Fiona Apple: Live in Chicago, Lincoln Hall, 3/19/12

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.

Buy Fiona Music @ Amazon

Fiona Apple Official Site

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.



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Airborne Toxic Event Official Site

Imelda May: Live in Madison, WI

Muruch’s Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper had the awesome privilege of catching Irish singer Imelda May‘s October 4th performance at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin. Coble’s review and photographs of the concert follow…

Irish rockabilly queen Imelda May rocked a house packed into the balcony at Madison, WI’s Majestic Theatre on Tuesday night. The small stage was packed with instruments and dressed with a backdrop that shows off the gorgeous artwork from her new album, Mayhem.

An anxious crowd welcomed her to the stage of the intimate venue with a roar as she opened with “Pullin The Rug” then slowed it down with some blues favorites.

Imelda shared the story of her roots before kicking it up and getting the diverse crowd back to dancing for the rest of the night.

Imelda’s voice is dynamic and capable of wails and low sultry tones, which is the icing on the cake that makes Imelda (and her very talented band) such a treat to watch.

Imelda’s unique signature style combines classic glamour with edgy rock energy. She worked the stage and the crowd with foot-stomping favorites from her debut, Love Tattoo, like “Johnny Got a Boom Boom” as well as many other songs from Mayhem.

“Who’s ready for some rockabilly?” With raw talent like hers, Mayhem is impossible to resist.

Buy Imelda May Music @ Amazon

Muruch Imelda May Reviews

Imelda May Official Site

My Chemical Romance: Live in Milwaukee, 8/23/11

Muruch’s Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper‘s love of My Chemical Romance knows no bounds. After her four-part series on MCR’s Mid-West Tour last April, Coble still asked to cover the band’s set in Milwaukee Tuesday night. My Chemical Romance performed at Marcus Amphitheater as co-headliners of the Honda Civic Tour with Blink182. You can read Coble’s thoughts about the concert and see her photographs below…

My Chemical Romance, co-headliners of the Honda Civic Tour, rocked the stage at the Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the band’s energetic set was met with poor sound as well as an undersold and lackluster crowd.

The band delivered an outstanding performance and a refreshed setlist that included many well-loved tunes that haven’t been performed in recent tours.

The setlist included:
“Na Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
“Vampire Money”
“Planetary (Go!)”
“Dead!”
“Welcome To The Black Parade”
“Destroya”
“Helena”
“Mama”
“I’m Not Okay”
“Famous Last Words”
“Cancer”

Throughout the set, lead singer Gerard Way attempted to charm and energize the audience with his antics such as crawling across the stage, making suggestive gestures with a microphone and practically begging the crowd to start a mosh pit.

Also of note, guitarist Ray Toro’s stage energy was a welcome return to this show after a broken foot left him relatively stationary for their last tour. He and guitarist Frank Iero anchor each side of the stage with endless whirling and headbanging throughout the show.

“Cancer” was a curious end to this set, as it is a serious ballad sung only with piano accompaniment. As is typical, the crowd responded best to singles from the popular album, Welcome To The Black Parade, but “Cancer” was lost on Milwaukee’s audience.

The disappointing crowd and the poor audio were challenges My Chemical Romance met head on and did their best to overcome. Last tour’s headlining performance at the Rave was met by a much more enthusiastic crowd, so I suspect that co-headliners Blink182 (as well as higher ticket prices) may have been a factor for the crowd present at this show. Because really, what’s not to love about a modern punk rock band with giant, confetti-filled balloons?

Buy MCR Music @ Amazon

Buy Photos @ JLHopper Photography

My Chemical Romance Official Site