Thursday, May 24, 2018

Show Review: U2 Experience Tour

                I’ll start by justifying, as it seems most U2 concert-goers do.

                I’ve steered away from most of the U2 bashing, because I truthfully do enjoy a large amount of their material, admiring any band willing to take risks. A lot of complaints can be raised about the band- soft rock, oldie rock, “clap your hands say yeah to stop poverty” Bono moments- but them sticking to a stale product isn’t one of them.  The big hits are justifiably big hits and the gateway for most people getting into the band, but my U2 intro was the (accurate) accounts of them being a band known for evolving their sound and taking risks, making me a fan (not so stereotypical). Their concerts? Mostly them being my Dad’s favorite live band, allowing me to be a 5 time returning customer across the last four tours (about as stereotypical as it gets).

                This tour, stopping in Chicago this week, has gained notoriety perhaps faster than any U2 tour prior to it. Which fits the irony of my experiences of seeing U2 shows: I caught two on their 360 tour; they were good. The stadium was into it. But it felt… safe. Especially for a band known for their evolution, the shows came without many surprises and it felt as though more could be done with the catalog. After the tour, I wanted two possible directions for the band to take: start doing full album shows if swerving into the nostalgia, or start taking more risks with the song selections of the live shows.

                Years later, I’ve gotten both. The Joshua Tree tour featured the album in full, and they knocked the ball out of the park. The casual fans get Side 1 of the record and the hits they played around it, the die-hards get the deep cuts off the record they waited forever to hear live, the stadium goes nuts. This tour following, however, will likely be filed in U2 lore as “the tour with no Joshua Tree songs”, as risky of song selection as it gets. I said it’d keep me interested, and there I was on Tuesday.

                Let’s address the obvious first: what’s a U2 show without Streets like? It’s interesting how the complaints aren’t necessarily “they’re not playing Joshua Tree”, but “they’re not playing Where The Streets Have No Name”. For what’s one of the greatest arena rock songs ever written, it’s a fair controversy.

                I’ll say this for the band deciding to give that song a breather: rock bands have a hell of a lot more longevity than any of us thought. It’s entirely feasible that U2 has 25 more years left of touring in them based on how their peers keep going. The last thing any fan wants out of a band’s biggest song in concert is a cake-walked, uninspired version, and if a tour without Streets is going to prevent that, it’s for the greater good. And if there’s any tour to do, it’s this one: obviously not the case everywhere, but if you’ve been a U2 fan in Chicago recently, you had five shows on the Innocence tour and two shows on the Joshua Tree tour to get that one live[1]. I do feel for anyone seeing them for the first time and not getting Streets, but the chance has definitely been there. And almost certainly will be again the following tours.

                That being said, if you’re going to skip your biggest song, you have to be really careful what you play instead. With all the grief over no Streets, it’s not as though the show is without any other big song of theirs. It is a little bit more the ones they DID pick: a lot of them still work well live (is I Will Follow ever not fucking awesome in concert?), but some of them are starting to get a little stale live (Elevation felt like more of an obligation than a second half opener). I hate saying it, since it’s not what this tour’s about, and it is the opinion of a casual fan… but one more hit on the back end of the show would’ve done wonders[2].

                For the show, the production itself, it’s still one of the great live bands in recent memory putting on a well-thought out and exciting show. Starting late due to technical difficulties (not great for a crowd coming in ambivalent), they launched into the slow opener followed by The Blackout inside the screen extending the length of the floor, featuring visuals exciting enough to cover up Bono’s “at least you tried” lyric effort on the tune. The Innocence and Experience songs are the centerpieces, and deservedly so: you do get a much better appreciation for them after seeing them live. Can’t say the crowd response for them is enormous, but you certainly don’t see mass breaks for the exits during any one song in particular. Beautiful Day and Pride probably get the biggest reactions during the show, with plenty of other songs that should really get more people standing. (More to do with the odd evil clown visual as the lead-in or its obscurity for the lack of enthusiasm for it, but Acrobat’s an absolute jam and I’m starting to think no Achtung Baby song could ever sound bad live.)

                Arguably their second biggest song, One is the real technical closer before two Experience songs that sort of blend together at the end. Apparently there are videos of disappointed fans from prior shows reacting after the concert’s ending: didn’t see any of that and almost every fan still looked happy leaving. Mellower than the last tour, for sure, but that’s the point.

                All in all, I would prefer a band like U2 take risks and get lackluster responses than be the safe, "same show every time" band I feared they’d become. This is a tour for the band to show they can stay fresh and have some fun after a year touring off the old stuff, and a tour for the die hard fans coming to hear Acrobat over Vertigo. If you’ve been a fan saying how you love the band but are growing a little tired of seeing a certain song live, chances are they aren’t playing it. But you’ll still get plenty of the hits: they are U2 after all, and it’s someone’s first time seeing them somewhere.  

[1] - The one exception I can think of for this: their St. Louis show recently, after that stop on the Joshua Tree tour was cancelled due to riots. Would’ve taken away from the rest of the tour, but a With Or Without You appearance wouldn’t have hurt that much.
[2] - Truthfully, I wasn’t even really thinking Joshua Tree here: Walk On would be the perfect closer for this show.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Baby's Got The Bends - vs. Rangers (W 4-2, L 2-3, W 5-3, W 3-0)

                Series win recaps. Feels good man.

                Thursday felt like sort of an implied “had to have this one”, with only two other wins in the month coming before it.  Would’ve been tough to get fan interest going for the homestand with a bad loss to kick it off. Luckily Shields had a great outing and the boys didn’t quit on the relevant t-shirt night. Any comeback win with this squad feels like a sweep- that mentality being infectious is worth a lot more than wins and losses this season.

                Friday. Fulmer. Addressed. While I think he’ll be back as a starter if he does well in Charlotte, his future looks to be more of a long relief role. I’ve been hard on strikeout-oriented pitchers here, but equally tumultuous is “offspeed that works less than 95% of the time” pitchers. I do root for the guy, but this stint in the majors was a big step backwards to “he looked really good in Champaign that one series so let’s take him first round because of that”.

                The Delmonico injury sucks. Not as much from a “hurts the team” perspective, but this was essentially going to be a season-long tryout for him remaining a piece of the puzzle as the rebuild goes on. Didn’t make a huge statement in favor of that so far this year, but deserved to play the season out. Truth be told, I’m *still* holding out some hope that we can trade Avi, leaving that third spot in the outfield up for grabs. Nicky would probably win it by default over Engel, but any time off hurts for him.

                In his replacement, though, big moment for Palka. Like what I’ve seen so far from him, which seems like J.B. Shuck but not awful.

                As for today, FINALLY a win for Lopez. Can’t believe it took this long for our probably all-star to get it. Now at 1-3 and should be that reversed. We can worry about Giolito and Fulmer all we want, but you gotta feel good about how Reynaldo’s coming along. His walk-off on the mound today was about seven weeks of frustration coming out. An ounce of that swagger rubs off on the rest of our pitching squad, and we’ll be in good shape going forward.

                Onwards against the Birds.

Credit Chicago Tribune, please keep not suing

Friday, May 18, 2018

Out Of Office - Scott Hutchinson Edition

                Didn’t have the heart to do an Out Of Office last week with the news of Scott Hutchinson’s passing. Finding out the internal battles an artist goes through is always tough, and the finality of suicide always hurts especially.

                My favorite memory of Scott is from Frightened Rabbit’s stop at University of Illinois’ Pygmalion Festival years back. It was a theater show that had more of a lecture hall vibe, with the crowd seated and enthusiastic as such. Somewhat of an odd vibe for the first few songs, the lively music of the band a contradiction of the respectful audience. Starting as a few working their way up, turned spontaneous rush of people to the stage, a pit had gathered right in front of Scott. He did a full song with his eyes closed, turned his back for a quick break, then back around to see the swarm of fans suddenly a lot closer. Look of sheer, thrilled surprise on his face, he smiled and threw his arms to sky, exclaiming “NOW it’s a concert!”. I wish a little bit of that same joy was with him in his last few days, and I hope fans have many similar moments like that of him.
Lust For Life – Iggy Pop, Lust For Life

Humbug Mountain Song – Fruit Bats, Absolute Loser

Clasped Hands – Blithe Field, Warm Blood

First Breath After Coma – Explosions In The Sky, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place

Ring Ding Dong – Dr. Dre, Friday

Amongst Your Earthiest Words The Angels Stray – Years Of Rice And Salt, Nothing Of Cities

My Backwards Walk – Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight

Do's and Don't 's for Comiskey - An Old Disco Yells At Clouds Guide

                Let’s set some ground rules early on for games at Comiskey this year, since there are White Sox ways to have fun at the ol’ ballpark despite the White Sox not being a fun watch at the ol’ ballpark (Nicky just watched run number 4 sail over his head as I’m writing this).

                This is mostly an account of things from the last Friday night game at the start of the month, the good news being a seat upgrade from the upper deck being closed off and the bad news being the new designated seat several rows up in the left field corner. A great vantage point of whenever anyone in the first 15 rows in the 10 sections over stands up, and being close enough to know when something’s happening in the bleachers but being too far to really see what’s going on. Not being able to partake in Friday night bleacher fun is not going to Prom times a billion.

                But I digress. The game was some parts good, some parts bad, as was the crowd. And I wouldn’t be Disco No Fun, writer of the Happiest White Sox Site around, if I didn’t offer some not so gentle suggestions for how we can all get through this together. (Lopez just gave up another 2 runs as I’m writing this.) Heading into the homestand, what NOT to do at Comiskey tonight, and what to do at Comiskey.

                Let’s cut these out of the ballpark, first and foremost:

1.      DON’T boo our players

The growing pains should be pretty obvious by now. Dumb mistakes will be made, outings will fall flat, bad losses will be aplenty. This game it was Fulmer’s home runs given up: they were bad, but they were young pitcher mistakes. Quite a few boos after those.

The mistakes will either go away with practice, or adjusted going forward. Chances are if a player doesn’t get it together, he won’t be a part of the plan after this season or the next. Let’s have their back until then and take those frustrations to the bottom of a Modelo souvenir cup like true Sox fans.

2.      DON’T do the wave early

Usually I’m anti-wave at a baseball game, because doing an entire article on being an old fogie about baseball means I have to be.  But I recognize that the majority of our fanbase is families and anything that can keep them coming to the park is a pro. Let’s hold it off until, I don’t know, top of six though? Started going around right at the top of the fourth and felt a little desperate. Unless it’s a really bad affair, let’s wait until an actual lull in the game to bust it out.


There are a lot of things Cubs fans and Sox fans can unite on.  We’ve both seen 3 Stanley Cups. We freeze ourselves alive at Bears games. Whether it’s Wrigley’s Ville Dogs or 35th Red Hots, that hot dog ain’t getting served with ketchup on it. We’re Chicagoans, we share more than we don’t.

If there’s one thing to take away from my ranting, though, it’s this: THROWING BACK HOME RUN BALLS IS NOT A SOUTHSIDE THING. CEASE AND DESIST.

I’m not sure the origins of throwing home run balls back at Wrigley, but I’m guessing it goes back to the 1600’s when balls hit into the outfield stands were still in play and throwing them away from the outfielder was an actual advantage. But it’s a WRIGLEY tradition, as documented in 97% of opposing home runs there since the dawn of time and that one scene from Rookie Of The Year, the 8,974th best sports movie ever made. That ballpark’s traditions go ivy, the scoreboard, the W & L flags, and throwing home run balls back, essentially in that order.

We have seats made for 20th century human beings, none of which have a pole in front of them. We have a scoreboard that explodes. We have tickets you don’t need to readjust mortgage payments to afford. Let them have this one, Sox fans. It isn’t the same when we do it. Us throwing home run balls is like seeing an ex’s post on Facebook about their date night at Girl & The Goat, and immediately booking a table for two for you and yours. It’s the hardest possible souvenir to get at a baseball game- keep it or give it to the nearest kid.

Now, for the DO’s:

1.      DO keep some of the traditions alive, and know when to do them

Per my Twitter bio, this basically is just making sure to do Na Na Hey Hey when an opposing pitcher gets pulled and we have the lead (only works when both are happening). I’m still a sucker for this and it does sound pretty menacing when the whole crowd joins in for it.

Some are being phased out, which I can’t really argue with. I like You Shook Me All Night Long as a late inning rally call as well, but I’m pretty sure it’s had a 0.08% success rate for inspiring comeback wins since that first time. C’est la vie. As long as Mullet Night doesn’t get cancelled, let’s see what cool new stuff is coming up. Can’t think of any that are gaining traction and should absolutely happen… let me clear my throat and try to think…[1]

2.      DO get Stretch Beers

If you’ve made it this far, this is the best advice I can give you. It’s part planning ahead for a bad bullpen making for longer games, and part spreading out available resources. Sometime between mid-6th to mid-7th inning, grab one last beer to last you through the end of the game, should you be the type to stay for the duration. This is going to be a season where bullpen adventures, #fakerallys and real rallys alike happen, making it completely feasible that the stretch to the end of the game takes about an hour. Have some fun at the park, grab one last Modelo to make it more fun.

(Disclaimer, of course, to not ruin the sanctity of the bleachers by being a sloppy egghead drunk or if a stretch beer would put you over the edge if you’re driving home. Be a good fan and party on, Wayne.)

3.      DO show up

This team, of course, looking much more like an “if” than “when” this rebuild pays off this year. The alternative is continuing the plug and chug and having Q and Sale still on the team with a combined 3 wins and 2 runs of support. Said it last year, I’ll say it again: this might be the last season for quite a while where you can see this team in great seats for not a lot of money. If nothing else, going to games this year is a vote in support of what looks like a pretty bright future. While you can still get $5 tickets, sit wherever, and hopefully get some nice weather coming in, come have some fun at the ballpark. Just keep those home run balls in your pocket.

[1] - For those that don’t know, a decent percent of Sox twitter is trying to get Let Me Clear My Throat as the home run song, and I’m absolutely all for it. Believe it was Jump Around last time, so getting closer.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Out Of Office - Third Of May Edition

Inspired by a recurring thing one of the bands here used to put on their blog, and to keep adding some variety here, I'll start posting songs I've found/listened to throughout the week every Friday (hopefully). Usually lean towards indie/records your Dad plays in the car. Do with it what you will, can make Spotify playlists if these have enough interest.

Anyway, this week...

We Used To Vacation  (Live)  - Cold War Kids, Audience

Behind The World - Balmorhea, Clear Language

Sam's Town - The Killers, Sam's Town

Where I End And You Begin (Live in Santiago, Chile 2018) - Radiohead, YouTube

New York - St. Vincent, Masseduction

Drunk Drivers / Killer Waves - Car Seat Headrest, Teens Of Denial

Tuscaloosa - Old Salt Union, Old Salt Union

Not Too Late - Moon Taxi, Let The Record Play

Third of May / Ōdaigahara - Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Google - vs. Mariners (W 10-4, L 0-1, L 3-4)

                Your White Sox are now 5-16, but the record means nothing compared to everything else this week. The Danny Farquhar news has been well covered by now, a scary situation I think we’re all still trying to wrap our heads around. I really wasn’t sure what to write about it here: I’m certainly not an expert on aneurysms and the prayers have been sent skyward for quite a few days now. I will say that I am familiar with the team treating him at Rush, and he’s in the best hands possible.  Keep his family in your thoughts, and get well, Danny.
                Even with this and additional injuries to Miguel and Avi[i], some positives to draw on from this series. Moncada continued his slight resurgence with hitting the hardest part of the cycle Monday and a moonshot today. Strikeouts still an issue and probably will be through the rest of the year. So be it if the hits come hard.
                I can see why he’s been demoted out of the leadoff, but I do like Anderson in that seven slot more than Yoan.  The top of the order’s hitting (relatively) well enough to back up a strikeout heavy Moncada, where a productive Anderson brings up what’s been a pretty stagnant bottom of the order (averages behind him today: .136, .138, .148. Sample size, but still.). The unpredictable hitting approach is also a huge asset at that spot in the order, with pitchers having to pitch carefully in a spot in the lineup that’s more straight forward.
                Starting pitching the biggest bright spot this series, Volstad really doing well in the quasi-emergency situation. Fulmer adding another solid outing to his “starter or not year”. Shields continues as a pleasant surprise.
                Two tough losses that we probably should have had. Bigger things than baseball this week. Onto Kansas City where we play our next 87 games in half as many days.

[i] - A “shit happens” injury, but pulled hamstrings in not extreme weather when trainers are there specifically for this will always drive me a little nuts.