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Review Tue Aug 28 2012

Review: Lindsey Buckingham @ Chicago's City Winery (and a Look at the New Venue)

City Winery Chicago exterior -credit John Zomot.jpg
Chicago's City Winery (photo by John Zomot, courtesy of City Winery)

The Chicago outpost of New York's City Winery has sort of been slowly rolling out the welcome mat over the past three weeks with a flurry of soft-opening and press events, a week's worth of Lewis Black shows, and a few musical acts to break in the venue. Last night, the second of two sold-out shows by legendary guitarist Lindsey Buckingham provided a great opportunity to really see how the new venue is settling into Chicago's musical landscape.

First, the venue itself. Chicago's iteration of City Winery represents the "2.0" version of New York's City Winery, the creation of Michael Dorf, founder and long-time CEO of legendary jazz and rock venue The Knitting Factory. Building on the success of the New York outpost, Dorf brought the concept to Chicago, where it has been fully realized in a very heavily re-purposed warehouse space on Randolph Street, just west of that area's burgeoning restaurant zone. Intended to be something of a one-stop shop for your nightlife needs, City Winery incorporates a large restaurant, several informal lounge areas, various spaces that are intended to serve as flexible private areas, and a functioning winery that will soon take its first delivery of grapes and begin serving its own house wines early next year. Attached to the attractive public spaces is a roughly 300-seat well designed "listening room" that will feature mostly musical acts, booked by Old Town School alum Colleen Miller. While the restaurant, lounge, and winery spaces are perfectly nice, it is the venue that makes City Winery unique in Chicago, and in this way, it is less filling a niche in a town with an already vibrant musical scene, than finding its own way.

Performance venue shot.jpg
The front rows of the performance space (Photo courtesy City Winery).

The venue is in some ways a throwback to cabaret style, with relatively low seating density and full food and beverage service at tables that radiate and extend out from a small semi-circular stage in the front of the room. Sight lines are excellent, with all paying customers afforded a reasonably clear view of the stage. Production has been kept reasonably simple, with ample front lighting and some colored LED wash lighting providing simple and effective lighting of the stage. The sound system is, again, reasonably simple, yet ample and well-designed, providing excellent coverage throughout the room. While the sound for the jazz combo the evening of their soft-opening press event was somewhat mushy towards the middle and back of the room, the sound for Lindsey Buckingham's paying crowd was excellent. Overall, City Winery ought to prove perfect for a certain kind of show; The Empty Bottle it ain't, but with an already interesting slate of shows booked, it can probably find a home, as last night's show proved.

Buckingham, who will always be inextricably known for his contributions to Fleetwood Mac, opened his show talking about balance, and the contrast between what he called "the big machine" (Fleetwood Mac) and "the small machine", that being his solo efforts, and ultimately, this truly solo tour with just him and guitar in the stage lights. While it's easy to roll your eyes at a "small machine" that still apparently needs to employ no less than a dozen guitars, nine amps and cabinets and a dedicated guitar tech, ultimately, Buckingham has a point. Buckingham is responsible for many of Fleetwood Mac's biggest hits, and his solo performances offer a chance to see these songs, as well as those from other periods of his musical life, in an elemental state, absent most of Fleetwood Mac's accumulated baggage and any stadium bombast. Buckingham can rightfully claim to be one of rock's greatest guitarists, employing a truly singular finger-picking technique that gives him an extremely unique sound. On most of the night's songs, such as "Bleed to Love Her" and "Go Your Own Way," Buckingham's finger picking-style drove the songs, offering well-crafted, straightforward takes. Only occasionally did he seem the arena rock star, as on "Come" where he created an extended loop, then deftly segued into a solo over the playback, or on "I'm So Afraid" where he employed a backing track and launched into a lengthy jam. Clearly, there were some die-hard fans in attendance, and the hushed and reasonably sedate crowd proved the perfect audience, and Buckingham's solo show the perfect act, for City Winery's set up.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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