OK Go/The Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place/July 19, 2017
Guitarist/vocalist Damian Kulash met bassist Tim Nordwind at an arts camp in Michigan when they were 11 years old. They had an art teacher there who frequently said “OK… go!” when the students were to begin drawing. Nordwind later attended college in Chicago, Illinois, where he formed the band Stanley’s Joyful Noise with drummer Dan Konopka. Kulash moved to Chicago to join the band in 1998, and the band was renamed OK Go. Andy Ross replaced the band’s original guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist in 2005. OK Go had a few pop hits, but is best known for several award-winning videos. OK Go’s fourth and most recent album is 2014’s Hungry Ghosts. Since 2001, the band has been based in Los Angeles, California.
Arts Brookfield brought its seventh annual Lowdown Hudson Music Fest to the Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place, and OK Go headlined the second night of the open air series. A substantial part of OK Go’s draw has been its ingenious collaboration of music and visual art, but for this occasion the visuals were diminished significantly. To considerable loss, the band did not use a front screen, which in the past interspersed interactive live action with video projection. Instead, the stage featured only the LED screens behind the musicians, showing video projections and kaleidoscopic geometrics that throbbed with the music. Stripped down visually, the focus was more on the performance of the audio, and the band proved to be more than musically adept at quirky pop songs. Clever? Indeed! The performance opened with a fast-moving montage of movie clips featuring many actors saying “ok” and “go” before the band began performing “Upside Down & Inside Out” live. Surprises? Indeed! For a cover of Blur’s “Song 2,” the band invited someone from the audience on stage to play a repetitive one-note guitar lick. Despite the downscaled visual aids, OK Go’s concert was fun indeed.
Guns N’ Roses/Apollo Theater/July 20, 2017
Since its start in 1985 in Los Angeles, California, Guns N’ Roses has had its share of controversy, from musicians’ drug use, charges of sexist and homophobic lyrics, and audience riots ignited by last minute cancellations at concerts. Nevertheless, Guns N’ Roses is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all history, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide, including shipments of 45 million in the United States. The hard rock band’s debut album, 1987’s Appetite for Destruction, sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album ever in the United States, as well as the nation’s 11th all-time best-selling album. The band’s sixth and most recent album, 2008’s Chinese Democracy, was the most expensive album ever made, costing an estimated $14 million in studio costs over 14 years. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 in its first year of eligibility. The band’s personnel has changed multiple times, and presently consists of founding vocalist/pianist Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer, and synthesizer player Melissa Reese.
Guns N’ Roses’ Not in This Lifetime… Tour, which began in 2016, has grossed over $339,900,000, making it the 10th highest-grossing concert tour of all-time. The tour has played the largest stadiums, but touched down at the 1,506-capacity Apollo Theater for a live broadcast on SiriusXM. Tickets for the free-admission concert were made available by lottery to SiriusXM subscribers. The stadium stage production was non-existent, so the concert was all about the music, and Guns N’ Roses delivered maximum quality hard rock for just over three hours. Rose’s voice seemed questionable at the start, but quickly developed full tilt into his trademarked baritone screech. Slash may have been the star of the show, however, playing wizardry on his various guitars and taking an extended spotlight after a few riffs of “Johnny B Goode” and working a guitar duel with Fortus on “Wish You Were Here.” The other musicians were given the opportunity to spread as well. The proficient virtuosity of the musicians as well as the showmanship of the front line team of Rose, Slash, McKagan and Fortus was extraordinary, and the band’s unpredictable arrangements of familiar songs made for a more exciting concert. Rock concerts do not get better than this.
Supersuckers/Gramercy Theatre/July 23, 2017
Edward Carlyle Daly, who uses the stage name Eddie Spaghetti, chose a musical career path after hearing the Knack play “My Sharona.” Eddie grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and averse to the area’s penchant for country music, he turned to heavy metal, then punk rock. He and some friends formed the Black Supersuckers in 1988, hoping to inject a little showmanship into the punk scene. Outgrowing the local circuit, the band in 1989 moved to Seattle, Washington, where a new music scene was about to change the music world. The renamed Supersuckers began releasing albums in 1992 and toured heavily until a hiatus in 2008. Spaghetti then recorded and toured under his own name until he regrouped Supersuckers in 2011. In 2015, he was diagnosed with stage 3 oropharynx cancer and underwent surgery and eight months of radiation treatments. Declared cancer-free, Supersuckers went back on the road in 2016. The band’s 10th and most recent studio album is 2015’s Holdin’ The Bag.
At the Gramercy Theatre, Supersuckers was a power trio, consisting of vocalist/bassist Spaghetti, guitarist “Metal” Marty Chandler, and drummer Christopher “Chango” Von Streicher. It was just three guys playing just three chords, for the most part. Sounding like a combination of ZZ Top and Motörhead, Supersuckers played loud, pounding, massive-sounding rock and roll, led by Spaghetti’s sandpaper-scraped vocals and Chandler’s noisy guitar. They made music that sounded about as pretty as a chainsaw at work. Maybe the beauty of the enthusiastic, energetic set was simply the power of guitar-driven, lightning fast rock.