A truly charismatic, energetic opening act that commands the audience's attention is a rare find at most bigger rock shows. But at Friday's Our Lady Peace show at the Pageant, Chicago's Company of Thieves set the bar high, thanks to an irresistible blend of dance-party funk and soulful, spaced-out psychedelia.
The band pulled out all the stops with its Halloween spirit, taking the stage dressed as the cast of The Wizard of Oz. Vocalist Genevieve Schatz made a perfect Dorothy and wowed the packed crowd of Our Lady Peace disciples with her genuinely charming stage presence and rafter-rattling pipes. Judging by the songs Company of Thieves played from its debut album, Ordinary Riches, it's definitely a must-see live act and a new band to watch.
Canadian rock icons Our Lady Peace took the stage in a blinding burst of color from five large LED light panels. The veteran quartet immediately launched into the high-octane rocker "Monkey Brains" from its latest album, Burn Burn. The song's epic, Muse-reminiscent arrangement slid between arena-sized riffs and head-bobbing bounce before diving into a slow-burning interlude and ending in a flurry of guitar bends and furious drum fills.
Vocalist Raine Maida sounded apologetic when he referenced the band's last club stop in St. Louis four years ago, saying those were, "dark days for this band," and vowed to show the packed house a good time. From there the band did just that, wasting no time building suspense for the hit parade as it jumped directly into late '90s mega-hits "Superman's Dead" and "Clumsy" as well as crowd favorite "Innocent," from 2002's Gravity. That album was the first to feature current guitarist Steve Mazur, who was a true pleasure to watch as he coaxed syrupy, overdriven tones from his fire-engine-red, hollow-body guitar all evening.
"Escape Artist" was almost too big for the medium-sized venue; its massive chorus filled the entire space with super-sub-low bass resonance and hair-raising riffage. But otherwise, the band had a great mix as if the frequencies for each instrument were dialed in perfectly as to not bleed too much onto one another. Drummer Jeremy Taggart's kit in particular sounded huge and Bonham-esque.
At times it seemed that the great-sounding instrumentation was actually carrying the weight, as Maida's voice sounded a bit tired and he often fell a little short of hitting the higher notes on songs such as "Innocent" and the band's signature ballad, "Somewhere Out There." But the group's energy was high and Maida's lower baritone register -- where he's naturally at his best anyway -- was powerful.
The peak of the main set, though, was an extended version of "Naveed," the title track from the band's 1994 debut. The super-low bass rumbling intro kicked in and the band thundered on toward the song's spaced-out breakdown where Maida decided to quote an entire verse from "Kids," a song by psych-rock hipsters MGMT. It was a puzzling move (and one that was possibly lost on most of the audience), but the mash-up did work well -- like some kind of Bono meets Greg Dulli maneuver -- and led perfectly to the song's climactic outro.
Another somewhat inexplicable occurrence took place during the band's four-song encore, when Maida invited band crew member Richard
Bosner Misener onstage to sing the lead vocal on "Automatic Flowers." Not singing along with Maida, but full-on, by himself while Maida filmed the affair from the side of the stage. Bosner actually sounded great and turned in a spirited performance but the crowd seemed somewhat perplexed (although courteous with its applause). In his brief explanation, Maida only said that Bosner was a friend that was having a bit of a hard time out on the road.
The show closer was the obligatory "Starseed," OLP's first hit. But the song sounded surprisingly fresh, with its driving pulse, anthemic hook and thick wall of gritty guitar sludge. It showed that Our Lady Peace is one of the rare groups from that era which still manages to seem genuinely interested in pleasing its aging, long-time fans -- while also doing a great job of convincing them to listen to its latest creations.
Setlist: Monkey Brains Superman's Dead Innocent Clumsy Paper Moon Escape Artist Is Anybody Home Somewhere Out There Bring Back the Sun One Man Army Naveed All You Did Was Save My Life
Encore: I Loved You All Along Automatic Flowers (crew member Richard Bosner on vox) In Repair Starseed