Parachutes and saxophones; Riviera stages a spectacle

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a concert in Chicago’s illustrious, artfully crumbling Riviera Theatre to see three separate acts. The group of concert-goers that I went with was running a bit late, causing us not to show up at the venue till about twenty minutes before show time.

A good queue was still lined up, however, the ladies’ line drifting back outside while the mens’ line was dwindling. After shuffling in the brisk breeze for a couple minutes, we were able to make it inside the theatre’s lobby. Hundreds of people were stuffed inside the theatre’s small lobby, patrons of all ages scattered about.

Once the group was all together, we ventured into the performing space. Nearly all the guests were already standing about on the tiered floor, the stage adorned with the opening act’s instruments while choices from what sounded like “Today’s Top Hits” blared from the speakers lining the space. Squeezing ourselves into the mob on the middle tier, my group and I joined the standees to await the live music.

Eventually, lights dimmed and the crowd’s buzz went up in a roar as the openers dashed from out of wings. The band announced itself as Judah & the Lion, a somewhat obscure Americana-folk band that tickled at the edge of my memory as I fought to dig up what I knew about them.

While the name sounded familiar, their music was even more so as they strummed their banjos and guitars. Their songs were easy to follow, reminding me a lot of bands such as The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons.

To make it better, a saxophone player came out and injected the concert with a jazzy feel. Their music was energizing and fun, a good opener to get the blood pumping before the main acts.

After Judah & the Lion played for about an hour, they bowed to a good smattering of applause before shuffling off the stage so the crew could set up for the next act: Parachute. The background tarp for the band dropped down, claps and cheers anxiously awaiting the arrival of the band itself. About a half hour of down time passed before a couple shouts from up front signaled the appearance of Parachute.

The crowd went up in noise, nearly everyone jumping up and around as the band announced itself. Fangirls exploded with screams when front man Will Anderson stepped behind the microphone, wasting no time to break into their first song. Now these were definitely songs I could sing along with.

The band blew my expectations out of the water, sounding as genuine as their recorded albums. What made it even more genuine was when Anderson stumbled over some of the lyrics to the iconic band’s hit “She is Love”. That little slip up only added to the band’s performance, making it something the audience would remember. No lip synching here, folks, that’s for sure.

Parachute kept the audience dancing as their performance went on; not only that, Anderson himself ended up jumping into the crowd, running through the bottom tier to give high fives and hugs to the somewhat hysterical fans.

All too soon, Parachute declared that they’d play their final song. However, Anderson also let fans know that when the main act announced his final song, that Parachute would be waiting in the lobby for a meet and greet. Needless to say, a good amount of fans, including Andrea and I, made a mental note to leave a bit early.

About another half hour passed before the man of the hour took to the stage: Mat Kearney in his cool snapback and letterman jacket with some word printed on the back.

If the crowd went wild for Parachute, they went absolutely bonkers for Kearney. The singer keep the audience engaged through the rest of the night, playing songs both old and new that included the whole spectrum of his fan base from newbies to roadies (I don’t know).

Overall, the three acts were all impressive in their own ways. They all knew how to keep the audience captivated and moving. I would jump on the chance to see any of these performers again.