written by Dorothy St.Claire
As soon as we got into the House of Blues, I started exploring. I was lucky enough to have received opera box tickets, which ended up being my home base for these two nights. It was a great spot, and after years of rowdy House of Blues shows, I was thrilled to have more space and such a unique view.
Brown Bird played a fantastic opening set. Rick had put in a couple requests on Facebook, and although we didn't get "Ebb and Flow", we got a hot "Jackson", which really got the crowd pumped up.
Tonight, I took full advantage of my credentials, using the back stairways to bypass the crowds. Holy cow. It was amazing how much easier it was to get my work done - giving me more time to have fun. I was up in the opera box before Yonder came on, and as more and more wonderful people showed up, I soon realized that this was where I would be spending my night. Robb was celebrating his 100th show, and we were soon joined by Andy, Brian, Frank, Marci, Emmy Jo, and a whole bunch more Kinfolk who were in and out all night.
It was the first time in a long time that I wasn't down front for the first notes of a show, but there were plenty of photographers there tonight, and I figured I'd wait until they were done to make my move. The curtain was down as the band entered the stage and tuned up. Only our box and the one across the stage were behind the curtain and got this view. They started playing "Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie"; the volume from the audience rising with the curtain. I love these two night runs - as soon as the music started, I felt as though no time had passed since last night's show. Then, believe it or not, Ben sang "Roll On Blues". Oh baby, it was sweet. He sang the hell out of it, putting everything he had into that last verse. "Sounds like you like bluegrass music... go figure!" The crowd was going wild, and you could feel that it was going to be a great show. Dave's banjo number, "Strophe" came next, followed by Adam's high energy "Idaho".
Sometimes it's nice to wait to go to the photo pit. After a few songs, or even into the second set, the band has warmed up, they've found their groove, and they're pumped from all of the energy of the show. From our box, I could look down at Kevin sitting directly below us. I could also see the setlist, which I used as a guide for where I wanted to be for the evening. I knew I wanted to get some great Dave singing shots, so as soon as I saw what color lights Ted was using, I ran down front for "Don't Worry Happy Birthday". It was the first time I saw my rail-riding friends since Yonder started and I loved watching them get down as "Raleigh and Spencer" blasted through the huge speakers. After "Raleigh", something came flying to the stage. Jeff picked it up, "This has been my tour of getting sunflowers thrown at me. I prefer it to glow sticks." Jeff set the flower down and they started "To See You Coming Round the Bend". I can't even explain how happy it makes me that they've pulled this one out a lot more lately. "I just can't think of anything that'll make me smile like you can." That pretty much says it all. "I'd like to apologize in advance for this next song, it's got a swear word in it, mom. Sorry, mom. It's not a reflection on her parenting skills." "Ripcord Blues" was Dave's next song, and I must say, among other things, Ben's bass sounded amazing.
I said my goodbyes to my rail friends and headed back up to the box as they started "Ramblin' Boy". I immediately thought of Anitra, and wished she could be there with us to hear one of her favorites. "Honestly" was next, with a nice big "After Midnight" in the middle. As the second half of "Honestly" came up, I went down to the side of the stage next to Kevin for some photos. I love when all four guys sing together, and "Honestly" is one of only a handful of songs where they do just that.
I spent my set break like I spend most set breaks. Hanging out with Scotty and meeting awesome new Kinfolk friends. This was Scotty's last show of the tour. He was jumping off, and Brian was taking his place. We win either way, but I was definitely going to miss him. I didn't look at the time, but this set break was pretty long. It usually is in Chicago, where there are so many friends and family to the band. When they finally came back out, they started their second set with "Out of the Blue". I was once again down front taking photos, and the band in front of my lens was on fire. They were energized and excited to be there, playing for all of us. I didn't stay down front long, because I knew I wanted to be settled upstairs before the next song started. I was just in time to take a look over the edge of the box as "Hey Bulldog" started. My smile spread from ear to ear as Adam and Ben rocked one of my favorite new covers.
"I know I asked you in the first set, but sometimes people change their minds. Do you still like the bluegrass music?" Ben wanted to double check before beginning the next song, but from the audience's response, he was worried for nothing. "Thank God for that!" They played a fast "Redbird", and I watched the crowd bounce to the beat, creating waves along the floor. Dave switched banjos for the next song, saying "You hear that? It's double stuff." And he ripped into "Just the Same". It was a great Dave night. After "Just the Same", Jeff started strumming... building the anticipation. Even when I "cheat" and sneak a peak at the set list, I will never know how they will get from one song to another, or how they will actually play each song until it happens. No one knows. That's the beauty of it. A set list might show you what songs they play, but it in no way tells you what kind of a show you're going to get. Even though I knew it was coming, I was just as excited as anyone else out there when "Snow on the Pines" finally came in and filled every inch of space with that full mandolin sound and Ted's luminescent lights. I love being on the rail, but this was amazing. Watching my friends down front as they felt the music. I could see it on their faces as the lights swirled across the whole crowd. Jeff, Ben, Dave, and Adam were all playing at their very best, and this 18-minute-long moment was pure magic. Jeff came in with the pedal about halfway into the song, and each individual face down in the crowd became one pulsing body of energy.
The air was electric as they switched gears and bounced into "Boatman", and as they wrapped up the song and Jeff called out to the audience to "Show me what you're made of!", the screams practically overtook the music. "Corona" kept things light, and then Dave flipped the switch and gave us the heavy "Pass This Way". I was so happy with this show so far, but it just kept getting better when "Casualty" came next. The crowd gave off another huge shot of energy as "Southbound" came up next, and Jeff sang the line "Chicago to St. Louie town..." This set seemed to go on and on (in a good way). I think that was due to the early in the set giant "Snow on the Pines". I was so happy when "Yes She Do, No She Don't" came next, and especially when it was followed by "Looking Back Over My Shoulder". I mean, seriously? "Snow" and "Looking Back" in one set? That made me a very happy lady.
"We hope you folks had a good time tonight, it was nice playing for all of you, thank you for being so nice to us. We'll close with this. Thank you." Jeff was getting emotional as he spoke to the audience, but we weren't through yet. A ridiculous "Angel" started off the closing sandwich, and after melting all of our faces, morphed into "King Ebenezer". It was just so huge. The persona that Jeff puts out there on stage, especially through this song, is so intense, so calculating , so absolutely impervious to anything that could stand in his way. And tonight was no different. The music built up to a breaking point before Ben pounded out those bass notes that brought us back into "Angel".
They took a much-needed breather as we all prepared for the encore. I thought back on these two nights, and was so happy with how everything worked out. I got to stay with Rick and Melissa, reducing the cost of traveling to Chicago, and greatly increasing my fun. We celebrated a milestone - Lori's 100th show AND her birthday. And the next night we continued celebrating, with Shelby's 50th, Robb's 100th, and my 150th show. Yeah, all in all, it was a pretty great couple of nights. "We got two more for ya, thanks again you guys. Thanks for the energy." Jeff sent us out with a couple more great songs, starting with "40 Miles From Denver". "Thank you again, to all four delicious layers of you people in here tonight." Jeff was shielding his eyes from the spotlight, trying to see the crowd, when Ted brought the house lights up. "There you are, hi. Hello." Every satiated face lit up, and I was once again so happy to be up in that box, looking out on all of those beautiful faces. Jeff was all smiles as they went into their final song. Tonight's show, the 2-night run in Chicago, and the 3rd week of tour wrapped up with the bluegrass favorite, "Hit Parade of Love".
Written by Dorothy St.Claire
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