This was one of the concerts I’ve been anticipating the most in early 2007, ever since the 2006 Midlake album The Trials of Van Occupanther became an audio obssession of mine. It’s a fantastic record, with so many subtle layers. I’d seen Midlake once before, at SXSW in 2005, which was a pretty good show but abbreviated by technical difficulties. And as much as I liked the album Midlake was supporting then, Bamnan and Silvercork, the new one’s better. I also saw Midlake for about one song at Lollapalooza, but that doesn’t really count. After selling out one show at Schubas, Midlake added an early set, which sold out, too. There’s a lot more buzz about this group now than there was when the tickets for the first show went on sale in, what, December?
It was a good performance, great at times, though as I recall from the last show, Midlake seems like more of an intellectual band than an emotional one in concert. There are plenty of emotions in the lyrics and singer Tim Smith expresses them well, but the band isn’t exactly an exuberant bunch onstage. But these are great musicians, and it’s a joy to hear them playing their sophisticated arrangements of these songs. Get this – four of the five musicians had keyboard setups. Even the bassist and guitarist play keyboards at times. And all five of them sang harmonies at various points. So even though this is very much Smith’s group as far as the songwriting and singing goes, it’s far from being one of those one-man projects masquerading as bands. This is a group of musicians who really know how to mesh their talents together into a cohesive whole.
It was nice to hear a few Bamnan songs along with most of Van Occupanther, plus a new song titled “Children of the Ground.” I have a feeling Midlake will be playing at a bigger venue the next time they come through Chicago.
The opening act was a young woman, also from Texas, calling herself St. Vincent, who played a solo set with some nice Jeff Buckley-eseque songs and really engaging stage banter. I liked what I heard (and saw…)