I try to stay away from dwelling on the negative in this space. There are already plenty of places on the internet where one can go to find bitter, vitriolic music writing. That said, while I saw an amazing amount of great live music in 2011... there were a few duds. So from Chuck Berry to Charlie Sheen, here are the concerts that made me cringe in 2011...
The 2011 year in concerts continues...
The Not So Great...
Chuck Berry (1/1/11 at the Congress Theater) - It has been well documented what a trainwreck this show was. What a surreal way to begin 2011. The then eighty-four year old Berry was disoriented, forgot the lyrics to "Johnny B. Goode," tried in vain to tune his guitar for twenty minutes and eventually appeared to pass out at his keyboard. Paramedics were stationed in the alley behind the Congress Theater. For what it's worth, I saw him in January of 2000 at the Riv (a Hopefest benefit with Bo Diddley and Dr. John) and he was much better (he could actually still do the duck walk). What a difference eleven years makes.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (7/8 at the Dave Matthews Caravan) - Yes, they played "Home" and it was fine. But then they did an odd cover of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" substituting the lyrics "Everybody poops" instead. They generally treated the entire set like it was a joke and as such, it was the very epitome of bad.
Pat Dinizio (3/5 at Martyrs') - In his defense, The Smithereens frontman has had some health issues which have led to weight gain (apparently the result of one his prescriptions). While Dinizio remains in fine voice, his live shows have nevertheless been effected. During this solo show at Martyrs', he appeared winded frequently and left the stage unexpectedly multiple times. His bandmates seemed bewildered and were left onstage to exchange confused glances and jam midsong until Dinizio returned.
Toots & The Maytals (7/14 at the Congress Theater) - Lacking many original members, the band meandered its way through a lackluster set devoid of energy or substance and focused on covers (John Denver amongst them) ending a show that came nowhere near hitting my expectations. There was no need to stay for Matisyahu.
Charlie Sheen (4/3 at the Chicago Theatre) - WINNING! Not so much. Sheen appeared nervous and shifty and didn't really do much of anything onstage as he chain smoked and tried his best to avoid answering most questions posed to him by the host of the "show." While I certainly wasn't expecting much from this "show" (I'm calling it a "show" because with a lack of music or comedy, I don't really know what else to call it), I was surprised Sheen made it through an hour without people storming out (like they did the "show" prior in Detroit). I can't believe people actually paid $90 for this (I found a ticket for $30 online the day of the show). That said, it was without fail the most circus like atmosphere I experienced all year, as media presence (both local and national) nearly shut down State Street outside the Chicago Theatre before and after the show and people dressed in costumes (I cannot explain to you why somebody was walking around dressed as an astronaut and screaming "WINNING!") traipsed aimlessly about. While the "show" itself was a dud, the people watching was outstanding.
Florence and The Machine (6/18 at the Aragon Ballroom) - Booking Florence at the cavernous Aragon was mistake number one. The sound was awful (and while it often is at the Aragon, it doesn't change the fact that you literally couldn't hear the harp, which, for better or worse, is an instrument paramount to Florence's sound). Florence's sorceress routine was boring (not to mention the fact that it was better when Stevie Nicks did it). And to cap off the evening, some idiot threw a screwdriver at her (not the drink but the actual tool... and to her credit, she kept playing). The only show all year that I left early.
Bret Michaels (12/9 at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire) - Having seen him live, I now know that Michaels is a shameless huckster (or a brilliant capitalist depending on how you look at it). Following only an hour long performance (at a ticket price of about $50 after fees, concertgoers paid nearly a dollar per minute for this show), Michaels auctioned off to concertgoers (and not for charity mind you but for himself) everything on the stage that he touched that wasn't nailed down (including both his bandana and guitar... The highlight of my night came as I watched the woman who purchased the sweaty bandana have her credit card get declined when she tried to pay for it). Michaels was apparently also using a new/fill-in band member that night (I never did fully get his explanation as to why or for whom) and as a result had to stop one song before it even started when it became clear the new guy didn't know how to play it. The Poison stuff sounded good, Bret's guitar player nailed the C.C. Deville parts (and Viper Alley is a great place to see a show) but it wasn't enough to save the set. Buyer beware if you were entertaining the notion of seeing him live on New Year's Eve in scenic Sandwich, IL.
For my list of the BEST Chicago concerts in 2011, click HERE.
(Photo above of the Congress Theater marquee taken by Jim Ryan)
Tags: 2011, Bret Michaels, Charlie Sheen, Chicago Theatre, Chuck Berry, Congress Theater, Dave Matthews Caravan, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Florence and The Machine, Pat Dinizio, Poison, The Smithereens, The Worst of 2011, Toots & The Maytals, Viper Alley