Words/Photos: Chris Rugowski
Before I review the show, I want to make mention of Concord Music Hall. It was my first time at the venue, every staff member was super nice, and the venue from the outside looks discreet beyond the marquee and lights. I didn’t fully know what to expect and searching photos sometimes just show the best of it, but the truth is, inside it’s nice! Plus it’s in Wicker Park which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago. And best of all, it sounds even better in the room than I expected. I’ve been in a lot of clubs, and for as mid-size as this club is (According to the staff person I asked, about 1,000 or so people max amongst the tiers and levels of standing area) the sound was superb. All in all, I would most definitely see a show here again.
Kicking off the night was Arch Echo. I intentionally didn’t listen to this band beforehand because I wanted a surprise. I knew anyone touring with Haken would need some talent behind them, and boy was I treated to a surprise. Even Ross Jennings, singer for Haken, pointed out “They fit a lot of notes into a small area.” It’s all instrumental and my initial thought was Prog-Jazz on speed in a good way. After all their website bio defines them as Prog Metal/Fusion – this fits. It’s zero to 100 right away until the song is done. Everything is like a sprint, but you don’t want it to end. I loved it, it was a great way to kick off the night. I was very impressed with the group, and if that’s how they play every night, anyone who sees this band is in for a treat!
They had some hints of video game sounds too, it made me and my girlfriend, aka concert partner, want to play Sonic the Hedgehog, specifically the Casino level. We both enjoyed that. It also reminded us somewhat of watching anime during a fight scene. It keeps you entertained, and you want more.
The drummer was a straight beast; he wasn’t sitting still at all the whole time, and with laser focus, he was everywhere on the drums. Same with the lead guitarist, moving around just playing like it took zero effort as the tempos changed and parts switched. The key player was soloing as fast and expansive as the guitarist in some cases, hint: it was fast and all over the place. I am not a key player, even in my dreams, so maybe this is something normal, but to me, it was quite impressive. Overall, the time changes in the music, the switches in the music, it was all beautifully constructed and there was no road construction, everything was smooth flowing. Everyone was all smiles the whole time. It looked like they were sincerely enjoying themselves.
I’d be remiss to forget to mention the Lighting Director, he was SPOT on with the music and the themes. The intermingling of lights and music was perfect.
I want to make mention that through MyGlobalMind I was able to review the Fauna album, and truly was blown away by the immense detail the band put into everything with the album. Not just in their music, but also in the album artwork, the hidden and not hidden messages in the lyrics. This North American Expedition wasn’t dedicated to just the Fauna album, it was instead an expansive collection of their longer songs ranging from their first album to the current album. Finding out that I was going to be able to review this show was exciting to me.
Being able to experience this band up close and personal as I photographed them, and then moved back and watched at a distance was quite the experience. I truly respect this group and their ability to create intricate yet easy, and fun, to follow songs. It’s modern-day Genesis meets Rush. Technicality is their middle name, along with lighting to match the mood, another nod to the lighting director.
All I can say is, three songs go by way too fast. I was having so much photographing the band I kept wanting to. Ross is such a great frontman, he moves around the stage and gives the others the space to perform when he’s not singing. The band was having fun, it wasn’t a mechanical show like some end-of-tours where you can tell the band just wants to be done and get home. One could tell just by being in the room, the band truly loves what they do, and looks forward to performing and interacting with the crowd.
Beyond that, it was inspiring to see so many people of all types listening to and coming out to support this kind of music. From guys and girls, kids under 10 to 70+-year-old guys who have been listening to prog since it came out in the 60s and 70s and have nothing but praise for the band.
Starting the set off with “Taurus” was a great way to get the ball rolling, already a high-energy song, that set the motion for the rest of the night. Moving to “In Memoriam” next, not leaving that energy behind. Queue the start of the longer songs, as this is followed by “Sempiternal Beings”, one of my favorite tracks on Fauna.
From here they went into “Falling Back to Earth” and “The Architect”, of note, Architect was even better live than in the recording. A “short” 27 or so minutes later we came back to Fauna and they played “Lovebite”, dedicating this to Chicago, many in the crowd put up heart symbols with their hands. Hearing the solo in “Lovebite” live was a cherry on top. But wait there’s more cherries.
We traveled back in time to The Mountain with “Atlas Stone”, followed by my absolute favorite track on Fauna, “Elephants Never Forget”. Hearing this live was the penultimate for me. It was at this point I decided to buy a piece of merch I never have bought from a show before – a signed drumhead. Not for the signatures, but for the artwork of the album. This is a shout-out to their artist Dan Goldsworthy who did an excellent job on it.
OK, we’re almost done, right? Wrong, going back to their first album we got classic Haken with “Celestial Elixir”, by far the longest song on the entire setlist, a whopping 17 minutes of epic proportions. What a treat. I love the funky little odd beats and sections in this track, unexpected and yet so good.
Ok ok….Now we’re done, we have to be done. WRONG..they ended this magnum opus of a show with the Messiah Complex tracks from Virus, all one through five.
So now here we are, “the end of the road”, to quote Boyz II Men…wow, what can I say. This show was everything and more. If you have the chance to see this group on their next stop, or their next expedition, I highly urge you to do it. You will not be disappointed.