Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Three venues, three different concert experiences

I had three vastly different concert experiences in September all featuring favorite vintage rock bands.

Roger Waters Sept. 29

Learned a lesson on Friday night: Lawn tickets to an outdoor concert in late September in the Chicago area can be risky. We got rained on a little bit pre-show, then had to endure 50-some degree cold during the show. Fortunately, we were prepared with a dropcloth, umbrellas, warm clothes and blankets.

Also had a tutorial in venue rules that made me feel way out of date. Who knew that water bottles could only be sold with the caps off because otherwise the full bottle could be used as a projectile weapon? Or that some key rings can't be brought onto the grounds because they could be used as brass knuckles? (hmmm... What about all those pointy parts on the umbrellas?)

Let me set the scene. The First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre (what a catchy name!) in Tinley Park. Formerly the World Music Theater. An outdoor venue with both pavilion and lawn seats. Roger Waters (the "creative genius of Pink Floyd") is performing his Dark Side of the Moon Tour. The crowd spans the generations, reflective of the band's long history. There are 20-somethings in front of us and 50-somethings behind us. Occasional funny odors waft through the air, and staggering people walk by.

The show opens with some pieces from The Wall, then moves on to some vintage psychedelic material,and continues with other Pink Floyd favorites. After a short break, Waters returns and performs most of The Dark Side of the Moon, which was Pink Floyd's record-setting album way back in the 70s that spent YEARS on the charts.

You might wonder: Why do Dark Side of the Moon now? According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, quoting a Roger Waters interview in Billboard magazine:
"It was a request from Formula I in France: They wanted a big event to go on July 14, which is the day before the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours," Waters recently told Billboard magazine. "Somebody in the organization rather fancifully suggested Pink Floyd playing 'Dark Side of the Moon,' and somebody else rather fancifully approached various people who said, 'Are you [expletive] insane? It's not going to happen.' And they then said, 'What about Roger Waters, would he do it?' "
Regardless, we had a great time (wrapped in a blanket, wearing my winter coat and gloves). The show was excellent, even if the volume wasn't quite as ear-splitting as we'd have liked. My guess is that was due to the time of night and the outdoor venue, not the artist.

Didn't notice any overt political statements from where I was standing, except in "Bring the Boys Back Home" from The Wall, there were images of Iraq played.

Queensryche Sept. 14

I'll use the subject of political messages to segway to another concert we went to mid-month. At Queensryche at House of Blues I had to laugh out loud, when, during Revolution Calling, singer Geoff Tate held up a sign that said "Will somebody please give Bush a bl*wj*b so that we can impeach him".

That concert was also an experience. I guess I've always seen rock concerts either in the pavilion section of an amphitheatre or in indoor arena. This was my first rock concert in a small venue like House of Blues with a lot of standing room. About 30 feet from the stage, we found railing perches near the stairs leading up to the main floor. As drunk/stoned people moved around us, the writer/history buff in me had a sense that this was what it might have been like to be a groundling at an Elizabethan theater way back when. Twice, as people staggered through the crowd toward the stairs, I had to put my hand on someone's shoulder to stop them from walking through me, wave a hand in front of their face to get them to focus on me, then point to the stairs right behind them.

This isn't a review of the show we attended, but it's representative.
Queensryche's current tour finds the band revisiting its breakthrough 1988 album "Operation Mindcrime" and finishing the story of junkie-turned killer Nikki, the evil Dr. X and his mind-controlling drugs and dead-hooker-turned-nun Mary. The band played both "Mindcrime" albums in their entirety back-to-back and made it heavy metal Broadway by adding actors and video to help tell the story.

Nevertheless, it was the music that was going to make or break the show, and Queensryche delivered.
About the only thing I found disconcerting about the experience was the gun prop that got waved around quite a bit. But hey, that's just me, and I read too much news online and have a fertile imagination.

Cheap Trick Sept. 3

Now contrast those two experiences with our Cheap Trick concert at Ravinia Festival over Labor Day weekend. We rented folding chairs and staked out an area of the Ravinia lawn. We purchased candles on location so that we could see our playing cards as we lolled on our picnic blanket and drank a few bottles of wine using actual wine glasses.

I never stood up and walked to the pavilion to actually *see* the band perform, although I did thoroughly enjoy the music as it was amplified through speakers across the vast lawn.

What's next?

There aren't any further concerts planned, although the Australian Pink Floyd Show is playing the Allstate Arena next month. We saw them at the Rosemont Theater last winter. Excellent show, and surprising that a *tribute band* can fill these types of venues. I think the Barenaked Ladies are rolling into town soon, also.

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