United Center – Chicago, IL
March 12, 2010
Silversun Pickups left me with just one thought as they left the stage upon completing their set: This band should have won the 2010 Best New Artist Grammy Award that it was nominated for…these four musicians deserved to have won. Instead, the Zac Brown Band took home the coveted award that can make or break an artist’s career. What the hell was up with that? Silversun Pickups only performed eight songs while opening for Muse last Friday night at Chicago’s United Center, but those eight chosen pieces of music were LONG. The alternative indie rock foursome from California played for almost 45 minutes, alternating between new songs from 2009’s release Swoon and 2007’s breakthrough record Carnavas.
More photos of Silversun Pickups after the jump…
Set List / Chicago
Growing Old Is Getting Old
Well Thought Out Twinkles
There’s No Secrets This Year
The Royal We
Future Foe Scenarios
“You guys are fucking awesome. First of all, ‘hi everybody behind us.’ Sorry about that,” said lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert as he apologized to those fans unfortunately stuck with an obstructed view from their seats located behind the stage. Even though the concert was in the round for Muse’s stage setup, Silversun Pickups had to make do with an end stage and perform to the crowd standing and sitting before them. Muse had three skyscraper-type pillars on their stage, one for each band member to perform upon when the time came. However, when Silversun Pickups took to the stage, the columns served as nothing more than a backdrop that prevented audience members in the rear end of the arena from viewing the band’s performance.
The view from my standpoint was not that much better, though. Sporadic lighting with plenty of strobe light flashes made it quite difficult to clearly see each member of Silversun Pickups. At one point during the band’s opening performance, Aubert told the left side of the arena to take out their cameras and start taking photos with the flash on. Aubert then had the right side do the same. The fans on the main floor joined in third. “You in the back, start flashing!” ordered Aubert. “This is our only light show, so come on.” Indeed it was the band’s only light show.
For reasons unknown to me, whenever Aubert walked away from his microphone to rock out with a tricky guitar solo, there was no spotlight following him. I watched the man play in almost complete darkness, which bummed me out to be honest. My favorite part of any concert is intently watching the musicians play their respective instruments. I only wish I could have witnessed Aubert’s insane guitar playing more easily, without having to squint my eyes. In the end, I basically had to accept the fact that simply listening to (and not watching) Aubert’s skills would have to suffice.
There’s no denying the talent of Silversun Pickups as a whole. However, one cannot fail to notice the odd combination of its members, mostly evident during the band’s live show. While the drummer Chris Guanlao and Brian Aubert rock out like they’ll never play again, Joe Lester (keyboards) and Nikki Monninger (bass/vocals) seem to be quite content chilling out with minimal movement. A cymbal was positioned abnormally high on Guanlao’s right, forcing him to reach up with his right arm fully extended every time he hit it. By no means am I an expert on drums and percussion, but Guanlao’s sparkling metallic purple drum kit was set up in a fashion unfamiliar to me. This didn’t stop Guanlao from shooting his right arm up in the air every few seconds (drumstick in hand) while head-banging away, his hair whipping around in a bizarre heavy-metal video move straight out of 1986.
Bassist and backing vocalist Nikki Monninger chose to rock out on her own terms. This being a subtle nod of the head back and forth from left to right. Besides the slight movements every now and then from her neck up, Monninger pretty much just stands there behind her microphone and plays her part. Keyboardist Joe Lester is equally as uninteresting to watch as Monninger, to say the least. Lester performed the entire set hiding behind his piano/synthesizer, which was covered in a black tarp for whatever reason. That annoyed me, actually. I didn’t see any point in having his instrument blocked from the fans’ view. Being a piano player myself, I love everything about watching musicians’ fingers tickling the black and white keys live right in front of me. It appeared as if Lester was protecting his keyboard from a potential downpour of rain, which would have been perfectly acceptable if this was Lollapalooza. But come on, this was inside a basketball/hockey arena for crying out loud!
“Do not look Matt Bellamy in the eyeballs,” warned Aubert in between songs where he tended to scream much more than I was expecting. I don’t recall his vocals being so angry and screamo-y on the band’s records. I guess playing in front of 25,000 people brings the metal/emo side out of the Silversun Pickups guitarist. Not being fan of screaming in place of singing, Aubert’s amazing use of his foot pedal to create multiple guitar riff loops blew me away. As the grand finale and biggest hit of the band’s career “Lazy Eye” came to an end, I was spellbound by Aubert as he walked to the front edge of the stage and got lost in a solo that made me want to pick up a guitar and learn to play it. I can only dream of being as proficient on the instrument as this guy. And I truly believe that making a fan (like me) walk away from a show wanting to learn how to play the guitar (or any instrument, really) is a sign of a great artist, band, musician, etc. Silversun Pickups made me do just that. Now I just need to sit down and pick up that acoustic guitar…
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