(Live Review) CONAN + SUPPORT - Reggie's, Chicago (5/5/23)
By The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, we roll on with stop #15 and bands #84-86 on our 2023 The Reviews Never Stop Tour.
Tonight’s entertainment was provided by:
The crowd is a little thin here at the start of the show, Johnny has a substantial portion of stage-front to himself, while the Beard lurks upstairs like some reviewing Phantom of the Metal Opera.
We did, however, meet Virgil, (yes Virgil), a Beard and Little Johnny fan, (or at least someone who has read our stuff). We had a short, but nice chat, he bought us a free beer and we shared a toast to metal.
Good to know someone is actually reading this stuff (lol).
On with the show, first up tonight was Chicago based noise metal band:
Now, the last time the Beard reviewed a small time local (self-billed) “noise metal” band they whined and cried to the Beard's boss that he was mean, and they wanted said review removed.
Then they went to “Social Media” and cried that The Beard was a misogynist. (I indeed had said in my review the female keyboardist’s leather pants looked hot.). Bear in mind of course, she put them on herself and then took the stage of her own volition, yet acknowledging that with the adjective “hot” somehow made “me” the perv. As a result, I am a little wary about small “noise bands” and fragile egos. Yet, reviewer I am and review I shall, and hopefully, tonight will go better. (Ed: If they don't want coverage, we won't give to 'em!)
Urine Hell definitely starts with the noise end of the spectrum. Low drone and squealing feedback which in turn led into a basic hardcore beat with decent drum rhythm. Vocals were growly, but semi-literate and understandable.
Right away, on the very first number, the singer jumped into the crowd and started moshing with Johnny. Nice start, clearly Johnny’s going to dig these guys. I do have to say, I like the punkish elements they give out. The singer had a Johnny Rotten flair to him and spent as much time in the pit as on the stage. The Beard has got to add points for that. Also, the Beard liked that drummer. He had skills and was not just bashing the kit.
Urine Hell has something. They are entertaining and they sort of won over the crowd in their short thirty-minute set. Now, to be fair, in no way am I saying this guy was a singer in any traditional sense, but for a (self-billed) noise rock punk screamer, it was actually a decent start to the night.
The Beard is going 82/100
Next up were Arizona’s blackened doom sludge monsters:
Good heavy beat. The voice wasn’t great (death growl and somewhat muddy), but the band also had a nice heavy doom-based riff going. Easy to get into the groove and enjoy the musical beat. Not as much in the way of pits for Johnny. Doom is a little slow for his taste, but he likes the low-end vibrations. Says it’s like doing a four pack of Energy drinks. I guess it makes him twitchy.
As the set went on, Thra ramped up the speed of their numbers and Johnny finally got more pits going which pleased him to no end. Less brutal moshing, but still some occasional heavy duty pinballing.
The Beard thought Thra was solid but unspectacular in any way. I enjoyed it while it was happening, but will I remember it tomorrow? Honestly, probably not. Still, I am going a fair 80/100
Headliners were the English power doom outfit:
The Beard has seen this English stalworth twice before, once at Psychofest in Las Vegas, and once headlining Doomfest in Maryland so I already know they are loud and capable.
In a fortuitous opportunity, Jon Davis, singer/guitarist and founding member of Conan, happened to be upstairs checking out Thra’s set, and The Beard got a quick two minutes with him. He appreciated the full house here in Chicago and talked of having to travel right after the gig tonight, and therefore missing an opportunity to see a couple sights. In response to a question about touring America, he said “Great crowds. Lot of fun, but he didn’t enjoy being apart so long from his kids.” No rock star pretensions, just a regular guy. He did not stay real long as he was recognized multiple times (even in the low-lit upstairs area) and headed back downstairs with a “Cheers mate. Thanks for coming.”
Conan, although originally just a two-piece act when they formed, added a bass player in 2008 and has functioned as a three piece ever since. They have a very heavy Sleep-esque vibe to them, but turned up to forty-five rather than 33 1/3. (That will make sense to old fans and lovers of vinyl.) Stoner and doom stylings but with a brass knuckles punch (especially for a three piece).
The very full stage-front crowd was hot, and pits were heavy given it was doom music at heart. I guess Conan could be considered a mix of power and doom. Battle-Doom. At this point there’s a million genre-bending labels anyway, so what’s one more, right?
Special note for the Beard is the song "Hawk as Weapon". That song was how Conan came to the Beard's attention and I always enjoy hearing that 32oz steak sized slab of heaviness.
Conan, is, in some senses, a one trick pony, (which is to say there’s not much variation in the way a song sounds), but in the annals of doom especially, one of the most famous bands Electric Wizard, has largely been making the same album over and over for twenty years. Additionally, AC/DC pretty much made the same album for forty years and they had a pretty good career of it. Essentially, what Conan does, they do as well as anyone else. Heavy loud slabs of power doom.
This was another successful evening, and the Beard awarded Conan an 89/100.
Afterwards, we hung out a bit and had one more beer unsuccessfully hoping to see Jon Davis one more time to thank him for the show and his time before heading back to the metal bus for the long trip back home.
A good Friday night of metal. We met a fan, met a star, and enjoyed another night of heavy music. Like Johnny says, this is a pretty good gig we got, and it beats painting orphanage walls.
I have never painted an orphanage wall, but right on little dude. Right on.
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Until next time, this is The Beard and Little Johnny saying ...