I saw Chad Valley at Schubas a few months. Hugo Manuel told me during a pre-show interview that he was dealing with a sore throat, an ailment he admits he deals with all the time. Since his live show is basically just his voice, this was troubling to hear. At that show he still sounded strong on stage, all by himself with his keyboard and midi controller. Last night, his voice sounded strong again, but he admitted halfway through his set to again feeling sick. When it came time for an encore, he passed on it. Disappointing. So disappointing. Maybe he really is putting his voice through too much up there.
I hope he can toughen up those pipes before his next major tour, because he has one of the best voices in the business. I want to hear as many live songs as he can handle.
Other than playing too short a set, there weren’t many low points for the chillwave-going-R&B indie kid from Oxford. Even with a backup vocalist to help him with some harmonies, it was a significantly more laid back set this time around. The highlight was “Evening Surrender,” a “we’re gonna make sweet love later tonight” ballad from his Young Hunger full-length. On the recorded track, El Perro Del Mar provides the sexy. The smoke machine seemed a bit much during opener Ghost Beach, but the steamy residue was perfect for at least this moment.
A word about those openers real quick. Chandeliers kicked the night off with their analog electro-rock. This is one of Chicago’s best local bands today, and they’re being rewarded for it by playing a Tuesday night residency all next month at the Hideout. If you haven’t seen them live yet, May is your chance. Their recorded material doesn’t do their live show justice.
Ghost Beach was stadium-ready pop-rock. I’ve never seen so many lights and smoke on the Schubas stage before. It was jarring at first, but I really did appreciate it. Their melodies are as cheesy if not cheesier than a late-90s alternative band like the New Radicals or Sugar Ray. But that’s just the changing of the tide in 2013. It’s been a few years coming thanks to pop acts like Robyn and Free Energy going all-in, and now Charli XCX, but pop and indie are interchangeable now. The weird thing (and the interesting thing) about this trend is that we can decide whether we want to enjoy it ironically, or earnestly. And the cool thing is that it’ll work either way.
Artists like Chad Valley are taking those TRL-era travesties and creating something worthwhile with what music fans long regarded as trash. At the very least, it demands listeners let their guards down and at least make an attempt to enjoy something without prejudice. The pretentious rockists are a dying breed in the 20-teens, and music is in a better place for it. Today, just listen to whatever moves you–whether it’s experimental Chicago kraut rock, or Taylor Swift. Whatever works.