Seeing three concerts in the span of a week is a lot to ask of even the most dedicated of music fans, but that’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do a few weeks back. Over the span of a week I saw some new, old and really old bands perform live around Chicago. With all the bands at varying points in their respective careers, they all showed different ways to put on a show.
Brooklyn based American Authors, started my week long journey playing their small collection of songs that didn’t disappoint. Their current single, “Believer“, has been getting some airplay on alternative radio and it’s easy to see why. It’s not hard to make comparisons to recent alt/pop darlings Imagine Dragons when listening to American Authors play. They attacked the stage complete with a mandolin and a banjo, which also gives them a more pop, less folk, Lumineers sound. As the summer goes on, watch this band gain a large following. I honestly don’t expect them to stick to playing for 100 people for very long.
Louisiana’s Royal Teeth came on next with the vocal pairing of Gary Larsen and Nora Patterson serenading the crowd for the evening. Not quite electronic, not quite dance pop, Royal Teeth have a sound that’s uniquely their own. The band has had some exposure as of late, including having their song “Wild” on a car commercial and they didn’t seem to let the small crowd discourage them, as they played a majority of their EP, Act Naturally, as well as a few songs off of their upcoming album. An encore of Queen’s “Under Pressure” closed out the show with a sing-a-long that really endeared the crowd to the band.
Fast forward a week to the Spitalfield revival tour. For the unacquainted, Spitalfield was a member of the early-to-mid 2000’s pop-punk/emo music scene that brought fame to Fall Out Boy, Midtown, and pretty much every other band you listened to in high school. Now, an older Spitalfield regrouped to perform their debut album, Remember Right Now, in its entirety for a ten year anniversary tour. For a band that had not been active for years, Spitalfield sounded incredible. The crowd was an older mix of mid to late 20 and 30 somethings, but every one was singing along like they were still in high school. Musical tastes have shifted in the years, but for bands like Spitalfield, playing a debut album to fans is still a great way to reintroduce yourselves.
Which brings us to the Rolling Stones. Seeing the Stones in-between the previous concerts really puts concerts and live music into perspective. When you’ve been a band for fifty years, you get damn good at playing and the Stones are that good. The band mostly stuck to the hits, and while I would have preferred “Bitch” (which they played with Dave Grohl at an earlier stop) or “No Spare Parts,” you can’t always get what you want (terrible pun intended). I did get to witness a Stones and Taylor Swift duet which failed to convert me, and much of the arena, into a Swift fan.
Terrible guest aside, the band put on a great show. For two and a half hours, Mick Jagger strutted and danced his way across the stage as Keith Richards played his signature rifts as loud as possible. Drummer Charlie Watts was battery powered behind the kit, hardly breaking a sweat. Ronnie Wood played the more technical guitar parts of the evening while grinning like he won the lotto (as a side note, Wood looks like he could be your slightly mischievous great uncle that always has a story to tell about his younger, wilder days. Fitting, seeing that he is old enough to be your great uncle). Add to that mix, original guitarist Mick Taylor guesting on several songs (most notably an unreal performance of Midnight Rambler) and you had yourself a genuine Rolling Stones concert and an experience one won’t soon forget.
Seeing three concerts in the span of a week made it strikingly clear how each band was trapped by their set lists. American Authors and Royal Teeth are performing a nationwide tour on the strength of respective EP’s and songs off upcoming albums. Spitalfield had to tap into the nostalgia of a ten year old album to even get the band back together. The Stones could have played different songs each night of their residency and still packed the arena, but with those ticket prices, it’s only fair to play (mostly) the hits.
The great thing is, none of the bands let any of that hold them back from putting on great shows. American Authors treated the concert like a presidential campaign, meeting and talking to fans in the audience after their set was done. If you’re Gary Larsen, you were jumping into the crowd to play drums and take pictures with fans during your song (first time I’ve seen that and it was cool). Spitalfield was genuinely excited to be back together and playing music again. It was a huge party for the band, almost like they were playing the same basement shows they played in high school. Even the Stones, despite all of the drama over the years (Jagger and Richards made eye contact approximately once during the whole show) came out and rocked the place for over two hours. Four guys old enough to be your grandfather giving their fans everything they have for a night. Bands like American Authors and Royal Teeth dream of playing arenas, while Spitalfield could only wish for 40 more years. Bands like the Stones are the shining example to others on how to survive and still keep the fans coming out and wanting more.