Category Archives: Concert Reviews

UK Rock! The Kooks at The Fox Theatre in Oakland (February 11, 2019)

It’s a Monday night in Oakland, California and the Fox Theatre is packed for The Kooks. It’s a very young crowd gathered to hear this band from the UK rock the roof off. They play one great song after another such as “All The Time” and “Sway”, keeping the energy level high throughout the evening. Before you realize it, an hour has passed and the show is almost over.

Then, the entire band except for the lead singer leaves the stage. He leads everyone in a giant singalong of “Seaside” on acoustic guitar. It manages to feel intimate despite the large size of the theatre. Following “Seaside”, the band returns and rocks through “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” to close out the set. Nobody leaves as the crowd gets really loud demanding an encore. The Kooks happily oblige and return to play “No Pressure” and “Naïve”. They are two great songs that have the crowd jumping up and down so much that the floor bends. Also, the lead singer from Barns Courtney, one of the opening bands, is spotted in the crowd enjoying the fun atmosphere.


Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney


Progressive Rock / Jazz Fusion: Lisa Fischer with Grand Baton at City Winery Chicago (February 4, 2019)

Lisa Fischer is a phenomenal singer who toured with The Rolling Stones from 1989 to 2015. Soon after the film “20 Feet from Stardom” was released in 2013, she began touring with Grand Baton, a progressive rock / jazz fusion band. The leader of the band often plays the SazBass, an eight-stringed electroacoustic instrument inspired by the Turkish baglama that adds an intense Middle Eastern flavor.

During her set, she sings many great songs including “Addicted To Love”, “Immigrant Song”, “Gimme Shelter”, and “Message in a Bottle”. They have each been altered to match the Grand Baton style. This is unfortunate as her voice truly shines in a rock environment. Even her hit song, “How Can I Ease the Pain”, received the progressive rock / jazz treatment. However, her voice still manages to shine through in a few moments. If she were to join with a rock band with a more similar sound to the Rolling Stones, this show would truly incredible.

See the latest posted set here.

Quinn Delaney

South African Arena Rock! Kongos at Lincoln Hall (January 23, 2019)

The Kongos brothers are originally from South Africa. Thus, it makes sense that they play a version of arena rock blended with African rhythms. The song “I Don’t Mind” features guitar work very common in African Rock. Also, the accordion player plays a major role, especially on “Come with Me Now”, which has over 123 million streams on Spotify. He has the picture of the gorilla from the cover of their album, Egomaniac, printed on his instrument which expands and shrinks as he plays.

They play a bunch of songs from their brand new album, 1929, Pt.1, which was just released this month. There will be parts 2 and 3 later on. These songs are so new that the crowd doesn’t yet know any of them except for the single, “Pay for the Weekend”.

For the encore, Kongos play Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles. It’s an interesting choice that sounds very good played by them. Lastly, they play “I’m Only Joking”, a great rocker to close out the night and send everyone home smiling. “We’ll be back! I’m sure of it!” says the bass player.

During the show they mention their documentary series, Bus Call. It gives a great behind the scenes look at their life on the road. It’s available on YouTube for free! In the series, you’ll learn that their father was a musician who taught them music when they were very young. In 1996, they moved to Arizona. However, they got their first big break in South Africa. They were playing stadiums there at the same time they were playing in bars back in the states for audiences of less than 10 people.

Cost of a ticket: $25
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

See the latest posted setlist here.

The Unique Voice of Macy Gray at City Winery Chicago (December 29, 2018)

Forty minutes after her scheduled start time, Macy Gray takes the stage. She is wearing quite a loud dress with circles of different colors that matches her style. Upon hitting the first note, her unique voice is instantly recognizable. After the first song, she introduces all the members in the band. It’s a bit unusual to do this so early and it results in a very slow start to the show. Nonetheless, Macy quickly recovers and brings the show back to life as she covers, “Creep”. Since Radiohead rarely plays this song, it’s a good choice and it sounds great with Macy’s voice.




Soon afterwards, Macy begins pleading with the audience to get up and dance. At the City Winery, the crowd is tightly packed in at tables without much room for dancing. Thus, nobody dances except those without seats. Still, she continues to ask everyone to party with her. She indicates it would be a great post-Christmas gift to her. And sure enough, slowly but surely, everyone rises to dance to “Beauty in the World”. She is clearly delighted to have everyone up and quickly leads into “I Try”. Even though it was released back in 1999, this song still sounds fresh and is by far her most popular song with 110 million streams on Spotify.



Most people probably expected the show to end there, but she goes on to play a few more songs including “Brass In Pocket” by The Pretenders. There’s a reason bands end with their most popular song. It leaves the audience with the climactic moment most fresh in their minds as they head out. Having other songs afterwards has a bit of a cool down effect and isn’t ideal.



Cost of a ticket: $65

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother


Quinn Delaney

Rock with a Jazz Twist: Ryley Walker at Empty Bottle (December 28, 2018)

The Empty Bottle loves their late shows, and tonight is no exception. Ryley Walker, from right here in Chicago, doesn’t take the stage until midnight.

“I’d buy you a drink, but my credit is quite shit. We can all laugh and have tap water” sings Ryley Walker on “The Roundabout”. It’s a beautiful song and his most popular on Spotify, with 2.4 million streams. On this song and for the whole set, the band really vibes well together. It’s Ryley on guitar with Ryan Jewell on drums, Andrew Young on bass, and Brian Sulpizio on lead guitar.

Ryley’s stage banter is a bit eccentric. After an applause, he quickly says “Thank you, we appreciate it.” He also says “This is our first time at the Empty Bottle, so we are a bit nervous.” However, once he starts playing, the nerves melt away and he sounds great. This is especially true during long jams that are filled with a jazzy / experimental sound.

Ryley released a full album cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “The Lillywhite Sessions”.  With each song, he definitely puts his own style into it and often extends into long improvisational jams. Unfortunately, he didn’t play any of these songs tonight.

Cost of a ticket: $18
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Short Film Screening Style – Ok Go: The Live Video Tour at The Mesa Arts Center (December 14, 2018)

This is not your typical concert. Instead, it is more of a short film screening with live music. The evening begins with OK Go’s first recorded performance, “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips”. They appeared on a local TV show in Chicago that could not record music, so they had to lip sync while they danced. They included a band pretending to play behind them, including two notables from NPR: Ira Glass on drums and Peter Sagal on bass!

After the video, the band came on stage and introduced the next song as their first real music video, “Get Over It”. This song remains their second most popular song on Spotify with 13.7 million streams.

Next, they described how at the end of their live shows early on, they would end with a choreographed dance to “A Million Ways” as their band signature. So, they did the dance live to the audience’s delight. By no means are they great dancers, but the performance is very humorous and fun.

Next up, they had the audience download a simple app. The app randomly assigned a music player to each user with one of five different colors.  Each player had three buttons, which each play a different note. The band then taught the crowd how to hit the buttons in time with shapes falling on the screen based on the color of their player, Guitar Hero style. Everyone was then able to play along with “What To Do”.

During one of their frequent Q&A sessions, an audience member asks if it bothers them if their videos outshine their music. The lead singer replies: “How many bands do you like for their music? Maybe ten to a thousand? How many bands do you like for their videos? One? We are happy to be that band!”

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

An Amazing Night! John Butler Trio at The Chicago Theatre (November 29, 2018)

John Butler Trio’s latest album Home blends in perfectly with their current catalogue.  The night begins with “Wade in the Water” and “Tahitian Blue from the new album. Both songs feature fantastic melodies, skilled guitar playing, and smooth vocals.  The set continues with “Better Than” from the Grand National album. This popular upbeat tune is immediately recognized by the audience as one would expect with 16.5 million streams on Spotify. Everyone sings along “Life’s not about what’s better than!”


In the middle of his set, John dismisses the band to play an instrumental titled “Ocean”. With just his guitar, looping machine, and pedals he creates an exceedingly full sound. During a long extended jam, a couple gets engaged up near the stage. “She said yes!” yells the brand new fiancée.  The couple is quickly congratulated by the great community of the Trio’s fans.

Butler says that the album was inspired by the struggle that comes from being a musician. He is either touring, missing his family at home in Australia, or he is at home missing his fans and the joy of playing concerts. Through relentless touring, JBT have truly perfected their own unique sound and their live shows. It was an amazing night that just flew by.

Cost of a ticket: $75
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney