Over the course of about forty-five minutes Friday night at a sold out City Winery, Green Bay quintet Red Light Saints delivered a stripped down set focused less on hard rock and more on strength of songwriting throughout their acoustic, opening set for former Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk...
"We're from Green Bay, Wisconsin!" shouted vocalist Travis Schinke early in the set. And while that particular sentiment may not have exactly won the crowd over, there's no question the music did.
The five-piece band (Travis Schinke on vocals, Andy Nader on bass, Ben Kurowski on guitar, Lane Bashaw on guitar and Luke Heckel on drums) typically exists as a hard rock entity (having opened in the past for more rock oriented artists like Sick Puppies, Chicago's own Soil, even former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke).
But opening for Kowalczyk and performing at more intimate venues like City Winery has given them an opportunity to take some chances and try something a little different.
Friday night, Red Light Saints performed entirely acoustic slowing down some songs and quieting down most along the way. Opening the set, the band started with three guitars and one bass changing instrumentation from song to song over the course of the night. The strong harmonies of of Schinke and Luke Heckel, however, remained a constant.
"On the Pavement" stood out Friday. On the band's website, the new song is electric and moves fast with an undeniable modern rock vibe. But Friday at City Winery, it started slow and moved deliberately with an extended intro that put the focus on the interplay of multiple guitar parts. Ultimately, that version of the song would've been right at home on Alice in Chains' Unplugged album. The song was radically different Friday and stood as a good example of the amount of work Red Light Saints have put into restructuring their material for this acoustic tour. It was also a great indication of what could end up being the band's unexpected range.
R.E.M.'s "Losing my Religion" was the evening's lone cover and sounded good too. The band gave it a different intro and drew out the ending with two acoustic guitars acting in place of Peter Buck's trademark mandolin while Schinke and Heckel handled the Stipe/Mills harmonies.
Hard at work on new material, Red Light Saints also debuted "Anything Anymore" for the first time in concert on Friday. "We have begun recording pre-production demos for the full length album that will come out in 2013 but there is no official release date yet" said Schinke via email.
When all was said and done Friday night, I was impressed not only by the band's willingness to try something new but even more so by just how well it ended up going over. "The response has been overwhelming! It becomes a more thoughtful experimental process and helps us explore our own music" adds Schinke in regards to the recent run of acoustic performances in support of Kowalczyk.
One built in advantage for any opener at a venue like City Winery is the fact that, for better or worse, the majority of the crowd is in attendance early to sample the venue's food and beverage offerings. So unlike what I imagine to be the case in just about any other opening rock slot for an up and coming band, openers are pretty much guaranteed a significant audience when they perform at City Winery. Ultimately, Friday's show was sold out and the majority of the crowd was seated when Red Light Saints hit the stage. I can honestly say its been a long time since I saw an opening act at a rock show end up being so strongly embraced by the crowd. Make no mistake, this wasn't a slow build: It was a pretty consistent reaction from start to finish.
See for yourself when the band returns to Chicago this Friday at Silvie's in the North Center neighborhood, on Irving Park Road, just off the CTA Brown Line on the city's north side. Details on this Friday's show after the jump.
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Red Light Saints *** Red Light Saints have cancelled their appearance at Silvie's due to inclement weather ***
Live at Silvie's Lounge
1902 W. Irving Park Rd.
Chicago, IL 60613
Friday, February 22, 2013
Only $5 cover!
Also performing: Nonpronto and Mr. F.