Miracle on State Street 7

Months of waiting and anticipation gone by, Friday was the night -- Miracle on State Street 7 at the historic Chicago Theatre, presented by 101.9 The Mix, featuring The Fray, Alanis Morissette and Ben Folds ...

I took the day off to relax, while Kates celebrated her last day of work in 2005. ...By about 2:30 p.m. I was parked in front of her school ready to help pack up her classroom (...as if having summers off isn't a nice enough perk of being a teacher, you should see all the teachers coming out of the school with laundry baskets full of gifts from their students.)

By 3:30, we were off, cruising down I-94 to Chicago. Rush hour traffic was hardly a problem and we were spinning into the theater district shortly after 4:30. ... Our parking pass validated, we strolled down Michigan Avenue to Bennigan's and grabbed a table for two. Kates had the tortilla soup and salad, I had the Mediterranean Chicken...

Blistering cold, Michigan Avenue Christmas decorations and all, this was definitely a night to suck up everything life could offer. From dinner, we found a Starbucks -- I had the hot caramel apple cider, Kates had the white chocolate mocha -- and then crossed the street to Millennium Park and watched the ice skaters -- if only we had time to join them ...

A pit stop at Borders and some light reading later, we merged with the crowds (which by the way was an older, more affluent and behaved crowd -- a defining and pleasant difference from the immature teenies that flood Summerfest every year) entering the Chicago Theatre and were ushered to our seats on the floor level. ... The theater couldn't have looked more perfect. Add to its ornate decorum, the stage was set for The Fray with a huge, glowing 'Miracle on State Street' backdrop that morphed from shades of green to purple to blue to red and came complete with giant snowflake-shaped illuminations. Kates just smiled as we entered. I let out an excited, sinister laugh ...

Before we knew it, Eric, Kathy & Tommy Lee were appearing on the stage, attempting to warm the crowd and introducing the acts ... Although it remains as much a mystery to me as it was before the concert why Tommy Lee was picked to host the show. Despite some prodding from the DJs, he never did take off his shirt. He was on the stage for maybe 10 minutes the entire night and never said anything mildly interesting or amusing, or really coherent for that matter. And he didn't appear to be at all interested in the bands that were playing ...

Nonetheless. The Fray led off the show and were ... Predictable? In an attempt to have some familiarity with their work, I downloaded their latest album shortly after buying the tickets. But found nothing to be overly excited about. ...Their sound could be compared to a Coldplay or REM, I guess, and 'Over My Head' is getting good radio play for obvious reasons. But I haven't been able to get over lead singer Isaac Slade's whiny, nasally, Rufus Wainwright-like voice. (We saw Rufus two summers ago -- interesting enough, before another Ben Folds performance. Rufus is a good piano player, perhaps, but we couldn't stand him then, and still can't ...) ... Based off my listens to the Fray's album, their performance was as much as I could expect. Slade was positioned front and center, sitting at his keyboard with his bandmates strumming their guitars and falling in behind him. Their set lasted about 30 minutes and featured five or six songs (which ones, I couldn't tell you because I haven't learned the names of all of them yet -- but I can tell you they were all from their latest album...). The music was good, and they finished --to no surprise -- with 'Over My Head.'

It kind of hurts to say it, but that was largely the theme for the rest of the show -- predictable. Good music. But nothing to blow you away.

Another bit by Eric, Kathy and Tommy and out came Alanis -- and with gold-colored frizzy hair to match her gold top! She went right into to 'Hands Clean' and followed with 'You Learn,' 'All I Really Want,' and of course 'Crazy' -- which sounded way better as a live cover then her recorded album version. ... Finally the energy level was upped a little bit when the band's last 'Crazy' cord streamed right into 'You Oughta Know.' The crowd sang along nearly drowning out Alanis. ... Then the crowd REALLY did drown out Alanis when she ended with 'Ironic' -- hearing the crowd sing at the top of their lungs and the cool guitar arrangement to back it, that one song was possibly my favorite moment of the entire show. ... But she too played for barely 30 minutes and left us saying, 'Too short, too short, too short.'

Ben would be better, right? Sort of. ... My eighth time seeing him, I know exactly what to expect and can still be surprised. The quality of the music aside, more and more, it's like reuniting with an old friend. You just sit back and pick up where you left off ... But, much like Alanis, I found the choice of music a bit odd. He led off with 'Bitches Ain't S**t.' -- humorous and fun, yes. But hardly the upbeat, energizer he usually leads with. He followed with 'Gone' and then 'Zak and Sara' -- one of those that always make me smile and never grows old. 'Still Fighting It,' 'Bastard' and 'Landed' were there too.

Midway through, and true to form, Ben announced he would play a Christmas song. The obvious thought is 'Lonely Christmas Eve' off the Grinch soundtrack. But he tells the crowd instead he will play a song he originally wrote for the movie and was deemed 'unacceptable.' He rolled into its jazzy, pounding intro, and then, of course, stopped to tell more of the story -- that his inspiration for the song was some guy who broke into a restaurant to steal money and died when he fell on a fryer -- or something like that. My attention kind of drifted off the during the story ... and aside from hearing Ben play the piano, I don't recall the song being all that memorable either.

There was 'The Ascent of Stan' and then 'Narcolepsy.' ... If there was anything surprising about Ben's performance, this was it for me. Never a big fan of 'Narcolepsy,' which is arguably his darkest and loudest tune, I found Friday night's performance of it, um, awesomely rambunctious. (I don't know, that's the first description that came to mind.) The piano roared on it and the band accompaniment was tight and together. Period.

'Not the Same' came next, and, as always, featured all of the cool crowd interaction and harmonies the song typically evokes. In fact, as Ben was teaching each of the parts to the crowd, he remarked it was the best he had heard. ... Ha!

Next the fast-paced, piano pounding One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces. And then it was over. ...No 'Army'? No 'Philosophy'? No 'Rockin the Suburbs'? Not even (thankfully) 'Brick'? This time, the performance lasted barely 45 minutes. And again, too short, too short, too short.

Not perfect. Nothing extraordinary ... But. Sigh. A very enjoyable night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what?! 30 for alanis, 45 for ben? what a rip!

(though the scenery in Chi-town at Christmas looked fan-tastic