Sunday, October 9, 2022

Chilling in Chicago

 I'm relaxing in a Chicago hotel room waiting for both the Minnesota Vikings to start playing and for my daughter to emerge from one of what might be the best nights of her teenage life. The two of us ventured here to witness the spectacle that is Harry Styles. The original plan, still intact, is to attend his concert tonight, October 9th. We have tickets and are all ready to go. 

However, in preparation for our travels I was informed that she'd like to try to find tickets for the Saturday night show as well and that she was willing to pay for them. So we headed down to the arena and found the ticket window line to stand in. Just like hazy memories of an old movie or two that I could never remember, the ticket window curtains closed, SOLD OUT, with about a dozen people to go before us. Maybe 30 tickets out of 30,000 short. 

Defeated and hungry we went to find a little food and see if there was an online resale option that would work. There's a place on the corner from the United Center, Bacci pizza that sells, ironically, large New York style slices that are big enough to share. We sat and ate the split slice of sausage partially defeated, but checking the resell sites again and again for price drops. Bacci's had scant seating with just a narrow counter running along the perimeter walls and looking out into the street. The place was well lit and other Harry fans were dining before entering the madness that would be the show. 

After about 10 minutes of looking through the over priced entries, one popped up. Still expensive, but within budget. We jumped on it and we were in! The tempered disappointment turned to excitement and we were on our way.

After a stop at the "merch" stand outside the venue and a brief meeting with a fellow mega-fan from back home we were on our way into the United Center. The interesting thing about these tickets was their location. They were off the end of one of the stage's long runways, jutting out from two sides running the long direction of the arena floor. These runways met ran to a larger square stage in the middle of the arena where the band would perform. While this describes the lateral position of the seats the vertical is another story; we had to go up, a long ways up. The United Center, on the short ends, has 17 rows of seats in its upper most level. We found ourselves in row 17. It actually gave a neat "top of the world" perspective.  I waxed similar to the Weasley's seats at the Quiddich world cup and enjoyed the uniqueness of the perspective.

It's fortunate we now live in a world of large stadium-apropriate screens to still bring us close to the action that has an interesting juxtaposition with the miniatures doing their thing below. I will say the display timing could have been better synchronized with the artists, the percussion work in particular. The video lagging hits on the drum kit left me rhythmically bothered. This was particularly bothersome as it seemed Harry's camera as well as Mitch's (Harry's longtime guitarist) seemed to be largely in synch. Perhaps my eyes are more forgiving of those latencies so they didn't appear as bad, or maybe that's just as it was?

The sound quality was decent enough for the seats, definitely better than my experience of being in the "nosebleed" seats for Metallica's show at US Bank stadium a few years before. Still some resonances were caught between the speakers and the walls and ceiling a short distance above and behind me. I usually wear ear plugs that eliminate much of the crowd noise as well as level and clear the sound, but I forgot to grab them this time around. Fortunately, I had no problem recognizing all the songs that had been ingrained through numerous listenings in my car with my daughter.

Such sonic recognition makes for a more inclusive experience. I've been to concerts where I didn't know much of the music. In those instances it's hard to fully engage. A Primus/Mastodon show a few years ago is one such occasion. Primus only played a couple of thier hits, favoring a full length version of their then-current "Desaturating Seven" album and I wasn't a Mastodon listener. The latter has since changed but that concert was still tough to engage fully with and experience in a manner similar to how I experience a Metallica show.  

This also gives realization to why people seem to prefer cover bands, even mediocre ones, to new and original. The hook is always there and one can always sing along to something they know. There's also the ability to compare and contrast; our brains become more analytical, working in the comparative landscape in which we have comfort.

Digressing, the other aspect of the concert I found interesting was the length. It was a mere, well timed 90 minutes. This is a far cry from the two-plus hours many of the headlining rock bands I've seen have performed. It prevents getting into some depth in the song catalog and precludes any jamming or cover songs that might give more flavor for a seasoned artist. In general, Harry's set list is predictable with "Golden" on the front end and "Kiwi" rocking out the end of the show. In my hard rocking opinion, there should be at least one more Kiwi-esque song in the set list. The middle of the show saw something close with a "One-Direction" tune before a short break. There's enough edge to the sound that a cover of "It's Electric" or even "Kickstart my Heart" might be a good, high-energy complement.

We are however fortunate to have the show end on time to allow for the long-ish commute back to our hotel. Opting to take the "el" was an interesting experience. We originally sat in a dimly lit car towards the back of the train. There was enough weird action going on in that car that we opted to move. Good thing as the car was shortly rushed by transit security and cleaned out. We ended up finding another group of Harries and rode the rest of the way with them. We would have opted for a Lyft/Uber, but figured rides would have been in short supply. We're a little wiser today, but still taking the train. 

Our seats are a bit better for today's show. My outfit will be the same, they I <3 Harry tee shirt my daughter picked up for me before we left. Now it's time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, again:-)

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