Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Color Me Impressed with Cafe Orchid's Turkish Cuisine

Cafe Orchid
1746 W. Addison, Chicago

I know I've previously eaten Turkish food in Chicago at least a couple times over the years, but it's been long enough that I can't tell you where, when or what I ate.

Except hummus.

Yet I seem to recall having very much enjoyed my taste of Turkey.

So in addition to introducing me to some new cuisines, my Chicago Dining World Tour has proven valuable in prompting me to rediscover those that I just haven't had in a long while, for no good reason.

And while I've found some good places with the help of Yelp or by heeding personal recommendations, Cafe Orchid is one I noticed in transversing Addison on the way to the expressway.

It's located just west of Lincoln Avenue in a cute little self-contained building on the north side of the street.

Last Saturday I met my friend Bob there--even though we live just five minutes from each other--before we each carried on to different events in the city that evening.

We started with an appetizer of hummus, which somewhat surprisingly to me was not accompanied by pita bread but rather a raised & sliced bread. Both the bread and hummus were delicious.

In order to sample a more unique appetizer we also ordered a Feta Wrap, aka: Sigara Borek = Pan fried phyllo dough stuffed with creamy turkish feta cheese and parsley.

From that description, I don't know quite what I was expecting, but was a bit surprised when the dish arrived with what looked like elongated Thai spring rolls (the fried kind) or perhaps Mexican flautas.

All the more reason I'm having such fun with my multicultural gastro-ethnic expedition; it's interesting how foods from cultures quite distant and different can nonetheless seem rather similar.

The feta wraps were fantastic, though it helped to have the hummus to dip them in.

For a beverage, the waitress--having been told by Bob about my exploratory intent--suggested Ayran, which is a yogurt drink. Again, I had no true reason to expect different, but didn't expect what was basically a glass of liquified white yogurt, with no flavoring or sweetness. As is, it was much too sour for my tastes, but I added a packet of Equal and that helped.

For his entree, Bob order Iskender = choice of doner, beef, lamb, chicken, kofte, adana, lamb or beef; served over pan-fried bread with butter, yogurt & choice of tomato sauce or mild spicy butter sauce. 

I didn't ask him, but it looks like he got tomato sauce, though I'm unsure about the white sauce at top; I imagine it could be the butter sauce. And I know he got chicken; I'm allergic to poultry so didn't try any of his meal (although the cuisine of Turkey didn't bother me;-)

Other than seeming a bit perplexed upon encountering an extremely spicy vegetable called ezme, Bob was quite satisfied with his entree, declaring it, "Excellent; very, very tasty."

For my entree, I chose Sultan Delight (Hunkar Begendi) = char-grilled eggplant puree sauteed with mozzarella cheese & topped with lamb or chicken cubes cooked with onions, red and green bell peppers, olive oil & served with your choice of white rice or bulgur.

I obviously chose to get it with lamb, with a side of white rice (I was told bulgur is a type of wheat). Continuing a common theme for the evening, what arrived looked nothing like what I might have perceived.

In fact, it was one of the most unique-looking dishes I've ever had put in front of me.

I wouldn't call myself a major fan of eggplant, but was pleased to find the melted mozzarella embedded into the puree.

The lamb and peppers were rather tasty and altogether it made for a sufficient and interesting meal, if not what I might choose on future visits to Cafe Orchid or other Turkish eateries. (I would love to get to Istanbul one day.)

The white rice happened to be particularly good and quite savory. I enjoyed blending it in with the eggplant and lamb.

Bob was too stuffed to partake in dessert, but in the name of--ahem--research, I selected Revani = oven baked sponge cake made of semolina, eggs, flour, baking powder and sweetened with syrup and topped with nuts. 

I found it to be quite delicious. Despite conveying this to Bob, he continued to abstain, clearly showing more will power than me. 

When the bill came, we were a bit surprised at the tally (around $54 pre-tip), but with two appetizers, two entrees, beverages and a dessert, it's not like we were taken for a Turkish bath. (rimshot, please, and well-deserved insults from Statler & Waldorf).

And with a friendly waitress and pleasant decor accompanying rather unique, attractively presented and appetizing food, one--OK, that one would be me--could certainly say that Cafe Orchid proved to be a real purple pleaser.

(Just because Bob's the one in an improv troupe doesn't mean I can't have everyone lavender heads off every now and then. OK, I'm done now. Sorry for being such a young, err, old turk.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heart + Jason Bonham = Whole Lotta Crazy On Zeppelin Love -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

w/ Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience
Ravinia Festival, Chicago
July 29, 2013

What makes a great concert great?

Certainly there are a number of factors, often intangible, such as performance quality, pacing and passion.

But it would seem that a preponderance of great songs, well-played, would be a basic criteria.

But how much should it matter who is playing the songs and/or how they're being performed on-stage?

Although I could be referring to artists who supposedly lip sync all or a significant portion of their theoretically live vocals, or who supplement live music with pre-recorded backing tracks, that's not where I'm going with this.

Over just the past few weeks, I have seen Paul McCartney perform a bunch of Beatles and Wings songs with side musicians who were neither, American English play myriad Beatles songs while in costume, an ersatz Buddy Holly & the Crickets roll through greatest hits in the Buddy stage musical, Brian Wilson playing Beach Boys songs backed by an 11-piece band & occasional other lead vocalists and Dave Davies performing several Kinks songs that his brother Ray originally wrote and sang.

I enjoyed all these shows, albeit to varying degrees, and didn't worry too much about issues of artistic

But whether in the realm of rock concerts or "jukebox musical" theater, it does make you begin to wonder how much acute enjoyment--i.e. liking the songs being played--should be weighed against somewhat vague matters pertaining to originality, production integrity, promotion, etc.

This isn't a perfect parallel, but if you went to a museum to see paintings by Van Gogh or Da Vinci or Raphael or Monet that you found aesthetically pleasing, would it matter if you learned you were looking at replicas, not the originals?

I'm not going to derail this review of Heart's concert at Ravinia on Monday any further with some ambiguous thesis, but in giving it a @@@@1/2--which means I really liked it--it seems worthy noting upfront that the evening included the performance of 14 Led Zeppelin songs and 13 Heart songs (one an Elton John cover at that).

I love Led Zeppelin, and while I've seen two Jimmy Page & Robert Plant concerts, a few more by Plant solo and own some concert DVDs--including one of their one-off 2007 reunion show--it's looking like I'll never see a "Led Zeppelin concert" (and as the surviving band members approach 70, that's probably fine).

So not only was I not bothered by the Zeppelinesque evening, the fact that Heart is touring with Jason Bonham--who opens the show with his "Led Zeppelin Experience" and returns to back Heart for a bunch of Zep encores--was actually one of the primary reasons why I went.

I just hope Jimmy, Robert and John Paul Jones are getting their proper royalties somewhere, not that they should really need the dough.

And I do worry that in about 10 years the only concerts I'll want to see will be by tribute bands.

After a brief video tribute to his father John--the Led Zeppelin drummer whose 1980 death essentially ended the band's legendary run--Jason and his 4-piece band came on stage at about 7:20pm, about 10 minutes earlier than the ticketed time. I'm not sure why, since the whole show was over by 10:30.

I had a lawn seat so had gotten there plenty early--and unknowingly parked my sling chair right next to a friend--but would have been pissed had I missed Bonham's first song, "Rock 'n Roll." (As it was, I wound up standing alongside the pavilion most of the night.)

Jason doesn't quite match his father's thunderous opening drumbeat on that song--I've never heard anyone do so--but comes rather close. And with singer James Dylan providing a pretty convincing Plant-like wail, even if this was a Led Zeppelin facsimile, it is likely the best I've heard.

All 8 songs they played in the opening set were fantastic--especially "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "When the Levee Breaks," with its crowd pleasing "going to Chicago" lyric. (Jason Bonham setlist)

The pavilion crowd was quite appreciative, bestowing a raucous standing ovation to what was likely the best set of songs ever played by an opening act at Ravinia (with a caveat of course).

Still led by the Wilson sisters--lead singer Ann and guitarist Nancy--Heart opened their headlining set with a hard-charging "Barracuda."

Though now into her sixties, Ann remains a powerful vocalist and Heart highlights from both the 1970s and '80s--including "Heartless," "Magic Man," "What About Love" and "These Dreams"--sounded good in the open air.

Wisely, the sisters performed "Alone" as a fully-acoustic ballad, eliminating the over-the-top sheen of the 1987 original. And I appreciated Nancy delivering a solo version of one of my favorite Elton John songs, "I Need You to Turn To." (Heart Ravinia setlist)

Although I probably wouldn't have thought to include Heart on a rather brief list of "extant rock artists I've never seen live but really want to," they are now off it. And even without the Zeppelin component, their performance and setlist (though devoid of "Straight On" and "Love Alive") would have justified the price of a lawn admission at Ravinia.

That said, while I loved "Crazy On You" and others, in the sandwich of this evening, the set of Heart material wasn't quite as delectable as the bread Zeppelin.

Ann and Nancy opened the encores with a terrific version of "The Battle of Evermore," a song from Led Zeppelin IV that they had recorded for the Singles soundtrack (directed by Nancy's then husband Cameron Crowe).

With Ann remaining the sole singer on 5 more Zep classics, Bonham and guitarist Tony Catania joined Heart for "The Song Remains the Same," "The Rain Song," "The Immigrant Song," "Kashmir" and "Stairway to Heaven."

Evoking Heart's and Bonham's outstanding collaboration on last year's Kennedy Center Honors, the show-closing "Stairway" featured a chorus, supplied in this case by the Chicago Christian Choir. Perhaps it was my vantage point, but it didn't give me quite the same chills the televised version had, but was a pretty remarkable way to end a terrific night.

And a great concert, however one should be measured.

Here are videos of Heart's "Crazy On You" and the end of "Stairway to Heaven":

"Crazy On You"
"Stairway to Heaven" (partial)

The Mane Attraction: White Lipizzaner Stallions Show Off Their Moves at Tempel Farms

Attraction / Performance Recap

Tempel Lipizzans
at Tempel Farms
Wadsworth, IL
Thru Sept. 22 (for 2013 season)

Dating back over 440 years, the Spanish Riding School is a prime tourist attraction in Vienna, Austria. Part of the Hofburg Palace complex, it presents showcase performances of white Lipizzaner stallions performing various exercises and maneuvers.

Though I have been to Vienna, I did not catch a Lipizzan show due to our schedules being incompatible.

However the only other place in the world that I'm aware of having Lipizzan horses on display happens to be just 45 minutes from my home, in Wadsworth, Illinois, close to the Wisconsin border.

On Saturday, I visited Tempel Farms and enjoyed a matinee performance, preceded by a hot dog at their outdoor cafe and followed by a walk through the stables.

I won't say that the 90-minute performance, divided into 7 program segments, was the most exciting thing I've ever witnessed, but it was enjoyable enough to merit my going, and unlike I was told in Vienna, photography was fully allowed.

Per the printed program:
The Tempel Lipizzans began in 1958 when the late Tempel and Esther Smith imported their first 20 Lipizzans from the Austrian state stud farm in Piber and started what became the largest privately owned herd of Lipizzans in the world.
The performance features stallions of varying ages, who are born black or brown and whiten with age, reaching their characteristic whiteness between 7 and 10 years.

Accompanied by pre-recorded, mostly classical music from the likes of Mozart, Johann Strauss, Tschaikovsky, Haydn and Richard Rogers, the performance program consisted of:

-  Mares and Foals
- Carriage Tradition
- Young Stallions
- Pas De Deux: An Education in Classical Dressage
- All Steps and Movements of the Classical School
- Work in Hand/Airs Above the Ground

- Quadrille

I think the one I liked best was "Airs Above the Ground," which included the horses standing on their hind legs (known as a Levade movement), and also jumping (Courbette and Capriole, the latter involving kicking out the hind legs).

All attendees are invited into the stables after the performance. This was a real treat, not only given the rarity of me being in a stable environment--rimshot, please--but in addition to seeing and sometimes petting the horses, it allowed for conversation with some of the riders and trainers.

All in all, it made for a rather fun couple of hours, and though Vienna is wonderful, it's nice to know such beautiful white horses can be seen in action a lot closer to home.

Here's a gallery of some of my best photos, followed by a brief video of one of the exercises.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?: Despite Nice Renditions of Some Klassics, Dave Davies Shows He Could Use Ray's Help in Getting the Kinks Out -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Dave Davies
Taste of Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
July 27, 2013

With apologies to Geoff Edgers--producer and protagonist of the Do It Again documentary--and perhaps some members of the Kinda Kinks online community, I'm not convinced the world at large is clamoring for a Kinks reunion.

While I would most definitely be there, my assumption is that if the surviving Kinks brought a reunion tour through Chicago--even with a reunified Jam in tow--they'd be lucky to fill the 9,000-seat UIC Pavilion, where I first saw the band in 1983.

But even in delivering consistently stellar solo shows--to adoring if modest crowds--head Kink Ray Davies has espoused a desire to get his band back together. In 2010, bassist Pete Quaife became the Kinks' first founding member to pass away, making a full reunion impossible, but reunification in any configuration has seemingly been scuttled by Ray's brother and Kinks lead guitarist Dave refusing to have anything more to do with him.

Based on having seen Dave Davies leading a 4-piece band in Chicago on Saturday night at the Taste of Lincoln Avenue--not an unenjoyable show, just unpolished and imperfect--I would strongly suggest he and Ray bury the hatchet and tour once more as the Kinks, perhaps with original drummer Mick Avory and longtime bassist Jim Rodford (the latter two both being members of the Kast Off Kinks).

As I noted above, this wouldn't be for huge commercial purposes, though they could probably make a good bit more than each does on their own. And while sibling harmony would appear prudent as the Davies boys approach their 70s, I say this more so because they still seem to need each other musically.

First of all, they're playing many of the same songs.

Dave's setlist from Saturday isn't posted to, but it was similar to this recent show, with the addition of "She's Got Everything" and "Dead End Street."

So about half of Dave's set consisted of, albeit understandably, 8 of the same Kinks songs Ray recently played at a show in London's Hyde Park.

And while Ray isn't the guitarist that Dave is, Dave is neither the singer nor front man that his brother is.

This was apparent from song one at the Taste of Lincoln Avenue, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," but became more pronounced later on in Dave's set.

Given my general aversion to standing-room-only events and Chicago's young-skewing Lincoln Park neighborhood, just my venturing out to see Dave Davies should denote not only an affinity for his Hall of Fame legacy, but a strong motivation for me to see him perform for the first time he had a stroke in 2004 (from which he had largely recovered by 2006, according to Wikipedia).

So I am far happier that he displayed no obvious ill effects than I am disappointed that his gig was somewhat middling.

And especially with just a $10 suggested donation to get in, I'm still glad I went. This is, after all, the man who changed rock 'n roll history with the "You Really Got Me" riff and solo, heard in the evening's final song.

Along with a good helping of Kinks klassics, Davies delivered solid renditions of a few songs from his just released new album--I Will Be Me--including "Little Green Amp," "The Healing Boy" and "Côte du Rhône (I Will Be Me)."

But he also spent a bit too much time mid-show on acoustic guitar playing ballads, likely to the boredom--and even dissipation--of those in the crowd that didn't come to the event specifically for him (and perhaps had no idea who he was).

Separately, "Death of a Clown," a song Dave originally co-wrote and sang, should have been a highlight, but after bringing a fan onstage to help him sing the first verse, the rendition became decidedly disjointed once the girl left Davies' side.

Dave also badly botched the first verse of "All Day and All of the Night"--a 1964 klassic he theoretically knows in his sleep--and for whatever reason, opened the encores with another full version of "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." Though I love the song enough not to rue hearing it twice, I would have preferred a single offering of "Susannah's Still Alive."

Returning to the positive--per my ratings scale, @@@ = good but not great--Davies' song choices gladly reinstated a few forgotten Kinks tunes into my eroded memory, including "She's Got Everything," "Strangers" and "Young and Innocent Days." And his performance of "Living on a Thin Line," from 1984's Word of Mouth, was really good.

So with my friend Dave alongside and a fence to lean against, it was rather pleasant to see Dave Davies onstage once again, even if his show wasn't entirely stellar. But I can't help surmise that a Davies family reunion would be even better all the way around.

But as for if a Kinks reunion will ever actually happen, well, you really got me.

I shot a good bit of video at the show. Below are full versions of "Dead End Street" and "You Really Got Me" and partial versions of the less successful "Death of a Clown" and "All Day and All of the Night."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

At Ravinia, Brian Wilson Provides Enough Good Vibrations to be Fun, Fun, Fun -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Brian Wilson
w/ Al Jardine and David Marks 
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL
July 26, 2013

Having caught the Beach Boys' reunion tour last year, and Brian Wilson on his own in 2008, I probably didn't need to hear him run through his remarkable oeuvre of pop-rock gems yet again.

And though I had noted his Friday night show on Ravinia's schedule, I was likely to skip it until Goldstar sent an offer of rear pavilion seats for just $15 ($23 incl. fees). 

But not only do I revere what Wilson did in the '60s enough to make it well-worth revisiting his classics for a rather modest outlay--and feel Mike Love dropping him from ongoing Beach Boys touring is bush league--it was cool to see him just 10 days after seeing Paul McCartney, to whom he is inextricably tied. (The Beach Boys' 1966 Pet Sounds, a masterpiece showcasing Wilson's studio production genius, inspired the Beatles--primarily Paul--to try to top it. When Brian heard Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, he reportedly cried and suffered a nervous breakdown from which he seemingly never fully recovered.)

Though the Goldstar offer was for "rear" pavilion, I wound up just 15 rows from the stage in the front center section. And what I got is largely what I expected: 
A robust helping of wonderful songs, well-delivered due to Wilson being in good voice and backed by a crack 11-piece band including Jardine and Marks.
I think many if not all in this band--with at least three members hailing from Chicago--backed the Beach Boys on their 50th Anniversary tour, and led by Jeff Foskett on guitar, principal backing vocals (often falsettos) and occasional lead, they helped Brian deliver faithful, frequently sublime, renditions of his Beach Boys chestnuts, even some on which he wasn't the lead singer. (See the setlist on

Sitting at a grand piano he likely never really played, Wilson appeared occasionally impassive, but seemingly in better spirits and more verbose than during last year's Beach Boys outing, his first time playing with them in years.

At Ravinia, the setlist and arrangements were clearly tightly-scripted, with 6 songs delivered in the first 12 minutes and the entire 17-song first set over at 8:48 after starting promptly at 8:00.

But with the large band ensuring the music--including the trademark glorious harmonies--were pristinely delivered, the early pairing of "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl" served to showcase just how much the addled-looking man at the piano has given the world, including considerable pleasure on a summer night more than 50 years down the road.

Though even with deeply-discounted tickets available, the crowd was far from full--wrongly, the current Mike Love and Bruce Johnston-led "Beach Boys" would undoubtedly sell far more tickets--it showered Wilson with appreciation, for far more than just the songs he delivered this evening.

The fans rose to their feet and passionately applauded after "Heroes and Villains," from the long-shelved Smile album, and gave an even longer ovation after "God Only Knows," which featured Brian singing lead after paying tribute to brother Carl, who had done so on the recorded version.

Wilson seemed taken aback by all the applause and eager to move along, but Jardine wisely and warmly encouraged the crowd to continue their salute to "one of America's greatest songwriters" while referencing Paul McCartney calling the Pet Sounds centerpiece his favorite song of all-time.

Yet the concert was acutely enjoyable well beyond a sense of reverence, and even with Jardine, Marks, Foskett and other members of the band taking lead vocal turns, seeing "Brian Wilson" wound up being considerably more joyful than merely wistful. Even in his current state, at 71, he was still clearly the star--and worthy of the love the fans bestowed.

Whatever one might say about Wilson at this point, or the purity of having so many accompanists, there's no doubt that singing along with "I Get Around," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' USA" and others was a lot more "Fun, Fun, Fun" in the man's presence. 

It should also be noted that more recent material--such as Wilson's solo "Your Imagination" and "Goin' Home," as well as the title song of last year's Beach Boys album That's Why God Made the Radio--were convincing reminders that not all of the maestro's magic disappeared decades ago. 

And with the show seemingly over, Wilson and his band ambled back onstage for a last encore, playing the melancholy "Summer's Gone." Written by Brian along with longtime producer Joe Thomas and Jon Bon Jovi, it is the last song on his (former?) band's solid 2012 release, which could quite well be the final Beach Boys record to feature new material.

Let's hope the recent run of cooler temperatures in Chicago don't portend the accuracy of the song's title, but though not the most upbeat concert closer, given the life Brian Wilson has lived, it was a rather apt and poignant way to say good night to a genius. 
Summer’s gone
I’m gonna sit and watch the waves
We laugh, we cry
We live then die
And dream about our yesterday

Below is a bit of "I Get Around."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: La Sierra Provides Tasty Opening to the Ecuador Way

La Sierra
Ecuatorian (and Mexican)
1637 W. Montrose, Chicago

Not too long ago I saw an article about Ecuador that noted the South American country has become a popular retirement destination for American expatriates due to a low cost of living and a nice way of life, including fine weather.

Shortly thereafter I noticed a restaurant on Montrose Avenue, La Sierra, whose awning heralded both Ecuatorian (or Ecuadorean) and Mexican food. I made a note in my iPhone and subsequently went there, curious about the cuisine of Ecuador, primarily as a new entry in my Chicago Dining World Tour but also because, who knows, I might one day live there.

The menu has separate listings for Ecuatorian and Mexican dishes, and though I love Mexican food, especially as I've already written about it, this was solely an equator-bordering gastro-ethnic expedition.

But you would be forgiven for thinking there are culinary similarities between the two cultures, at least in terms of how they crossover at this Chicago storefront eatery.

Not only I brought a bowl of chips and salsa--two different kinds, both tasty--but in ordering an appetizer identified as Ecuatorian and called Humita = corn meal masa filled with cheese steamed in a corn husk, what I got was essentially a tamale. A rather fresh and savory tamale, but largely tamale-like nonetheless.

I asked the pleasant waitress--quite possibly one of the proprietors--for an authentically Ecuatorian entree recommendation and she suggested Carne con Maduros = strip steak served with plantains along with white rice and some salad.

As you can see, it was a rather thin piece of meat--even more so than what passes for steak in France--but it was quite nicely seasoned and tasted very good.

Similarly, though it was neither the biggest nor best portion of sweet plantains I've ever had, it nonetheless was an accompaniment I enjoyed, as always.

I won't pretend I know a great deal more about what I might eat on a daily basis in Ecuador than I did before I went to La Sierra--and likely won't have to worry about it for awhile--but based on a small sample size, I think I'll be all right.

I also really liked the apple-flavored soft drink I got, called Manzana, so if I do wind up spending my golden years straddling the equator, I shouldn't go too hungry or thirsty.

And if you happen to be near Montrose and Ashland--hint: the northern Margie's Candies and ice cream outpost is just a few blocks west by the Ravenswood L--La Sierra will likely equate to a rather tasty and unique choice for lunch or dinner.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Let's Play ('til) 2: Weathering a Long Delay, Pearl Jam Reigns at Wrigley -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Pearl Jam
Wrigley Field, Chicago
July 19, 2013

Pearl Jam playing at Wrigley Field held the spectre of being an unforgettable night, even before the show was scheduled.

Not only is the band one of the best live acts in rock history, but singer Eddie Vedder was born and raised in Evanston, and seemingly remains a rather rabid Cubs fan.

He has conducted the 7th inning stretch a number of times, is supposedly good friends with Theo Epstein and Kerry Wood among others (including, who knew, Jose Cardenal) and wrote a diehard Cubs fan's ode in "All the Way" (as in "someday we'll go...") that he'd previously sung at solo shows in town.

Last September, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played two awesome shows at the Friendly Confines, Vedder made guest appearances both nights. 

So it wasn't hard to imagine him coming back with his own band, which I predicted just a few days later. (I think my guesses on who might play Wrigley this year were pretty solid, given that other than PJ, country star Jason Aldean--who I hadn't even heard of--was the only other concert (held on Saturday night) booked this season and that among my other imagined possibilities, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Phish, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles all will play to enough fans in Chicago this year to fill the park or come close.) 

As Eddie said during the show, he--like me--considers Wrigley Field the best ballpark in the country, and it's likely my favorite venue of any type, anywhere. (Vedder offered no opinion on the changes coming to the landmark at Clark & Addison, at least not that I could hear.)

So although I'd been to 14 previous Pearl Jam shows, most outstanding and several memorable for the location and/or occasion--Summerfest (rather than Soldier Field) on their mostly abandoned (due to the Ticketmaster battle) 1995 tour, New York's Madison Square Garden in 1998, Cincinnati in 2000 just months after the band faced the tragedy of fans dying at a show in Denmark (like The Who had in Cincy), the 2004 Vote for Change tour at the old-school Toledo Sports Arena with Neil Young showing up, Lollapalooza 2007 in Grant Park, Alpine Valley for their PJ20 celebration in 2011--this one promised to be even more special. 

And from the moment the band took the stage around 8:15pm, it was pretty clear that this one meant a lot, especially for Vedder. But somewhat curiously, and/or admirably depending how you look at it, Pearl Jam--early on, but also late in the show--didn't seem to play to the likelihood that the Wrigley setting brought out a greater preponderance of casual fans. (To be fair, given that until a fall tour was recently announced, this was Pearl Jam's only 2013 U.S. show, a great number of hardcore fans likely traveled from out of state.)

After opening with "Release," a slow building song off their 1991 debut, Ten, they continued in a relatively mellow and obscurer vein with "Nothingman," "Present Tense," "Hold On" (a song I didn't recognize) and "Come Back," before engaging the crowd in a full-throated singalong to "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town."

I didn't take this photo but don't know who deserves credit.
After which, at about 9:00pm, Vedder announced that they'd been alerted to serious weather due in about a half-hour, thus they would need to start clearing the field and wait out the storm, predicted to last 30-40 minutes.

Fortunately, the $52 seats I had with 3 friends were in the stands down the right field line and under cover. When the rain came--which despite some scary lightning strikes nearby supposedly wasn't as bad as the storms that forced the early end of shows by Phish at Northerly Island and Bjork at the Pitchfork Festival--we got wet but not too much.

By around 10:15pm, it seemed like the rain, thunder and lightning had stopped, but fans weren't let back on the field. Though I feel that pausing the concert--and even canceling it if need be--was the prudent thing to do, unless the PA system was turned off there should have been some announcements made, especially for the sake of fans waiting on the undoubtedly stuffed and steamy concourse. Of course, everyone who had a smartphone was likely checking the weather reports and Twitter, where the band posted this:

Although I had some concerns about the last Purple line train being scheduled to run north to Central--where I was parked--from the Howard Station at 1:55am, I wasn't going anywhere. And from the looks of things when the show resumed at 11:45, neither did about 95% of the crowd.

Vedder came back on by himself and donned a #1 Cubs jersey, spoke for a good while for his love of the ballpark and relayed the scenario behind his writing, "All the Way," which he proceeded to play. He then brought onstage 82-year-old "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks, who along with Jose Cardenal had been featured in the story Eddie had just told. Ernie spoke to the crowd and a strange night got that much cooler.

By the time the rest of the band--still comprised of original members Stone Gossard, Mike McCready and Jeff Ament, along with drummer Matt Cameron, who is also in Soundgarden but has been part of Pearl Jam since 1998--came back on stage in full, it was about midnight.

They launched into the all-the-more topical "All Night," from their rarities collection, Lost Dogs.

This, and the also rather relevant, "Why Go" (...home?), made me guess that Vedder had re-drafted the original setlist for the show's resumption after the 2hr45min delay.

And especially as I doubt Ernie Banks would have been brought onstage eight songs in--to accompany "All the Way"--had things gone as planned, I am skeptical that the image below represents a setlist that was written up pre-show (rather than a revised one).

But with Vedder announcing that they'd been cleared to keep playing, to their great credit--if to the ire of Wrigleyville residents and babysitters across the land--they wound up going until 2:00am, at which point Eddie cited it as their curfew. This seemingly restricted them from playing big favorites like "Daughter," "Better Man," a cover of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" and, most notably, "Alive"--they also left out "Jeremy"--but I have no real complaints about the setlist (you can see what was actually played on

I did, however, think the sound was atrocious, as the music seemed to reverberate off the grandstand giving me an annoying sense of hearing double drumbeats. But it's not like the band got to do another soundcheck after all their equipment was plugged back in after the storm.

No, I won't pretend I wouldn't have rather heard a couple of the missing hits mentioned above than "Leatherman" or especially "Bugs" (a weird song off Vitalogy with Vedder playing accordian).

But Pearl Jam previewed three songs off their rather coincidentally named forthcoming album, Lightning Bolt, including the title song (video below), and they also went way back to Gossard & Ament's Mother Love Bone days for "Chloe/Crown of Thorns." (These tunes are on Singles soundtrack, and though I haven't heard them recently enough to be ravenously appreciative, I thought it was cool they were included.)

Other post-midnight highlights included "Corduroy," an extended and phenomenal "Even Flow," "Rearviewmirror," a cover of Pink Floyd's "Mother" (seemingly slated to be followed by "Daughter"), "Black" and the show-ending "Rockin' in the Free World" by Neil Young.

In sum, though the rhythm of the show seemed a bit askew (with and without taking the delay into account), the acoustics were substandard to the point of annoyance and some cherished songs were omitted or dropped, there were enough great musical moments to remind me why I love Pearl Jam, abetted by their playing 3 hours on a night when they easily could have pulled the plug a good bit earlier (or even not plugged back in at all).

To be honest, when they came back after the delay, I was expecting them to rip through perhaps an hour of greatest hits. Though I certainly wouldn't have minded hearing a few more, not only have I've heard them all before (this personal song history is pretty cool), I actually admire Pearl Jam even more for staying iconoclastic at such as populist venue.

This wasn't the best show of theirs I've ever seen, but nonetheless it will definitely stand as a night--and morning; I got home at 4:30am--I won't forget as long as I'm still "Alive."

Appropriately, here's a YouTube clip of their new song, "Lightning Bolt," posted by VideoGremmie, followed by a couple more of my photos: