Since the release of Damnesia, Alkaline Trio's eighth studio release, I anxiously awaited the 15th anniversary tour to hit Chicago. When the day of the show finally arrived, my friend Sean (front man of local favorites Egon's Unicat) and I hit the road not entirely sure of what we were in for..
The ride up was about as exciting as any other trip involving those particular stretches of I-80 and I-55, traffic wasn't too terrible until we hit Lake shore Drive. By this point it was at least seven o'clock and at the point where rush hour shouldn't have been a concern, and yet the closer we got to the Metro the worse the traffic became. Sean thought ahead and checked to make sure there wasn't a Cubs game going on, so we had no idea why traffic was so bad on a Monday night. That is, until we saw posters of his face hung in the windows of the shops lining the streets. The face of the man causing hysteria to sweep northern Chicago.. At this point we knew we could blame none other than Paul McCartney. That's right ladies and gents, Paul McCartney was in town. Shit.
After having to park a considerable distance away from the venue and attempting to jog there in skinny jeans, resulting in near death from the humidity, we made it inside just in time to catch our hometown heroes' spectacular performance. (A sincere apology to The Smoking Popes, we really tried to make it for you guys). After fighting my way through the crowd and being literally lifted over the guard rail by security and placed into the photo pit, I had just enough time to get my camera set before a deafening roar of applause erupted from the crowd as the evening's main act took the stage.
Vocalist Matt Skiba made his way on stage sporting a Chicago Cubs hat, not surprisingly, getting a mixed reaction from his hometown crowd. The group chose to open with Cringe off of breakthrough full-length Goddamnit, released in 1998. As soon as the song started and everyone in the crowd began to move I knew that it was going to be an amazing show. After the opening number, a kid was ushered onto stage and offered Skiba a Chicago White Sox hat as a joke. To amuse the crowd he put on the hat, causing another uproar from the crowd, and gave the kid a hug before sending him on his way so they could continue the set. It didn't take long before the Sox hat was taken off, go figure.
In Vein, off of 2008's Agony & Irony was played second, hinting at the fact that the rest of the set would cover a great balance of both old and new material. No matter what was played, be it San Francisco from 1998's Goddamnit or Old School Reasons off of 2007's Remains, it seemed that everyone present was singing every song at the top of their lungs. Out of everything played it seemed that Blue Carolina, off of 2003's Good Mourning, got the loudest reaction of the night. While it isn't my favorite, I definitely do see why fans love this song so much, it has the classic Alkaline Trio sound to it composed of upbeat drums and driving guitar parts countered by a somewhat gloomy tone from the bass.
During 2005's Crimson hit Mercy Me, it became hard to concentrate on anything other than how happy guitarist Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano appeared to be. While clearly having a blast on stage, the two of them playing at each other and goofing around drove home the fact that they are in this business for the right reasons and are doing what they truly love. About halfway through their set, I was literally given goosebumps when the crowd answered Skiba with an eerie echo of “love for fire” during This Could Be Love, off of 2003's Good Mourning. The dedication Alkaline Trio fans posses is something many bands only dream of gaining these days, so any time a show at a venue like the Metro completely sells out and is packed with loyal fans like theirs I can't help but feel giddy.
After a high-energy first half, Skiba and drummer Derek Grant vanished offstage leaving Andriano alone with a single acoustic guitar to perform 2007's Remains's honest and true If You Had a Bad Time. To continue with the acoustic vibe, Skiba and Grant returned to join Andriano for the polished and striped down versions of Clavicle, You've Got so Far to Go, Blue in the Face, and new fan favorite Olde English 800 off of 2011's Damnesia. The Smoking Popes were then brought on stage to join the trio in covering the Violent Femmes' I Held Her in My Arms, during which Skiba took part in some skanking, making the enthusiastic crowd erupt with applause and cheers of approval.
Ending the evening on a high note was no challenge with encore songs including My Friend Peter from 1998's Goddamnit; Crawl, off of 2001's From Here to Infirmary; and ending with '97 from the 2000 release of The Alkaline Trio. With such a diverse set list, it is impossible to be disappointed at an Alkaline Trio show. With so many beautiful songs, it's practically impossible to leave unhappy. While fans are never guaranteed to hear their favorite, they are at least able to assume that they will more than likely hear two of their three top songs at any given show.