Friday night in Rosemont, Local H celebrated the recent release of their new DVD There Went the Zoo: Live at the Vic Theatre 5/4/02 and previewed material from their forthcoming seventh studio album Hallelujah! I'm a Bum with about an eighty minute set spanning just about every corner of their substantial catalog.
I hate to admit it, but Friday was the first time I've seen Local H since about 2004 which, frankly, is inexcusable. I've seen Scott Lucas in a few solo sets at Schubas and I've seen his side project Scott Lucas & The Married Men of late but its been a while since I saw Local H.
It was also the first time that I've attended a show at The Montrose Room (the concert venue inside the Intercontinental Chicago O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont).
I've mentioned The Montrose Room several times over the past few months as they've booked some solid shows (Bob Mould, Alejandro Escovedo) with more to come (Buckwheat Zydeco, Mike Doughty) but hadn't gotten a chance to check it out. Friday night's show was a Q101 Local 101 show. That's right, the Chicago radio institution survives online and Friday's Local H show came on the heels of another Local 101 show at The Montrose Room featuring Lucky Boys Confusion on February 25th.
I was told by several people that the venue is really quite intimate and it is. Two levels of seating often feature tables close to the stage, though on Friday night (to the pleasure of those populating the mosh pit) the floor was general admission. You can really get close to the performer in this room.
I kept repeatedly hearing concertgoers mention things along the lines of "This is a strange place to see Local H." And I can understand that. Inside a hotel, the carpeted venue is nice and gives off a bit of an old-school, Vegas lounge vibe. I liked it.
But despite the hotel venue, there was no sign of the dulcet tones of Murph & The Magic Tones Friday night.
As I watched Scott Lucas and Brian St. Clair of Local H set up their own equipment following opener Stoop Goodnoise, it became clear quick, as Lucas tinkered with the mics continually, that all was not well.
Over the course of about a half hour, sound issues plagued the mics between sets and appeared to be slowly driving Lucas batty. Mics were swapped out, chords were changed... nothing seemed to work. I give Lucas credit for not killing anyone. Because he looked like he wanted to at times.
But the mark of any pro is the ability to roll with the punches and finish the show (or in Friday's case, start the show). And Lucas and St. Clair did that, channeling any lingering aggression into the music.
Now anyone who has seen Local H knows that their live shows can be fairly aggressive in nature. But this one was different.
The band wasted no time getting to the hits fighting through feedback during "Fritz's Corner" second in the set, the pounding drums of St. Clair leading the way. Luckily the sound issues were resolved quickly and from there the band rolled.
Lucas is the type of live performer who leaves it all out on stage, a performer who, regardless of success, has never lost touch with his audience. Jettisoning across the stage during "All-Right (Oh, Yeah)," he channeled Iggy Pop, a virtual whirling dervish of guitar and angst.
The two ingredients that have come to characterize any Local H album, regardless of subject matter, are sarcastic, often bitter, but intelligent lyrics with classic rock hooks and sensibility (after all, Local H did name their 2005 live album with a nod in the direction of both Kiss and Peter Frampton, while the 1998 track "All the Kids are Right" is a clear play on The Who).
"Hey, Rita" (from 2004's underrated Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?) is a great example of how Scott's songwriting has grown since the late nineties. The sparse arrangement and jangly guitar was different than on record and one of my favorites of the night.
The crowd Friday was drunk and chatty, so it may not have been coincidence that "Hey, Rita" gave way to a solo ending in a brutal wave of feedback that led straight into a searing rendition of "High-Fiving MF." The scorching bitterness of lines like "You're just a walking billboard for all the latest brands / You've got no taste in music but you really love our band" remain at times apropos.
The band continued through a series of hits like "Eddie Vedder," "Michelle (Again)" and "Hands on the Bible," though the crowd was at it's most animated during "Everyone Alive."
But Friday's show was meant to showcase some new material that the band has been working on for release this summer. Lucas finally addressed the crowd for the first time Friday just shy of an hour into set. "So we've got a new..." began the frontman before pausing momentarily. "... Ah, who gives a sh-t?" Lucas continued before launching into the band's biggest hit, 1996's "Bound for the Floor." And I couldn't help but think that he was about to introduce more new material before pondering the crowd's overly chatty, slightly indifferent reaction and changing course.
But instead of dwelling on that, Local H turned "Bound for the Floor" into one of the night's highlights. Jumping down from the stage, Lucas went straight into the fray, axe first, blazing a trail straight through the mosh pit, churning out the song's signature hook all the while as the crowd enveloped him.
Long known for their ability to put their unique spin on the hits of others, the band opened the encore with a cover of The National's "Terrible Love" with the low tone of Scott Lucas the perfect substitute for that of Matt Berninger.