Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Strong Set! Izzy Bizu opening for Coldplay at Soldier Field (August 17, 2017)

Izzy Bizu steps out on the enormous stage at Soldier Field, where the capacity is 61,500. This is a much different setting than her last appearance in Chicago, at the Bottom Lounge, in front of about 100 people. For those who arrived early, Izzy delivers a strong set. One of the highlights is “Someone That Loves You”, a track she released with HONNE. She sings “Don’t touch me. Boy I want you. Not allowed to. You have someone that loves you.” Exactly two weeks ago, HONNE performed this song just a mile away in Grant Park during Lollapalooza.   

To close out her set, she plays the fantastically peppy White Tiger, which whips the crowd into a dance party with its syncopated chords and strong bass line. Every girl in the audience wants to be her friend and every guy wants to take her out dancing. When her 45 minute set ends, the crowd is left wanting more. The future is looking good for Izzy Bizu.

Quinn Delaney

Chance, Blink-182, PUP, Cloud Nothings, Slushii and more at Lollapalooza in Grant Park

For three or four days every year, Lollapalooza transforms Chicago. While taking the train or walking the streets, it’s extremely easy, judging by their colorful tank tops, bandanas, and flower crowns, to pick out who’s on their way to the festival. Once you enter festival grounds, you immediately immerse yourself in this self-contained, colorful, insane little world of music and youthful nonsense, or more concisely, a Baby Boomer’s version of Hell.

But for us younger folk, the festival is a great place to mosh, sing, and kill brain cells. The ingenuity of the place is amazing; I once saw somebody dig up a bottle of booze by a marked tree that they had buried a week before with their bare hands. You can avoid all of this and just enjoy the music if you’d like, but watching the chaos unfold around you is half the fun.

Musically, the festival was no slouch. Favorites like local star Chance The Rapper, pop-punk banger group PUP (@puptheband), quirky indie rock act Cloud Nothings (@cloudnothings) gained new fans and invigorated old ones with their energetic ballads. Emerging future bass artist Slushii (@SlushiiMusic) performed a great set that had half the crowd knocking each other over in a giant mosh pit.

Last but certainly not least, beloved pop-punk giants c (@blink182) put on a fantastic and electrifying show. Despite a few shaky lineup changes the past few years, the band managed to retain their charm and humor for their performance. Being one of my favorite bands from my angsty teenage years, hearing “The Rock Show” live put a notch in my bucket list.

Justin Cabrera

Legendary! Foreigner at Hunting Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (August 9, 2017)

In 1976, Foreigner was founded in New York City. In 1978, they toured with Cheap Trick. From 2004 to 2008, Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham) was the drummer for Foreigner. And now, for their 40th anniversary tour, the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience and Cheap Trick are opening!

Foreigner opens with “Double Vision” which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two weeks in 1978. From there, song after song is a huge hit. Everyone there, from young to old, knows almost every word and happily sings along. They have installed their own custom lighting above the stage. It moves up and down and the lights go on and off perfectly with the songs.

Mick Jones, the founder and the leader of the band, is introduced by the lead singer, Kelly Hansen. He steps up and says “I guess it’s time for me to sing one. I thought the first album needed a spacey song, so I added this one.” He goes on to play “Starrider” to the crowd’s delight.

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After a strong keyboard and drum solo, they play a very familiar melody. It’s “Juke Box Hero”. The rest of the band enters the stage and the singing starts. “Standing in the rain, with his head hung low. Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show.” But where is the lead singer? Finally, he is spotted, on a 25 feet tall podium high above the crowd in the back. It’s a fantastic touch and further proof these guys know how to put on a fricking rock show!

For the encore, the Chesterton High School choir from Indiana joins the band on stage for “I Want To Know What Love Is”. It’s an epic moment as the audience decides to abandon their seats and crowd in front of the stage as they scream along to every single word and dance while embracing those around them. “I want to know what love is! I want you to show me! I want to feel what love is! I know you can show me!” They really should have ended the show with this song. Instead, they play one more, “Hot Blooded”. It’s a great song, but after they had a FULL CHORUS on stage, it’s a bit of a comedown. Put this song  first in the encore and you’d have a perfect show. Either way, this was an incredible night of music by one of the world’s greatest bands at a world class venue on a beautiful night in Chicago with everyone in attendance singing all the songs in their heads for weeks to come.

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See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Copy and Paste this into a new or existing Spotify Playlist:

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Emo Legends! Cap’n Jazz at House of Vans

For many, the phrase “emo music” conjures thoughts of 2007 Myspace-core bands like Panic! At the Disco and My Chemical Romance being blasted through the speakers of their local Hot Topic. While there’s nothing wrong with those bands, the Midwest has been harboring its own much smaller, more intimate emo scene for the past few decades. Many bands in this scene, such as American Football,  have attained cult status through their themes of heartbreak, aimlessness, and angst. Chicago based Cap’n Jazz has released only one full length album, the eloquently named Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We’ve Slipped On and Egg Shells We’ve Tippy Toed Over, and one anthology (Analphabetapolothology). Their discography is concise yet hugely influential within the scene. So, when the band decided to perform in their native Chicago for the first time in seven years, misunderstood youths from all over the city flocked to the House of Vans.

Upon meeting up with a friend, we entered the line for the show, which was over three blocks long (!!). We waited anxiously in line, unsure if we would get in due to the first come first serve policy. After about an hour of inching forward along sidewalks and alleyways, we finally made it to the entrance of the venue. Neither of us had heard of the House of Vans before, and expected the usual small Chicago bar. What we did not expect was a gigantic, smoky warehouse with an indoor skate park and a gigantic stage. The neon glow of the lights looked like something out of Blade Runner, and colorful murals and skate decks layered the walls. The staff was friendly and talkative, and they gave out beer to of-age fans. In case that wasn’t enough, a gigantic security guard even gave my friend a free slice of deep dish pizza.

The opening act, Hop Along, played an excellent set that combined indie rock with explosive grit. When they finished, Cap’n Jazz quickly took the stage and immediately launched their set. The band members were clearly having a great time with the crowd.  Frontman Tim Kinsella asked for audience members to throw their shirts on stage (he got dozens). Somehow, he managed to dive into the crowd without dropping his mic stand multiple times, screaming his cryptic lyrics as his fans literally lifted him up. He repeatedly threw his tambourine into the crowd. As my friend Mike foolishly tried to catch it, the tambourine slammed into his hand, bruising him. Elated that one of his favorite musicians bruised him, Mike enthusiastically jumped back into the pit.

Cap’n Jazz will be playing more shows across the US, so be sure not to miss being able to see these elusive emo legends live.

Justin Cabrera

“Best Night of My Summer” – Goo Goo Dolls at Northerly Island (July 24, 2017)

Robby Takac, vocalist and bassist, is having a great time. He’s running around the stage with a giant smile on his face. And why should he? It’s a perfect evening in Chicago at Northerly Island. His band, the Goo Goo Dolls, have been together since 1986, and is still going strong. He isn’t the only one that’s happy tonight.

John Rzeznik, lead singer and guitarist, is also enjoying himself. “This song is for you Chicago. You were one of the first cities to embrace us and pay for our rent before the rest of the world!” They go on to play “Name” from A Boy Named Goo, which came out in 1995. It still sounds great and it had the entire crowd smiling and dancing around.

Before playing a new song, he asks everyone if they can hold their pee. “I know everyone likes to go to the bathroom during the new song so they don’t miss ‘Iris’”. It’s so true! And when he does finally play “Iris” as the finale of the set, it’s a beautiful moment with everyone singing along.  “Now this was a fucking rock concert!” he says.

For the encore, they play “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp. It’s a fantastic end to a great night of music. “This was the best night of my summer!” says Rzeznik. It had been almost exactly one year since they played at Northerly Island with Tribe Society and Collective Soul opening (see the review here).  Here’s to keeping this annual tradition going!

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Top 5 Moments: Slightly Stoopid at Northerly Island (July 9, 2017)

Slightly Stoopid know how to keep a party going. They bring their San Diego SoCal vibe wherever they go, and tonight they’re rocking Chicago. With the temperature hovering right around 80 degrees during their night time show and 12th Street Beach just beyond the venue’s fences, it feels just like California.

Here are the Top 5 Moments:

  1. Kyle, the lead singer, kept giving praise to Chicago. “We’ve been coming here for 16 years and we love it!” Chicagoans returned the love with continuous cheers and dancing along for the entire 2 hour plus set.
  2. The horns were on fire tonight. It was a highlight every time they took the lead on a song.
  3. They played a Grateful Dead song in tribute to their final performance, which happened at Soldier Field less than a mile away.
  4. “Collie Man” – This is such a great tune!
  5. Members of their crew joining picking up instruments and joining them on a song or two. This is really unique and an awesome thing for the band to do.

Quinn Delaney

Incredible! Passion Pit at the Taste of Chicago (July 8, 2017)

Over the course of my life, I’ve been to Chicago dozens of times, but I’ve never been able to attend Taste of Chicago. I’d heard stories from my mom, a Chicago native, about how expansive the festival was decades ago, so naturally I became curious as to what the festival looked like today. When I finally showed up on Saturday, I was not disappointed.

Though it seemed as if every person in the city took off work to attend the festival, it never felt too crowded. The setup was spacious and wide, giving breathing room and allowing attendees to take their time and browse all of the vendors. There was an overwhelming variety of food available, reflecting Chicago’s wonderful ethnic diversity. As an incredibly impatient person, I was very thankful that the line for the ticket booth went by quickly. Hungry and eager to expand our suburban midwestern palettes, my friends and I set off to eat. First, we bee-lined to the Ricobene’s stand to try their fried steak sandwich, named by USA Today writer Ted Berg as the best sandwich in the world. Coming topped with oozing mozzarella cheese and spicy giardiniera (an Italian relish comprised of vegetables pickled in oil or vinegar), the piping hot sandwich was a delicious way to start things off. The crunchy texture of the steak juxtaposed itself perfectly with the warm, intense flavor of the giardiniera. While I’m not nearly qualified to say if it’s the best sandwich in the world, it’s certainly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Next, we tried something we were all a little more unfamiliar with: Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant. We ordered the jerk chicken with red beans and rice. The chicken was tender, seasoned well, and most importantly, spicy. As someone who LOVES spicy food, the chicken hit that spicy sweet spot of being subtle enough to have complex flavor, but bold enough to be exciting. The red beans and rice complimented the chicken well, being not too wet, not too dry, and evenly seasoned. Lastly, we searched the festival for some tried and true Chicago barbeque. We ended up getting barbeque ribs from the humble but exquisite Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue. Barbecue is a delicate art, and it is extremely difficult to hit that perfect blend of spice, smokiness, fat, cut, and bone. Many barbecue dishes that have been going viral on cooking blogs lately have featured overzealous slatherings of sugary sweet sauces to disguise low quality meat. Ben’s does away with all of that superfluous nonsense and instead focuses on a more subtle, smoky flavor. The sauce uses peaches and apricots, which combined with her vinegar hot sauce, lead to a unique and bold taste. Food wise, my first Taste of Chicago experience lived up to my expectations, and I’m excited to return next year.

After eating our hearts out, we headed to the ticket booth to see Passion Pit. To our surprise, the attendants were literally GIVING the tickets away. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, my friends and I went into the viewing area to enjoy the show.

When Passion Pit (@passionpit) first started getting Top 40 radio play back in 2008 with their hit single “Sleepyhead,” the mainstream pop scene was being flooded by indie music. Apparently, the public was starting to become sick of the ringtone rap spearheaded by Soulja Boy and Flo Rida, as the “indie sound” quickly became the newest trend in music. Quirky vocals and crystalline synths soon became the norm. Many of these bands produced only one hit wonders, fading quickly into obscurity. However, Passion Pit’s nostalgic, uplifting sound and respectable work ethic made them stand out amongst their peers. The band is revered within the scene for combining sparkling, upbeat electronic melodies with intimate songwriting and booming kick drums. If you listen closely, the lyrics are often not as uplifting as the instrumentation suggests, the soulful and vulnerable falsetto of frontman Michael Angelakos nonetheless serve to lift up and inspire. Their set at Taste was incredible; Angelakos brought humble charm and striking stage presence. I was surprised that he was actually able to hit all of the band’s famous falsettos live. Angelakos threw beach balls into the crowd that everybody smacked as they were screaming along. They performed all of their hit singles, ending off the night with “Sleepyhead.” The crowd was electrified, and I’m happy to say that Passion Pit’s performance exceeded my expectations.

Justin Cabrera