Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Concert Reviews for the Price of One!

I thought I was going to have more time to write my reviews of my big shows this past week, but this weekend was insanely busy. I know, shocker.

First off was Sigur Ros at the Chicago Theater on Wednesday night. The band is in my top 5 favorite bands of all time (closing in on the top 3 even), so it's always a thrill to see them, especially at a place as perfect as the Chicago Theater. To make things even better, we got excellent seats for the show, very close to the front and on the front of an aisle, so I could actually move my legs and not feel like I was trapped in an airplane seat.

The show was opened by a band called Parachutes, who were actually pretty good, but that's mainly because they're the first Sigur Ros clone band that I've seen. Had I seent Parachutes at pretty much any other show or venue, I would have been very happy about their set, but since it was like seeing SRv2.0, when SRv1.0 was much better and waiting to play behind them, it got pretty frustrating.

SR finally took the stage at 9 pm, which made me wonder if this was either going to be a really short set (due to the 10 pm curfew), or if they were going to ignore that whole curfew thing. My frustration from the Parachutes set was instantly wiped away by the one single note which opens their magnificent song "Svefn g englar," the opening track to their astounding breakthrough Agaetis Byrjun. After the gorgeous 10 minute opener, they followed up with "Glosoli," the amazing opener to their also great album Takk..., which was the perfect one two "punch" (I have a pretty tough time using that word for another of their songs really).

After sticking to alot of older material in the beginning, the band settled in to showcase songs from their new great cd, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (meaning "with a buzz in our ears, we play endlessly" in Icelandic). Their new material fit in well with the older songs, since they have never really strayed far from their formula from day one, but who can blame them? The band brought out Parachutes to help them with the drums for "Gobbledigook," and closed with the always amazing Untitled #7 from their album ( ).

Yes, I'm really not making up these titles. I know, I could pretty much mash the keyboard and claim it's one of their songs or albums. In fact, here you go, here's a song from Sigur Ros's next album: q-3tug4jlg.

It wasn't the best SR performance I've seen, but it was still a pretty great one. I miss their opening band Amiina, who would help them with the odd instrumentation throughout their set as well. But the band was excellent as only a 4 piece anyways, so it wasn't a big problem.

On Saturday night, I headed to the dreaded Aragon Brawlroom to see My Bloody Valentine. The back story of this band is pretty interesting, Chicago music critic Jim Derogatis did an excellent job of summing up here. I say that I dreaded heading to the Aragon, since I have avoided being their for several years, since the sound is usuall horrible there, coming close to sounding similar to hearing a band play in cave, and not a good sounding cave at that.

The band Hopewell opened the show, and the only thing I can give them credit for is that they actually started early, which was a shock to me since I was expecting the show to run far behind schedule. I have no idea how they ended up opening for MBV otherwise, since their fairly generic and unmemorable sound was nothing like MBV's.

I expected MBV to hit the stage after a good hour or so wait at least, since they were supposed to have a massive sound system for this tour, and because the band is notorious for making fans wait for everything else (17 years since their last cd, 16 years since the last tour, etc.). The house lights actually went down at 9, to my amazement, but the band still managed to wait 10 minutes before taking the stage after that.

The sound of the show truly was amazing, I have never heard the Aragon sound that good, and I doubt that I have ever been to a show that loud in a venue of that size. The band spent the majority of the time on their masterpiece Loveless, with some older material mixed in as well, but nothing new, despite the claims that the band have possibly two albums' worth of material near completion.

My highlights were of course most of the tracks they played off of Loveless, with the opener "Only Shallow" being my favorite. The vocals were buried even deeper in the mix live than they are on record, where they already almost inaudible in the massive sea of guitars, so it was just as impossible to figure out anything they were saying live.

They played a solid hour set, then at 10:12 they actually said thanks to the audience, then launced into their closer "You Make Me Realize." I checked because I knew what was coming, the first two or so minutes were fairly typical massive pop, then the band went on to make an even more massive wall of white noise, going for 20 minutes (yes, TWENTY MINUTES) making the loudest noise I've ever head a band make. It was so loud, I could feel my nose, mouth, and even the pockets of my pants vibrating because of it. It sounded like a jet roaring at full blast (rumor has it their NY show clocked in at 124 decibels, just slightly above a jet engine at 120), then sounding like a tornado rumbling through and picking up that engine, then having a hailstorm pound on the jet engine, then getting even louder from there.

It was a pretty impressive display, at least for the first 10 minutes or so. It did get old after a bit before finally coming around to the pop sound again at the close of the song. If I didn't have my earplugs in (which the band was kind enough to donate pairs to the audience at the entrance), I'm quite certain I would have lost some hearing that night.

Let's hope the band doesn't wait another 16 years to tour once again. Well, at least if they do, I can take Bella with and she can see for herself next time.

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