No less than the best concert I've ever been to.
I know I tend to be the little boy who cried wolf of hyperbole, but you guys gotta take my word on this one. It was incredible. Magical. Transcendent. I almost can't talk about how good it was.
I was certainly digging it for the first four or five songs (S'gum's got the setlist) but wasn't feeling terribly transported and thought, since this was my first time ever seeing them in concert, maybe reports of their live chops were vastly overrated or that maybe I was simply expecting too much. But then they played "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," which started me on an emotional roller coaster similar to the one I experienced two weeks ago during Bon Iver's set at Pitchfork, where my personal emotional associations with the song melded with whatever groove the band was finally settling into, and then I just bubbled over into full-on fangirl freakout mode for the remaining hour and a half. The band achieved liftoff at that point as far as I'm concerned, kittens. How does one band manage to be so perfect? They're not doing anything, really, but, in that, they're doing everything. It's spectacle without hokum, virtuosity without undue pretension.
Of all the songs to bring me to tears, I started crying during "No Surprises." Not quite sure why, other than that it's so damn pretty, and, circumstantially, that I found it incredibly sweet that a bunch of people in the crowd were evidently also moved enough to start pulling out their lighters. Not really being a sports fan, and not being so politically active that I go to too many protests or rallies, it's easy for me to forget the power there is in being part of such an enormous group of people focusing all their attention and positive energy on one thing, at the same moment in time. The crowd was totally squirrelly before and after the set, but I gotta give credit, at least in my small little patch of the field, to everyone for honestly, enthusiastically, and basically politely engaging with the music and the performance while it was happening. And as that song was ending and I was wiping my eyes, I heard some dude near me exhale kind of dreamily, "the city looks really great tonight," which totally choked me up all over again.
I haven't even mentioned yet the most remarkable part of the night: the fireworks display that started up at the beginning of "Everything in Its Right Place" and then peaked during the big swell in the middle of "Fake Plastic Trees." Apparently the fireworks were connected to some other event going on over at Soldier Field, but the effect couldn't have been more magical if it had been intentional. The crowd flipped out. I started laughing, and then crying a little again, and then laughing some more, and just couldn't stop. Pure, pure joy and wonderment. I absolutely couldn't, and kind of still can't, believe that I was lucky enough to be there, to be a part of such an amazing moment.
And lucky is indeed the word for it--I didn't pay a cent for the pleasure of any of this. I hadn't bought tickets in advance, preferring instead to take my chances on the street and see what I could get from a scalper beforehand. As I was scoping out the territory, though, I totally coincidentally ran into my boy Tito and his brother as they were getting ready to enter the park with their wristbands. Once inside, Tito slipped his off and sent his brother back out to give it to me. We made it inside with no trouble at all. Those of you who know him (and to know him is to love him, as they say) will of course not be surprised that Tito insisted the only thing I owed him for it was a hug.
Before Radiohead went on, we caught Bloc Party's set. Which, yes, hilariously, makes this the third time I've, basically accidentally, seen them live. Other bands I've seen live three times? The Long Winters, the Divine Comedy, the Decemberists, the National, Andrew Bird, Laura Veirs...in other words, my favorite artists. Apparently Bloc Party is my indie rock equivalent of 10 Things I Hate About You, ie, something I now have a reluctant and slightly guilty fondness for because I get sucked into it anytime it's on/around. I mean, I'm not sure when "This Modern Love" became my jam, but fuck if my heart didn't start racing a bit when they kicked into that little rocking horse intro. What a gorgeous and affecting song. They were playing with a replacement bassist, which was slightly unfortunate since their rhythm section is so unbelievably tight, but I guess I can allow it since Gordon Moakes was back home in England with his parter, who was having a baby.
I wished I could have heard more of Grizzly Bear when we arrived at the park, esp. given that they debuted a bunch of new material, but what I could hear as we were headed across the grounds sounded fabulous. Likewise Malkmus/Jicks, who played between Bloc Party and Radiohead, on the most immediately adjacent stage, just barely within earshot. At least I got to hear a couple snippets of "Gardenia" on the wind.