Ben Folds: Live in South Bend (Concert Review)

By: Jen “Coble” Hopper


Saturday night, Ben Folds joined the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in celebrating the City’s 150th anniversary with a concert well-suited to fans of both classical and pop music.

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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

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!)”
“Welcome To The Black Parade”
“I’m Not Okay”
“Famous Last Words”

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

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