It hasn't been too long since Neil Halstead, previous frontman of quintessential shoegaze band Slowdive as well as indie folk band Mojave 3, visited Chicago and played Schubas. Surely, the crowd missed him even in that short distance of time. There was a sense of warmth in the air and closeness as the crowd gathered around the stage, respectfully asking for favorites to be played. Neil Halstead didn't come with a setlist written down and he was open to suggestions and this was perhaps the first time he played a Slowdive song ("Alison") for an encore.
Touring to support the release of his newest and second solo album, Oh! Mighty Engine, England's Halstead graced the stage with stripped down acoustics. The focus was mainly on his guitar plucking and vocals but he had the support of a bass player and mandolin player who sang backup vocals at times. It was a kind of low key sort of night, but very much treasured and appreciated at the same time.
The thing about Neil Halstead that gets you is how gentle and sincere he seems. As a singer and a songwriter, he fills you with a sense of grace over his abilities. The songs are mellow and peaceful and easily feel like home the more you listen. It's as if he creates a special place when he sings that can eliminate some of the anxieties you're bound to feel with every day life.
Let's also not forget how legendary Halstead is. At the same time, he might be one of the most underrated songwriters alive. Slowdive's three albums and three EPs helped define the dreamy shoegaze genre and, unlike the onslaught of sound that My Bloody Valentine can at times attack with, Slowdive is definitely more on the shimmery end of things. Complemented by the lovely vocals of Rachel Goswell, both Slowdive and later on Mojave 3 preferred an incredibly rich sound. Though Mojave 3 was more folk oriented and less immense in its songs, there was so much beauty heard in the five studio albums that it was a band many found impossible not to fall in love with. Halstead's solo records and tour is much more like Mojave 3 than Slowdive. It's difficult to not wish for him to tour with Rachel Goswell and reunite both previous bands but at the same time seeing him solo is well worth the cost.