Friday, 29 March 2013

eatin', lookin' at art, and musicking in Chicago (Anneke van Giersbergen and Novembers Doom)

A metalhead living close to Toronto has it pretty good. This is likely true of most any music fan, really (though it may depend on the particularity of one's taste). For me, anyway, the number of bands on my 'must see' list that haven't played southern Ontario at some point is relatively small. But once in a while a tour doesn't make it to Toronto, and there's no end to worthy festivals and special events happening elsewhere. When the draw is strong enough, it's time to head out on a road trip or hop on a plane. My latest music-related travels took me to Chicago to see Anneke van Giersbergen and Novembers Doom.

It was a whirlwind jaunt with a Great Lakes view. The trip wasn't my idea but I was happy to join in (especially since I didn't have to do any of the planning). hooked us up with a sweet apartment to stay in - a short walk from the concert venue, Reggie's Rock Club. And Porter got us there smoothly and comfortably - an excellent flying experience but marred after the fact when we encountered striking workers. The strikers were polite and only detoured us slightly on our return. It was their concerns about safety and a living wage, and their claims that Porter has failed to provide either, that were upsetting. I wish them the best of luck, and equity, in their negotiations.

Corey Dennison at Buddy Guy's
Once we got to Chicago the Orange Line train got us from the airport to the South Loop and our improvised first night began. Lou Malnati's provided us with deep dish pizza and brought us close to Buddy Guy's Legends, just around the corner. It's a touristy venue, perhaps, but hard to resist, and I have enough fond memories of seeing Buddy Guy perform live that just his name was enough to draw me in. The place was packed, but we stayed long enough for a full set by Corey Dennison and band, including red-hatted guitarist Uncle Walter, who we'd spotted earlier on the bus. It was a good performance - solid band, Dennison has a fittingly gritty voice and delivery, and the guitar work was beguiling. I know, it's not metal, but without the blues there wouldn't be any metal and I'm willing to appreciate me some roots. (for some recent illustrations of the blues-metal relationship, see Justin Norton's "Blues Into Metal" features over at Decibel)

Day two gave us an awesome heavy metal brunch with Thérèse from Mares of Thrace and the band's sometime touring bassist/drummer/cover art painter/American Heritage member, Scott. They took us to a place called Handlebar, where I had an extremely tasty vegan breakfast tacos special. Then we got glimpses of various parts of the city before heading to Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. We didn't make it to the special Picasso exhibition (the line up was so long!) but we did see a couple of Picasso paintings, some Georgia O'Keefe, a giant Seurat, the picture of Dorian Grey used in the film based on Oscar Wilde's novel, and a bunch of other cool stuff (and drank some excellent Goose Island root beer and vanilla cream soda to follow up our Goose Island beers from the night before).

After our art adventures, hunger (and a magazine recommendation) took us to a cool place called Simone's. Their much touted vegan burger - black bean, rice & quinoa - was as yummy as we'd been led to expect (and went well with the local lager on tap). The decor and service were on par with the food, a good choice all around. On the way back to our temporary headquarters I got to look upon the memorialized Chess Records building too. We'd meant to visit, as it's a museum now, but we completely missed the two-hour window it was open. Ah well, I got a look at least.

Even with all our wanderings and a little down time we still made it to Reggie's in time to find some familiar faces and chat a bit before the opening act, Chicago's Without Waves. I didn't know anything about the band before, but it looks like their drummer is playing with Novembers Doom now as well. I liked their progginess, and got a kick out of their Portishead cover, "Numb," I think it was.

Novembers Doom's set was on the softer side, likely to ease us into the much poppier sounds of Anneke's set to come. They were joined on stage by a woman named Tricia (I think), who wove her excellent voice in among the band's melodies. I didn't take notes and have already forgotten most of the details of the setlist (I was never good at song titles), but the range of songs worked well and the band sounded great. Towards the end of their performance they worked in a cover by a band called Vast (I wouldn't have known if they hadn't told me), and they brought things to a climactic end with what was probably their heaviest track of the night, "Rain." This was maybe my third (?) time seeing Novembers Doom, and it was nice to get something a little different once again. 

Anneke van Giersbergen + Paul and Larry (Novembers Doom)
Twice previously I had seen Anneke van Giersbergen perform - but with The Gathering, so it's clearly been many years since the last time. I haven't paid a ton of attention to her solo material, though her latest, Everything is Changing, has an appealing vibe. But I have very much enjoyed her collaborations with various metal artists, including Novembers Doom but also Moonspell, and especially Devin Townsend, and I'll always appreciate the incredible sound of her voice. For this show, she opened with last year's 'single', "Feel Alive," an upbeat track full of vitality and a fitting starting point for her performance. In addition to her solo material she worked in a Eurythmics cover ("Here Comes the Rain Again"), a Devin Townsend track ("Hyperdrive," I think), and a couple of songs by The Gathering, including the classic "Strange Machines." Plus, as I was hoping, Paul and Larry from Novembers Doom returned to the stage to join her for the song from Aphotic she guested on, "What Could Have Been."

Anneke was as charming and charismatic as ever, radiating a kind of delighted joyfulness. Watching and listening to her perform could be a kind of anti-depression or anti-anger therapy - I don't think there could have been a single cranky person in that room. The warm feelings might not have lasted (for us, it was up early the next morning and back to work within hours), but it was pretty blissful for at least a short while.

1 comment:

laura said...

I forgot to mention about her playing acoustic guitar on some songs! We even got treated to one (a Gathering song, I think) that was just Anneke and her guitar - very moving.