When I heard that Jamie Lidell was playing in Chicago, I enlisted a couple of my friends and immediately bought tickets. I loved 2005's Multiply, and this year's Jim is also great, for slightly different reasons. He's someone who's definitely schooled himself in a variety of musical forms. On his
more recent releases, it's clear that he's been studying up on 1960s American r&b.
Interestingly, there seem to be two types of Jamie Lidell fans - those who like his earlier electronic work (and feel he's sold out on these latter albums) and those who find the soul-infused Lidell a better run for your money. Count me in the latter camp.
First, the venue. The Abbey Pub is in an area of Chicago that I'd never been (Irving Park, I believe?). Set apart from the venue side of the building is a restaurant and pub (where we watched the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup). The actual performance space was very cool. An upper balcony, a big dancefloor, and a great DJ. I wish I had his setlists. The stuff I knew was some of my favorites from the last couple of years (Bird and Bee, Chromeo, New Young Pony Club, Santogold) with some old favorites (Prince, James Brown, Eddy Grant) and a bunch of newer tracks that I didn't recognize, but loved.
Opening up was Jennifer O'Connor. I checked out her MySpace earlier in the week and wasn't expecting much from her set. However, she's apparently one of those acts that is much better live than on disc. I was pleasantly surprised. I also applaud her writing 3 minute tunes, an art that's been lost in recent years - but that's another rant for another time.
Lidell came on, opening up with "Another Day," the opener on his new disc. It was fantastic. With him was a four piece band, who were *very* tight. The band arrangements were necessarily different than those on Lidell's records, but in way that was fresh, pleasing, and totally welcome. All of the members including Lidell gave off that vibe of "hey, we really love performing," which always makes a show more enjoyable for me. When a group or artist seems to just be going through the motions, it detracts from the energy of the show. This was the total opposite.
The set was very heavy on the new album. As I recall there were only three songs from Mutliply - "When I Come Back Around," "A Little Bit More" and the title track. The latter closed out the night and was phenomenal. The former two tracks Lidell did solo whilst playing around with an arsenal of electronic gadgetry. These were ridiculously different arrangements that were interesting and good. However, these went on for too long, and I found myself losing interest. He was definitely at his best with the band on stage.
I do wish there would have been more material from Multiply. But for me, that's less of a criticism and more of a personal desire. I think Jim is a great album, and he played all of the best cuts from the new disc. My highlight of the night was very likely "A Little Bit of Feelgood," which is hands down my favorite track from the album.
All told, it was well worth the $25, the 4 hour drive there, and the 4 hour drive back that put me in my bed around 4am. Today has been totally screwy as a result, but I don't give a damn. Lidell put on a great show, and I am totally satisfied.
Before the album came out I posted the circulating remix of "A Little Bit of Feel Good." Here's the album version with it's spankin' new video: