Aterciopelados @ House of Blues

March 24th, 2007

This was the second time these Colombians have visited Chicago since November, and the second time they played well after midnight. And I don’t mean that there were a bunch of opening bands and lots of delays which caused Aterciopelados to start their set very late. It’s more like “doors @ midnight, show starts @ 1am”.

At first I thought this was a pretty crazy and annoying way to schedule concerts, but now after doing it twice, I almost wish more bands would do it like this. I can go to bed at 8pm, get four hours of sleep, wake up at midnight, get downtown in no time because there’s no traffic, park for free, see a show with no opening bands that starts right on time, and be back in bed before 4am to finish off the rest of my full night of sleep.

This was my sixth time seeing Aterciopelados, so I was a bit worried that I could start getting bored with their concerts, especially since it had only been four months since I’d last seen them. Also, their new album ‘Oye’, while very good, is probably a step down from their previous four (one of the best four-album streaks in music history), and I knew the setlist would once again draw heavily from it.

It turns out my worry was unfounded, because it was still a great show. They did play all but two of the songs from ‘Oye’, but this time around everyone in the audience knew the songs much better, so that made it a lot more fun. But what really makes them a band I can see over and over again is the way that they change up their songs. Tempos change, different rhythms convert songs into alternate styles, and new intros/outros keep you guessing.

Their song ‘Florecita Rockera’ is a great case study. As originally recorded on their 1995 Latin-rock-punk album ‘El Dorado’, it’s an energetic little number that alternates beteween clean, melodic verses, and an almost heavy-metal chorus. By the time I first saw them in concert in 2001, they had morphed into an electronic/chill-out band, so at that show, ‘Florecita Rockera’ was played as full-on dance-club party song with a thumping beat and a running time at least three times the original. Now, their new album ‘Oye’ returns them back towards the Latin-rock style of their earlier albums, but without the punk edge, so this time we got a rocking, but anger-free ‘Florecita Rockera’ that even inspired something I haven’t experienced seen since those earlier Aterciopelados shows: the Mexican Mosh Pit. Like its Norte-Americano cousin, the South American version involves people bouncing around and bumping into each other, but it’s actually done to the beat of the music, and with a joy and community spirit that you don’t get in the metal version.

Beyond the ‘Oye’ stuff (‘Panel’ and ‘Al Parque’ were the missing ones), we got two from ‘Gozo Poderoso (‘Luz Azul’ and ‘El Album’), ‘El Estuche’ from ‘Caribe Atomico’, the title track from ‘La Pipa De La Paz’ (introed perfectly with ‘Majestad’ from ‘Oye’), ‘Florecita Rockera’ and encore-closer ‘Candela’ from ‘El Dorado’, as well as one each from Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago’s “solo” albums (‘A Eme O’ and ‘Altisimo’, respectively).

I think this was the first time I’d seem them where Andrea didn’t speak at least a little bit of English, but she’s so good at emoting and connecting with the audience that I had a pretty good idea what she was saying anyway. They have a tradition of throwing gifts out into the audience at the end of the show, which is an idea I’m surprised more bands haven’t picked up (used drumsticks and guitar picks don’t count!) Previously they’ve thrown out flowers and frisbees, but the last coupled times it’s been tiny wrapped bags of something. I haven’t been lucky enough to get one, so I can’t tell you what’s inside!

Isis / Jesu / Zozobra @ Metro

March 22nd, 2007

The Metro seemed pretty full, don’t know if it sold out or not. Lots of kiddies (it was an all-ages show).

They were about what I expected, stoner-post-metal. So you had some guitar leads and stuff, but I think most of the stoner-rock vibe comes from the bass riffs. Some screams, some clan vocals from all three guys. Heavy, reasonably groovy, and fairly entertaining to watch. They did something that lots of new, opening bands *should* do, which is connect all their songs with various forms of guitar feedback/e-bowing, so that it was never quiet and you could never hear the crowd being dead. Except that the crowd *wasn’t* dead, and was giving them a significant amount of applause between songs that they probably never even heard!

Justin Broadrick claimed that he was really ill, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that explained their boringness. Three guys in the band (drummer, bassist, guitarist/vocalist), none of which were terribly exciting to watch. The bass player looked like a roadie, though his big sloppy wet bass sound provided most of the musical entertainment. I really have no idea what the guitar/vocals were doing, since it seemed that at least 50% of the music (vocals too!) was being played by the computer. Conclusion: they need to figure out a better way to translate Jesu into a live setting, or not bother at all.

Not nearly as good as the last time I saw them, but probably as good as the first time. They’re quite a professional-looking and well-seasoned band by now, particularly in contrast to Jesu. It seemed like a lot of the songs they played were ones with odd rhythms, and only heavy at the end, so I could never quite find the headbanging groove that I reveled in at their last show. Perhaps they simply saved up all their 4/4 “metal” to unleash it in the encore, with “Celestial”, which was just awesome, and was probably worth the price of admission.