unapologetically.

But while my six previous Elvis concerts dating back to 1991 are but a fraction of the 40-some of my friend Paolo, with whom I attended this one, I have long been a fan and was glad to find this show great in ways both consistent and unique. 

Though I haven't minded hearing cherished artists play great albums in full--and in order--the predictability sometimes seems stifling. 

So while it was a real treat to hear Costello play Imperial Bedroom songs that are far from concert staples--"Tears Before Bedtime," "Shabby Doll," "The Long Honeymoon," "Kid About It," "Pidgin English," "Boy With A Problem" and one of my all-time favorites, "Human Hands"--none of them felt rote, and the shuffling probably allowed each to shine a bit more individually. 

I also enjoyed how stage backdrop slides morphed the Picassoesque imagery from the Imperial Bedroom album cover--which was designed, as were several of his early records, by Barney Bubbles--onto the covers of other Costello albums, or presented otherwise cheeky designs tied to certain songs. 

And "Watching the Detectives" featured a run-through of many film noir poster images as Elvis and the band were largely shrouded in darkness. 

Although the show understandably left out some classic gems, "Accidents Will Happen" was an early highlight, "Pump It Up" a late one and a stripped-down "Alison"-- featuring Costello onstage with only backup singers Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee--was absolutely blissful. 

Following "Alison" to open the encores, Costello performed a number of songs accompanied by the masterful pianist, Steve Nieve, with "Shot With His Own Gun" and "Talking in the Dark" being two favorites on a night of several.

I'm not sure why a few idiots in the crowd felt the mournful "Almost Blue"--which Elvis noted he had written for legendary trumpeter Chet Baker--was a good time to carry on loud conversations, but it too was a delight. 

I was somewhat surprised when Costello seemed to audible into "High Fidelity" after a final pair of wonderful Bedroom songs--"Beyond Belief" and "Man Out of Time"--and past the 2-hour mark with winds swirling, I wondered if that would close things out.

But Elvis indeed hadn't left the, um, impermanent outdoor pavilion. 

Bringing his crack band back for delectable versions of "Everyday I Write the Book," "Pump It Up," "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," Costello put an exclamation mark on an outstanding show. 

Not that it really matters, but for awhile I thought I might award @@@@1/2, for a show that was great but perhaps not transcendent. 

But at the end, with a legendary artist having sounded fantastic across nearly 2-1/2 hours, digging deep into his catalog on a beautiful night, I really couldn't find rationale to deduct any @.

After all these years, while showcasing Imperial Bedroom, Elvis Costello's aim remains true. 



Friday, June 09, 2017

Proving Their Mettle, Tool Pummels Its Legion of Loyal Fans in Rosemont (and At Least One Newbie) -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

w/ opening act Once & Future Band
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
June 8, 2017

Theoretically, this review should be written by an avowed Toolhead, who has long loved the thunderous quartet, enough to offer a holistic perspective while also casting a critical eye on Thursday's show.

For most rock concerts I go to--and therefore review--are by bands I love.

Sure this may sound astonishingly obvious, but in having attended over 700 concerts across 36 years, the vast majority were by artists I've opted to see multiple times (over the years, though occasionally in bunches).

There are relatively few acts I find myself "checking out" for a first time--especially as I don't get to festivals much anymore--but particularly as I love the art of live performance, I make a point of trying to widen my musical horizons.

Hence, over the years--including a good deal in just the past few--I've gone to several shows by previously-unseen artists I more "like" than "love," or perhaps am just curious about.

These, in no particular order, include Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, New Order, Judas Priest, Barry Manilow, Dave Matthews Band, Neil Diamond, Fleet Foxes, Taylor Swift, Earth Wind & Fire, Bryan Ferry, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Peter Wolf, Alice Cooper, The Black Keys, Poison, Steve Miller Band, Keith Urban, The Dixie Chicks, Leonard Cohen, LCD Soundsystem, Barry Gibb, The Tragically Hip, Moby, Charlatans UK, Placebo, Arctic Monkeys, Willie Nelson, Al Green, Teenage Fanclub, Graham Parker, Dawes and Adele, all of whom I've still seen just once (though for the most part enjoyed).

Whether prompted by my own sense that I "should see them" or the suggestion of music loving friends, these exploratory live forays--typically accompanied by delving into recordings--have occasionally raised my appreciation quite considerably.

To wit, I've now seen Arcade Fire, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Santana, System of a Down, Phish, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Chicago and others (including Prince and Stone Temple Pilots) multiple times after first getting to them--live--relatively late.

Photo credit on this picture only: Gary Yokoyama / Hamilton Spectator
Taken at Tool's show in Hamilton, Ontario on May 31.
Which is my typically circuitous way of addressing how & why I went to see alt-metal titans Tool on Thursday night despite not knowing any of their songs until a friend heralded them last year, the actual impetus for my curiosity. (Tool's first EP came out in 1992 and they've been fairly big concert headliners since not long after.)

Hence, unlike many of my concert reviews, this isn't written from the standpoint of a longtime fan, which clearly put me in the vast minority of the sold-out Allstate Arena crowd.

Especially as the band hasn't released a new album in 11 years, Tool's fanbase is extremely loyal, and--despite my getting a sense through considerable listening, reviews, word-of-mouth and YouTube--they knew what to expect much better than I.

This includes a vocalist whose face you never see, as Maynard James Keenan--who can be considered something of an anti-frontman--opts to stand, often quite shrouded, at the back of the stage next to drummer Danny Carey. On this tour at least, he has also outfitted him in police tactical gear, or something of the sort.

But while I can't claim to be a Tool fan going back decades, in anticipation for this show--well before it was announced--I acquired all five all of their studio albums (the first, Opiate, being an EP) and spent considerable time familiarizing myself with songs that frequented setlists.

So I appreciated that Tool's music has a density that sounds as if Black Sabbath merged with Rush and, perhaps a bit less so, King Crimson or other prog rock giants. (Opening act Once & Future Band prompted me to scribble down "Rush, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson" though they weren't nearly as good as any of those bands nor the headliner.)

Though I won't say I came to "love" Tool's oeuvre coming into the show--or upon exiting it for that matter--I enjoyed the video, lights & lasers-abetted thunder of songs like "The Grudge,"  which opened the concert, and particularly "Schism," "Opiate" and "Ænema," which bludgeoned me consecutively not long thereafter.

While I found "Third Eye" to be particularly long and sludgy, and despite the obvious talents--and massive biceps--of drummer Danny Carey, who adorned a Michael Jordan jersey, I could have done without his drum solo following a brief set break, there wasn't any music I heard that I didn't sufficiently enjoy.

I can understand the appeal of Tool and expect & hope most in the passionate crowd truly loved the show. That it didn't provide the emotional embrace for me that U2 did over the weekend is undoubtedly due to differing levels and lengths of fandom, and isn't a knock on the band or its followers.

That Keenan does things a bit differently than most rock singers certainly deserves no derision, though I would have welcomed a bit of humor--or just some self-aware levity--being mixed into the proceedings, which couldn't help but make me think of Spinal Tap at times.

From what I'd read about past performances, Keenan probably spoke a bit more at Allstate than is customary, but didn't really seem to say anything all that compelling, beyond urging the audience to question authority, apparently an underlying theme in Tool's lyrics.

I get that this is a band that doesn't lead audience singalongs or engage in "How ya doing Chicago?" localized pandering, but given that the setlists are pretty static across tour stops--see what Tool played in Rosemont on Setlist.fm--the show ultimately felt a bit rote, even cold, despite the impressively muscular musicality of Keenan, Carey, bassist Justin Chancellor and guitarist Adam Jones.

Jones is a Libertyville native who grew up with Tom Morello--see Wikipedia for how their friendship helped lead to Tool's formation--and his bringing a child onstage at the end was one of the few overtly humanistic moments of a Tool concert that was, while often blistering, a bit too mechanical for my preferences. 

@@@@ (out of 5) earmarks a show I enjoyed and was glad to have attended, but not one I would effusively recommend to others nor is likely to bring me back for an encore (if not several).

As with most "word-of-mouth or curiosity" concerts I attend, with a sense of appreciation for the artist if not vast inherent affinity, that's where this Tool show fairly falls for me.

I'm glad I've come to know their music far more than I had. When the band finally puts out another album--they haven't had a new one since 2006's 10,000 Days--I'll be happy to give it a listen.

But while, in Rosemont, I was musically, sonically and visually impressed, and at times dazzled, in sum I wasn't quite blown away.

I'll accept this as a matter of taste, and not a barometer of quality, and would be happy to hear what hardcore Tool fans thought of this show.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Celebrating the Sesquicentennial of a Genius with a Few Photos I've Taken

The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867--150 years ago today--in Richland Center, Wisconsin.

In 1887, Wright moved to Chicago and soon after became an apprentice to, and then collaborator with, the great Louis Sullivan.

Wright's moonlighting got him dismissed from Sullivan's firm, and he would go on to enjoy one of the most celebrated architectural careers ever. 

There are few artists in any idiom whose work I admire more than that of Frank Lloyd Wright. Over the years I've visited and photographed hundreds of houses and buildings he designed, touring the insides of at least a couple dozen, from Fallingwater to Unity Temple to the Guggenheim to Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

I've focused on Wright in several blog posts, so in addition to looking at the photos below, you may wish to search for "Frank Lloyd Wright" in the search box on the right toolbar. In this post from 2014, I included a list of publicly-accessible Wright Sites.

The gallery below was rather hastily compiled, primarily from digital photos taken over the past 10 years or so; hence some excellent pictures of great houses are left out (including Taliesin in Wisconsin, his Taliesin West compound near Phoenix and wonderful works in Los Angeles). There also is scant focus on his brilliant art glass windows and self-designed furniture.

But this should provide a sense of Wright's brilliant vision across a 7-decade career.

All photos by Seth Arkin.