Patrick Stump: Live at The Metro, Chicago, 11/11/11

Muruch’s Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper joined the crowd at Chicago’s Metro theater on November 11th for a solo set by Fall Out Boy singer, Patrick Stump. You can see Coble’s photographs and read her take on the concert below…

What do you get when you combine punk attitude, soul stylings, pop hooks, a can of redbull and a band of super-talented, crazy-faced musicians? Patrick Stump’s solo project on tour.

Patrick Stump released his aptly-named solo debut, Soul Punk, just a month ago and has been touring with Panic! at the Disco over the fall. He plays every instrument on the self-financed album, and he’s put together an excellent live band that share his spirit: guitarist Michael Day, keyboardist/saxophonist Casey Benjamin (who has performed with Mos Def and Q-Tip), drummer Skoota Warner (formerly of Ra), and Taking Back Sunday bassist Matt Rubano.

Though he’s played Chicago’s Metro a number of times as part of Fall Out Boy, Patrick thanked the audience: Performing a solo show at Chicago’s legendary venue The Metro has been a dream for him. He and the rest of his band looked quite dapper in their mix of suits (turquoise, plaid and otherwise) to celebrate the occasion and his appreciation was evident in his high-energy prance, bright smile and occasional glance into the packed-to-the-gills VIP area.

Patrick covered Bowie, performed a medley, belted out a ballad, picked up the drumsticks to accompany his band on the snare drum, played a tiny trumpet… All within the first three songs. And he really never stopped moving, prancing, spinning and gesturing passionately throughout the sadly brief sixty-minute set.

In interviews, Stump has spoken fondly about learning music with his father when he was growing up. Friday, he shared with the crowd that he knows “The ‘I’ in Lie” might sound a lot like Prince, but it’s actually the kind of song his dad would write. Before disappearing for the encore, Patrick covered Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” and went so far as to sing it from the drum kit while he played. Other highlights of the well-attended set included “Run Dry” and “Bad Side of 25,” which most the audience sang back with great enthusiasm.

For any who were unsure how he would fair in the transition from Fall Out Boy, rest assured that Patrick Stump shines as a solo artist. He’s a flurry of energy and his vocal delivery is as flawless live as on the record. Stump’s musicianship was evident throughout the night and the closing singles, “Explode” and “This City,” left the crowd aching for more.

Buy Soul Punk @ Amazon

Patrick Stump Official Site

Airborne Toxic Event: Live in Chicago, 11/9/11

Muruch’s Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper caught Airborne Toxic Event’s show at Chicago’s Riviera Theater on November 9th. You can read Coble’s review of the concert and download a free, legal mp3 from Airborne Toxic Event below…

Dear Rock and Roll: Please bring more classical strings. Thanks. California indie-rockers The Airborne Toxic Event brought their dramatic, strings-infused rock sound to the Riviera Theater in Chicago on November 9 to an enthusiastic post-college crowd.

Frontman Mikel Jollett delivered a flawless performance, his voice soaring through well-loved tracks like “Gasoline,” “Half of Something Else” and “Does This Mean You’re Moving On.”

The band’s diverse talent is reminiscent of Arcade Fire in the way that members seamlessly switch off instruments and bring in new ones throughout the set. Bassist Noah Harmon and Anna Bulbrook (keys, viola) had some terrific on-stage chemistry, playing off one another as Jollett belted out vocals to the crowd.

That said, the setlist was curiously structured: the singles “Gasoline,” “Sometime Around Midnight” and “All I Ever Wanted” were played in the middle of the set, and the show was wrapped up with a mellow, acoustic song.

I wasn’t as impressed with the selection of encore tunes, but the spotlights heightened the drama by fading in and out with the introduction of each instrument. The result was a symphony for the eyes as well as the ears.

Airborne Toxic Event fills a gap in today’s musical culture by fusing pop hooks, classical stylings, rock guitars and vocals with emotional storytelling. Their sophomore album, All At Once, was released in April of this year.

BUY @ Amazon

Airborne Toxic Event Official Site

Empires: Live at Wicker Park Fest, Chicago, 7/23/11

Recent contenders for the first indie band on a Rolling Stone cover, Empires ended their summer tour in their hometown of Chicago last Saturday, July 23rd with a set at Wicker Park Fest. Our Mid-West photographer, Jen “Coble” Hopper, attended the performance and shared a few of her photos…

Empires’ high-energy set was received well by a mixed crowd of loyal fans and new faces, who were treated to a new song as well as other thundering favorites.

Despite temps near ninety degrees, lead singer Sean Van Vleet said it “felt like air conditioning” compared to other sweltering venues on the tour.

The set included “The Night Is Young,” “Hard Times,” “I Want Blood,” “Hello Lover” and “Damn Things Over,” just to name a few.

The band have been recording tracks for their next release, rumored to be named Garage Hymns and anticipated for release later this year. Empires’ latest release, BANG, is available for purchase, and several recent tracks are available as free downloads, on their official site.

Empires’ fall college campus tour begins in Cleveland, OH on September 7, 2011.

Buy Empires Music @ Amazon

Muruch Empires Reviews

Foals: Live in Chicago, 4/26/11

Muruch’s Chicago reviewer Chelle and photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper were among the crowd when Foals performed at The Metro on April 26th. Chelle’s review and Coble’s photographs follow…

The Metro hosted UK’s Foals on Tuesday, April 26th. Out on a North American tour to promote their second full length effort, Total Life Forever, the set consisted of a balanced selection of tracks from both albums.

Much like the gradually building intensity of their songs, Foals’ live show begins with a quiet, careful control, and spirals out into a frenetic, rousing flourish. In the middle the audience is treated to a layered, powerful performance that walks a fine line between fragmented and completely cohesive.

There’s a quiet but powerful energy that Foals bring to their live show, one that exists only in glimpses on record. By the end of the set, front man Yannis Philippakis was literally climbing the walls and throwing himself into the crowd and his fellow band mates.

Foals are making rock music that exists just a step removed from what other acts are trying to do right now, and grandstanding antics aside, it’s working for them.

Buy Foals Music @ Amazon

Foals Official Site

My Chemical Romance Mid-West Tour: The Review

Following is Jen “Coble” Hopper‘s collective review of of My Chemical Romance’s tour of the Mid-West last week. You can see Coble’s three-part photo series of the concerts in Part 1: Milwaukee, Part 2: Chicago and Part 3: Grand Rapids.

Getting to follow My Chemical Romance around the Midwest portion of their World Contamination Tour was a wonderful opportunity not only to enjoy three great performances by the band, but to observe the different personalities of each city’s crowd.

The setlist is a really diverse mix of their catalog, including even “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” from their 2002 debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. (Note: Chicago’s setlist photo is missing because the Aragon stage is at least 10 feet high) There were some slight changes and surprises, too. The setlist wasn’t completely static and saw some changes and surprises: Milwaukee was the only date treated to a cover of The Damned’s “Neat, Neat Neat” and Chicago’s crowd missed “The Ghost of You” (likely not in an effort to end the show in time for curfew). Grand Rapid’s setlist was as it appears in the photo:

However, what is not listed is a Pencey Prep breakdown (guitarist Frank Iero’s old band) between songs. The pleasantly embarrassed guitarist Frank Iero did not participate, but Ray Toro was quite pleased after he nailed the guitar riff. Lead singer Gerard Way filled in lyrics he could not remember with “La La Las.”

Prior to the start of the tour, Gerard shared that their touring keyboardist, James Dewees, would be using a lot of interesting equipment with unique sounds for their live show, and that they had also invested in some impressive lighting. The whole package paid off as a high-energy trip for your eyes and ears, from the tinkly keys and xylophone sounds during The Black Parade‘s “Mama” to the sirens and mix of techno in “Planetary (GO!),” the throbbing dance tune from Danger Days. With all of this, they have reimagined their classic tunes and amped up even the latest tracks.

Next, the performance–these guys BRING IT to every show. “We’ve been at this for ten years. We’re a professional fucking rock band,” Gerard proudly told the crowd in Milwaukee, strutting across the stage. Each of these guys stands out in every performance: Iero never stops moving, twisting his body even as he screams into his mic. He headbangs and writhes and interacts with the crowd, stepping closer to shout along with them. Mikey Way brings the focused, introspective bass playing and rockstar stance, nodding along and occasionally breaking into a sideways headbang. Gerard is a commanding front man. While he is obviously not in character and is perhaps less animated facially than during the Black Parade tour, he’s still constantly moving and feeding off the crowd. It’s less theatrical, but no less dramatic. When he tells the audience to jump, to clap, to sing along, the crowd responds eagerly. Mike Pedicone is an absolute madman on drums. Guitarist Ray Toro is ALL smiles, ALL the time. That is a man who loves his job, even when his foot is broken (he broke it a few shows back.) All of these guys can shred.

Another item of note regarding Gerard’s vocal performance: obviously a lot of (especially early) MCR is heavy, and Gerard belts out those tunes loudly, definitely screaming at some points. But he starts the encore with “Cancer” nearly a capella, and his vocals are spot on, not strained. His voice is crisp and beautiful. “Cancer” is not my favorite recorded song, but it never fails to make me cry when he performs it live. The drama of the spotlight on him and the simplicity of the piano accompaniment is quite moving.

Despite the heaviness of much of the music and the roughness that can come with that, it is impossible to attend an MCR show without noticing by way MCR cares for its fans and in turn, the way these values are reflected within the audience. There are people of all ages at these shows – I literally saw eight-year-old and an eighty-year-old fans at Milwaukee. And while the crowd is smashed together, moshing, constantly jumping and giving back all the energy, they’re also watching out for one another. At every show, Gerard reminds the crowd to pick someone up if they fall down, to take care of each other. And they really do. These crowds have no tolerance for jerks. There’s an amazing unity in the audiences for these shows, despite any age differences.

Now and then, something happens that tells you that you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Being part the crowd for My Chemical Romance is that kind of experience for me. I leave MCR shows with my life affirmed, with a faith renewed in humanity and in our youth.

Buy MCR Music @ Amazon

Check out Coble’s review of MCR’s new album, Danger Days, and view/buy more of her awesome photos at JLHopper Photography.

My Chemical Romance Official Site