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Backstage News, Front Row Pics

Chevelle Shows Some Hometown Love at the Chicago House of Blues

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By Alyce Hayes

 

A guitar pick flies out into the crowd, and hands shoot into the air to catch it.  A drunken grin spreads over the face of the lucky winner, who just happens to be the tallest guy in the group. A man in his mid-40s with stringy Tommy Chong hair is uncomfortably close to security at the barricade, waving his arms and screaming toward the stage, “Hey Pete! How about a pick for me? Come on, man!” It’s the first of two sold out Chevelle shows at Chicago’s House of Blues, and something tells me this night is going to be epic.

2014-04-24-Chevelle-IMG_1785If you’re at all familiar with Chevelle’s style (and if you aren’t, you’re missing out), you can understand why they’re loved by fans from all walks of life. The band mixes angry drop-tuned chords, humming bass lines and cymbal-heavy drums to create a dark, aggressive, yet approachable sound. Top that with a healthy dose of assertive vocals and screams and you’ve got an emotional, “punch-you-in-the-face” approach that pays homage to the likes of Tool or Helmet without being derivative.

And punch they did, with immediate reciprocation from their fans. At the start of the first note of “The Clincher,” the entire crowd started singing along with guitarist/singer Pete Loeffler. It was a Chevelle chorus all night, and a damn great one, at that. I like to think that since the band is native to the  Chicago area, the fans wanted to show off a little bit in honor of their return home. After having witnessed the, uh…“reserved” nature of the audience during the previous sets by Nothing More and Middle Class Rut (check out my review, also with photography by Julie Williams, here!), I was happy to see all etiquette fly out the window as the trio hit the stage. Finally, it felt like a legitimate hard rock show, with the audience jumping, moshing and crowd-surfing ~ my kind of people.

Chevelle’s heavy sound is awesome on their albums, but it makes an even bigger impact when performed live. Their music and vocals at the House of Blues were of a crisp, studio quality. The guitar intro to “Family System” was a perfect mix of searing and diabolical, and as everyone sang along to the chorus of “Forfeit,” you could feel the bass drum in your chest. For me, a major sign of having a great sound mix ~ especially when listening to harder rock and metal ~ is being able to hear the bassist. It was a pleasure to be able to hear every note from Dean Bernardino; it made me want to pick up my bass again, my love for playing Chevelle tunes instantly rekindled. Maybe I could offer my services as an understudy. Do bands have understudies?

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As vital to a putting on a killer show as playing great music is, how a band interacts with its audience is also a huge factor in how much fun a concert can (and should!) be ~ and it’s another element that sets Chevelle apart from many other bands. Pete, Sam and Dean have a great sense of humor (as evidenced by their pre-recorded sound bytes from the famous comedy Airplane!) and a natural gift for connecting with their fans. They poke fun at one another between songs, toss open bottles of water into the crowd and discuss plans for after the show. Although most fans already know that the band members are all related (Pete and drummer Sam are brothers, Dean is their brother-in-law), you can definitely tell by watching them onstage that there’s a strong, underlying bond. The symmetry between Pete and Dean’s stance and strumming style is uncanny, and there’s a noticeable though intangible sense of intuition amongst the three of them as they play that only enhances their tightness as a band.

2014-04-24-Chevelle-IMG_1633Chevelle’s set was full of fan favorites, pulling songs from all of their albums as well as new material off their recently released album La Gárgola, which hit stores on April 1. Although the band members were more subtle than some of their musical peers when it came to movement on the stage, the passion was there and felt by all. I witnessed an older woman in four inch heels crowd surf ~ twice ~ and stood by as the Tommy Chong hair guy fought tirelessly for a guitar pick throughout the entire set (He never got one. Tough luck, buddy, maybe next time.). The whole night rocked, but the highlight for me was when Chevelle returned for the encore performance with one of their top hits, “The Red.” As soon as Pete began playing the song on his guitar, the audience started cheering like crazy and proceeded to sing the whole first verse without him.  That’s what I call true fans. And yes, I was singing right along with them.

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One of the qualities responsible, along with their talent, for bringing Chevelle such a loyal following is their obvious appreciation for each and every fan. When they play a show, they see it as playing to an extended family, and that mindset shows in their performance and endears them more to existing fans and wins them over new ones every time.   Chevelle has a true love for their work and the people who support them and have done so since the beginning, and that’s key to the band’s continued success.

Check out La Gárgola and the band’s back catalogue, and see them live if their current tour brings them to your area.

 

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All photos by and courtesy of Julie Williams

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