LUDO and Friends Kickoff Tour at the Metro

The Metro – Chicago, IL

An over-18 show at the Metro can be a dicey proposition; teens not used to being in public music venues, parents eagerly peering over the balcony trying to see and not be seen, and of course the over-worked (but always very professional) security people who have their hands full with both of the above.

The recent Ludo (and company) kick-off show for the tour in support of “Prepare the Preparations” was typical in the sense that there were a lot of late teens and a lot of anxious parents, but the show went off without a hitch and in record time when you consider there was four bands on stage.

Beginning exactly at 6:00 p.m. as announced, Tommy and the High Pilots took the stage for a fast-paced set of generic pop music. It took them a while to get their legs, but once they did, they were a fine opener. Decent energy – some crowd interaction – and Steven Libby a bass player who looks like old-school Brian Popper but sounds like he is playing with six fingers.

Next up was The Graduate.  They are an uncomfortable Coldplay sound-a-alike that seemed a little moody for this crowd. There was nothing about The Graduate that made them compelling. They were slotted two and likely forgotten about by the time the next bad was done.

There For Tomorrow – the third band in the evening of music for the young (and the young at heart) brought pretentiousness to a new level. (Does anyone really need a fog machine anymore?)  The definitely know where to buy clothes befitting a rocker, maybe they should spend some time creating music that befits their wardrobe.

Finally, Ludo takes the stage and the room is immediately filled with squeals of rapture as Andrew Volpe steps up the microphone and the band breaks into “Go Getter Greg” from “You’re Awful, I Love You.”

With two studio records (“Prepare the Preparations” was only released two days earlier on September 7) and a 45 minute rock opera it was a cinch that everyone in the audience knew every song they would hear throughout the night.

(There was no way to predict the passion of these fans, More than half of the crowd in attendance already had the new disc and of them – most had all of the songs memorized already.)

“Hum Along” and “Drunken Lament” were next. Ands so went the night moving easily through the catalog of music. They balanced perfectly between the old songs for the long-time fans and the new songs for the uninitiated.

Volpe – for his part – is a man on mission. Dressed not unlike an old-timey mobster and wielding a guitar like a low slung Tommy-gun Volpe looks a lot like a librarian who will kick your ass if your books are overdue.

His performance is flawless and brings raw power that is not normally associated with power pop music. The unquestioned front man – he owns the audience – and knows it – but never uses his powers for evil. He is just there for the fun that his music brings.

Tim Convy – keyboardist and cheerleader – bounds all over the stage enticing the audience – harassing the other musicians and – occasionally – actually playing the keyboard. As much fun as he is to watch, he is also exhausting.

Tim Ferrell – the hippie-out-of-water – plays guitar with technician’s skill.  He doesn’t seem as concerned with trappings of a pop music show as he is with taking pop music guitar leads to new heights.

Matt Palermo provides a solid beat whether it is heavy handed operatic music (“Broken Bride”) or drummer-go-lightly (“Topeka”).

The set – a baker’s dozen of solid gold pop nuggets – was tight enough to reflect the albums but energized enough to make the experience well worth the wait. The new material blends with the old and the crowd clearly loved every minute of the set.

The encore – “Girls on Trampolines” – inspired a couple of short-lived mosh pits.  The pits ran out of gas long before the security people really noticed.

By 9:45 p.m. the parents were coming out of the balcony seeking their kids – the kids were high-fiving and already recollecting the moments of the concert that they liked the best. The crowd quickly dispersed onto Clark Street as the lucky few got their merchandise signed by the band.

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