Empires has been championed by several Muruch writers since they first burst onto the local Chicago music scene oh so long ago, so we’re so happy they’ve finally been signed by a major label (Chop Shop/Island Records). Their major label debut, Orphan, will be released on September 23rd. Here’s the first single, “Please Don’t Tell My Lover” and the video of Empires’ recent performance on David Letterman…
Pair song after song of crowd-rousing rock with the flabbergasting antics of Ricky Wilson and you’ve got a one-two punk-infused theoretical punch that you won’t soon forget. Kaiser Chiefs is a band that can boost you right out of your seat and deliver you to the doorstep of live music rapture from the very first song. This is a band that needed no time to warm up the crowd for what was a highly entertaining set at the House of Blues Chicago.
The five English lads took a bite out of 1980’s pop culture when they walked out on stage to a reworked sample from the Dire Straits hit song, “Money for Nothing.” The lyrics “I want my…” were stretched out and repeated before taking full shape into “I want my MTV” as the band casually rolled on stage and took their instruments. I pretended for a moment that the crowd would change the chant into “I want my Kaiser Chiefs” but there was no time for that, as the band had already jumped straight away into playful track “Na Na Na Na Naa.” Frontman Wilson commenced his energetic shimmy across the stage, tambourine in hand, eccentric moxie at full force.
I may actually have pages of notes strictly about what the man did with his mic stand throughout the set. Simply put, Wilson straight up made that mic stand his bitch. In fact, he did so many things I’d never seen done with a mic stand before that he inspired me to name some of his moves. First was “The Scarface”: He tossed and twirled it in the air like a baton, caught it and pretended it was a machine gun – all within four seconds flat – before slamming it back in place. “The Rocky Balboa”: Perhaps channeling a boxing legend, he threw jabs at the mic stand with hunched posture and great concentration. And lastly, “The Missy Elliot” wherein Wilson laid it down, flipped it and reversed it. Yup. All that.
Really, though, the kooky mic stand spectacle was just the co-star to the real thing on spotlight: the music. “Ruby,” “I Predict A Riot,” “Every Day I Love You Less,” “Oh My God,” “The Angry Mob.” It was like a playlist of one sing-along worthy song after another; and the crowd was fully enthralled from the very first one. In a display of very high crowd interaction for a weeknight show, there was chanting, clapping and hopping around for every track. The gents of Kaiser Chiefs also played songs from their new album, Start the Revolution Without Me, including popular single “On The Run.” For the duration of one song, the pace shifted from high energy anthems to a slower, more poignant groove. The lights dimmed as a purple hue was cast on the stage and Wilson delivered the words from new track “Starts With Nothing.” With reflective lyrics such as “You start with nothing and you leave with nothing,” the song helps mark the evolution of a band that formed nearly a decade ago. Not every song needs to start a riot – and it was cool to see they can flip that switch off and back on.
The biggest draw, however, to the appeal of seeing this band live is the frontman’s spontaneity. Sure, you could rock Kaiser Chiefs tunes on your iPod any day, but how often will you have the chance to see Wilson mount a giant speaker and remark that the “bass is doing amazing things to [his] testicles”? Right – never. Unless you go their live show, of course. He also somehow managed to climb off the stage, over more giant speakers with his microphone, and launch himself onto the side bar counter where he then chugged a beer produced by the bartender upon his unexpected arrival. Always a jokester, he spoke into his mic with his unmistakable British accent. “Sorry to those of you in the balcony who can’t see me, but I’m fully naked right now – and I’m told it’s a glorious sight!” Hit songs, assaults on mic stands AND laughs? Talk about getting your money’s worth.
Toward the end of the set, Wilson let out an excited yell and shouted, “Chicago! You’re my kind of town!” We feel the same about you, Ricky Wilson. You and your mad talented band mates are always welcome in our city. We might even have some extra mic stands on hand for you next time.
Everyone’s favorite Chicago band, Empires, is offering their new 3-song EP, Can’t Steal Your Heart Awat, as a free, legal download. You can nab the album by entering your email address via the NoiseTrade widget below, after which you’ll be given the option to donate to the band.
I think it safe to say that the extraordinary Fiona Apple is one of the all-time favorite artists of every single writer on the Muruch staff. This is particularly true of our Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper, who was fortunate enough to attend Fiona Apple’s live performance on March 19th at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall. You can read Coble’s review and view her photographs from the concert below…
The stage at Lincoln Hall was tiny and intimate, crowded with a baby grand piano, a drum kit and a full accompanying band. The piano was lovingly draped with gorgeous, fringed fabric and several candles. To the right, Fiona greeted the crowd with only a warm smile before beginning her performance. There was just enough floor space to allow her signature expressive physical performance, her body rolling and convulsing through “Fast As You Can.”
The 21+ crowd was elated, cheering Fiona loudly between the first few songs with occasional shouts of “Welcome back!” and “We missed you!” All the while, they collectively sang along with well-loved songs from her first three albums. She spent time at the piano as well as standing at the mic, her eyes closed as she passionately belted out every word. She only opening them when the lights were dim, her shyness still evident. Any stage banter was unnecessary.
The crowd settled after the first few songs of the set, the packed room going completely silent to allow each of the lyrics to be heard. To accompany the new tune, “Anything We Want,” Fiona played a piece of old rebar or scrap metal with what appeared to be a long nail to create a sound like a kitchen sink. A few of the more charming lyrics from the song include this verse:
Let’s pretend we’re 8 years old playing hookey
I’ll draw on the walls and you can play UFC Rookie
Then we’ll grow up, take our clothes off
and you’ll remind me that I wanted you to kiss me
When we find some time alone
and then we can do anything we want
These written lyrics really do not do justice to the whimsy of the upbeat tune or the joy she obviously felt performing it.
Another new song, “Valentine,” started with minimal instrumentals, letting her voice and the lyrics stand alone until after the second verse:
A fugitive too dull to flee
I’m amorous but out of reach
A still-life drawing of peach.
The resonating chorus, “I root for you, I love you, you you you” is followed with the familiar, haunting chord progressions that have grown to be characteristic of her work.
The other new song, “Every Single Night,” is another lighter melody paired with relatable, anxious thoughts:
Every single night’s alright,
Every single night’s a fight
and every single fight’s alright with my brain
I just want to feel everything
I’m made of parts of all that’s around me
That’s why the devil can’t get around me
The now peaceful audience marveled between songs, and evoked a flattered smile from Fiona with singular calls of “I love you!” and “How are you real?”
Fiona still wears each song like a second skin, letting her emotions be completely exposed; slipping easily between the youthful angst and anger of betrayal to lighter or more mature selections. She growled and gritted out “Sleep to Dream” in one of her most impassioned performances, reliving the anger and the frustration with every inch of her petite form. Later in the song, she disappeared behind the piano, bent over at the middle, seemingly hiding through the instrumental portion. On the contrary, “Extraordinary Machine” elicited a practically bubbly performance with playful twists of waist and shoulders and a swinging foot. She bleated and howled older songs like “Carrion” with such volume and raw emotion, they became fresh and new.
She struggled just slightly in her higher range, and her voice was more rough in parts as she finished with “Criminal.” She slowly, gently removed her monitor and sat it on the piano. It’s possible that the only words spoken to the crowd were those to genuinely thank them for a wonderful evening before she walked off stage, not to return. The common wish among the crowd was for a longer set, but it’s evident that Fiona’s performances are on her terms. She spoke only when necessary, and, once she felt her voice start to strain, ended the set without the exercise of an encore.
Her return to the stage was anything but disappointing. Fiona Apple delivered a recharged, inspiring and musically enticing performance. Her next characteristically long-titled release cannot come soon enough, but The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is tentatively scheduled to hit stores sometime in June.
Brendan here. The Interrupters is the latest documentary from Steve James, director of 1994’s Hoop Dreams – the first documentary I remember having an emotional impact on me. The Interrupters is similarly affecting. The film follows CeaseFire Chicago, a group of social workers, activists, and educators fighting against the tide of gang violence in Chicago.
As shown in The Interrupters, CeaseFire Chicago has been effective in reducing gun violence. One of the interactions in the film which demonstrates this features “Flamo” – an angry young man who is ready to retaliate against those who wronged him, but who is persuaded by CeaseFire worker Kobe Williams to take a step back and think of the impact his actions would have on his family. The resolution of his story is a welcome reprieve from the bleakness of the overall film and of the lives documented therein.
Another noteworthy voice in the film is that of Spencer Leak, a funeral director who once drove for Martin Luther King Jr., who says regarding the election of President Obama: “I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime. But while I’m seeing the president on television and the images of him leading the free world, I’m still burying black kids. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
The Interrupters is a film that deserves attention, and its absence in the Oscar nominations is a shame.