Thu 25 Oct – The Weakerthans, The Last Town Chorus, Jim Bryson
First of all, when did Weakerthans shows become the meeting spot for trendy indie hipsters? At least, that was my first impression as I got there at 5:30 and waited in line for the doors to open at 6. Am I now one of those hipsters, without realizing it? Or is this just the usual Chicago crowd? But as we were let in and the place started to fill up, I was instead surrounded by "normal" people, making me feel at ease, and... by photographers. Who all knew each other. Mind you, I love photography, and appreciate professional photographers, but endlessly going on about other jobs and wondering who the Weakerthans are and if they have enough fans to fill this venue... it's a little annoying and condescending to the band.
Luckily, Jim Bryson
came out and they shut up. In fact, everyone did. He started off by informing us that he makes mistakes but hoped, by giving us this disclaimer beforehand, we would be more patient with him. It was a disclaimer that all sets should have used.
Jim Bryson has an amazing voice. It was clear, powerful, and melodic. It took maybe ten seconds into his first song for him to captivate the audience. His guitar playing was, for the most part, fairly simple, but in this case, it worked because it didn't overpower his voice. Between songs, he bantered with the crowd. He had great stage presence, loved talking to us (he said that's why he doesn't play as many songs, because he talks too much), and was constantly making everyone laugh. If he decides to give up music, he can always pursue a career as a comedian.
There were some problems with one song. He needed his computer (a MacBook, yeah!) for the drumbeat and it had frozen. So he went along without it, having the audience clap it instead. About halfway through, he started laughing and said that to make things worse, he now needed the harmonica he had previously dropped on the floor out of reach (with the comment that it was okay, he didn't need it anymore). But in true rock and roll style, he made the best of what he had and continued on.
After Jim Bryson, The Last Town Chorus
came on. Now, I have an as yet disproved Rule of Three: if three bands are playing a show (two opening and one main, not two coheadliners), two will be amazing and one I'll never desire to see again. With the Last Town chorus, that rule still stands. Technically, the Last Town Chorus is just one woman, singing and playing guitar, but she had another man, Rich, playing guitar and singing back-up vocals as well.
They came onstage, mumbled "We're the Last Town Chorus", and went directly into their first song. She's known for playing the slide guitar, and I'm a fan of that. Just not how she played it. The guitar was too loud, so you could barely hear her voice if you really tried. From what I could hear, her singing was decent, but it was hard to tell. And from what I've read, it wasn't a technical problem of the guitar being too loud, because it's been the same at other shows. During one song, she did turn the volume of the guitar down a bit while she was singing, but turned it back up otherwise.
As for the guitar itself... it was jarring. There were a few moments that I liked, but for the most part it gave me piercing headaches. Apparently I wasn't the only one not impressed, because the rapt attention from Jim Bryson's set was gone and there was constant chatter throughout the Last Town Chorus' set (which I find rude, no matter how much you're not enjoying it, but whatever). They performed a cover of David Bowie
's "Modern Love
" and it took me until thirty seconds to the end of the song to realize what they were playing. It was a relief when they left the stage.
I should also note that Luke Doucet
, who was playing in Chicago the next night, came out for one song, but even he couldn't salvage the set.
Finally, it was time for The Weakerthans
! They opened with the thumping beat of "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call
". Probably an odd choice for an opening song, since it's about the end of the night, but it works in the Weakerthans universe. The set consisted mainly of songs from their two newest albums, "Reconstruction Site
" and "Reunion Tour
". For me, this was great because I hadn't seen them since June 2003, when they only had their first two albums out. Of course, they played some songs from "Fallow
" and "Left and Leaving
", choosing some of my favorites (if such a thing can be distinguished between Weakerthans songs!). During "Aside
", an overzealous, possibly drunk fan started going crazy and bashing into us in the front row. I wasn't aware that Weakerthans shows were now a spot for moshing. He kept up the craziness, minus the attempted moshing, for the rest of the show.
During "Left and Leaving
", John K. Samson forgot a line of the song ("the strangers whose faces I know....") and laughed as the entire crowd kept singing along without him. When the song ended, he held out some money and gave it to the girl next to me, saying he has never before forgotten the words to that song and the money was a partial reimbursement.
They surprised me by playing "History to the Defeated
", since it wasn't one of their "hits" from their earlier album, but it was a surprise that I enjoyed. I could be wrong, but I don't think they played that the last time. The newer songs were amazing, and brought such energy to the crowd. Although there were mellow songs ("Sun in an Empty Room
"), that didn't stop anyone from rocking out. Especially during "A Plea From a Cat Named Virtute
", Greg Smith and Jim Bryson
, who played with them for the entire set, were jumping around and rocking on their guitars.
They exited the stage after "Plea" but shortly after, John K. came out and performed a few songs solo. Then he was joined by the rest of the band and they played a few more songs before leaving for real.
In my opinion, there's nothing like seeing your favorite band live, no matter how many shows you've been to. The Weakerthans
didn't disappoint. There wasn't a single song that I would have cut out. Of course, I would have loved for them to play their entire collection of songs, but that's not exactly doable. I'll keep dreaming about that one, but will be enjoying amazing shows like the one I did see in the meantime.
Psalm for the Elk's Lodge Last Call
Our Retired Explorer
Relative Surplus Value
Sun in an Empty Room
Left and Leaving
Tournament of Hearts
History to the Defeated
A Plea From a Cat Named Virtute
One Great City!
My Favourite Chords
Confessions of a Futon Revolutions
Virtute the Cat Explains her Departure