Even them big, hairy Bear Hands can't fight off the curse of Coronavirus. It seems Brian and I were in attendance for the last show the band played before they had to pull the plug on their latest tour, due to the rapidly spreading disease, that has now been labeled a Pandemic.
But while the story seems to be, "Bear Hands End Tour In Chicago Due To Coronavirus," it should be, "Bear Hands Perform Blistering Set At Chicago's SubT!" Truly. The real story lies in the fact that this band has never sounded better.
A girl at Subterranean said the vibe was even better than the Beat Kitchen, which is hard to imagine, as they were flawless that night. I agreed, though, that the band was firing on all cylinders. Dylan Rau played a ton of guitar and the band brought back a lot of their old catalog.
After opening with two of the best songs on their latest record, Fake Tunes, "Spirit Guide, " and "Ignoring The Truth," they pummeled the audience with the majority of You’ll Pay For This, one of the most underrated records of the decade. "I Won't Pay," "2AM," "Boss," "Winners Circle," and "Chin Ups," all kept the audience grooving. The latter of which I've been obsessed with since hearing it live. It's a jam.
"Lots of luck, kid/I'm the lost fucking cause, am I/(Lost cause) All forgiven?" -Chin Ups
Out of all these bangers, though, I think the highlight of the show was a smoking rendition of "Moment of Silence," from Distraction.
“Oh holy man/Feed the Volcano, So, I abandon my call for reign/NOThis is not what the God's made us for/Little sacrificial animal.”“In the store, all caged up/Pre-paid at the door/Don't wait upI'll join you tomorrow right here, right now. Death to sacred cows. -Moment Of Silence
There's something ominous about this song. I feel like I need to stand at attention every time it's sung. Like we do for the Pledge of Allegiance. On this night it was no different. I was blown away.
"Does anyone want to hear a song about pills?" Rau asked, before launching into crowd favorite,"Agora." It's a sing-a-long of sorts that really gets the crowd jumping.
"You like to hang out but I don't/I don't leave the house cause I can't
I've been taking these pills but still/Got a couple of trails that I couldn't shake."
Other songs from Distraction included the bouncy "Bone Digger," and an energetic version of, the song that put them on the map, "Giants."
Before plunging into the dark waters of "Party Hats," Rau told the audience, “We wrote an end of the world song.” Val Loper (bass), and TJ Orscher (drums) set a trap here and our spirit guide took the bait. Man, did it sound evil, with those gigantic bass lines, that somehow didn’t overshadow the lead vocals. The muffled guitar really shines, over the big chords, but the drums make this one tick.
Even after all that there were more surprises. Are they really playing "Belongings?"
"At the gentle age of nine, I bought my first forty-five. Oh I drink and I drink and I'm sticking to a flea/Oh I drink oh I drink and I smoke a little weed."
I never thought I would get to see this one played live, and the band crushed it. Once you sink your teeth into Burning Bush Supper Club, you get hooked and realize what an amazing album it is. "What A Drag," from the same record, was also played.
I've written before about my affinity for "Mr. Radioactive," and the rest of Fake Tunes, on several occasions. "Friends in High Places," "Reptilians," and "Blue Lips," all sounded better than they did on record. But it was the fleshing out and bringing back of all the older material that made this concert one for the ages. Bear Hands has continued to improve their live set, every time they return to Chicago. It's a shame they can't finish this tour. Hopefully, they will return soon.
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