REVIEW: LOCAL H CELEBRATE AS GOOD AS DEAD’S 20TH ANNIVERSARY AT METRO IN CHICAGO – NIGHT ONE

4-15-16-LocalH-RyanSet-12

April appears to be a good month for Local H. During the month of April in 2015, they celebrated 25 years as a band, along with the release of new album Hey, Killer, with a sold out show at Metro in Chicago. On April 15 and 16, 2016, the band celebrated the 20th anniversary of their second album, As Good As Dead (released April 16, 1996), along with the surprise return of Joe Daniels on drums, with two sold out shows at Metro in Chicago. Come to think of it, maybe April is a good month for their fans too.

There was no shortage of excitement at either show. Fans of all ages (Friday’s show was 18+ while Saturday’s show allowed all ages.), not only from IL, but other states as well, showed Local H just how much they are loved. In turn, not only did Local H play two impressive sets, 100 weekend ticket holders were treated to an intimate acoustic set early Saturday evening that took place in the Top Note Theater, located on the fourth floor of Metro. This secret location served as a perfect space for a special performance.

Both Friday and Saturday night sets were billed as “An Evening With Local H” which meant no opening band. Regardless, on both nights, as patrons decided if they wanted to be on the main floor or in the balcony, one couldn’t help but notice the stage set up. Not only was there a huge backdrop, which included a graphic nod to their As Good As Dead album cover, it clearly stated where the band was originally from. Straight Outta Zion. Fans also noticed the two drum kits set up on either side of the stage along with two pedal boards and mic in the middle. Local H has long been a 2-piece band, so this set up was both odd and exciting. I’m sure many were wondering if the past and present Local H drummers would play at the same time at some point during the night.

As was previously billed, the first set of the night would include songs from newest album Hey, Killer along with other songs from various releases. However, not much else had been leaked about how the night was going to play out, so curiosity, as it got closer to show time, had definitely set in. Prior to the set starting, someone from a local Chicago radio station spoke a few words informing everyone that the entire weekend was being filmed by Chicago’s own JBTV for a future video release. Around 9:30 p.m., Scott Lucas (vocals and guitar) and Ryan Harding (drums) walked on stage and launched into a 45-minute, 9 song set pretty heavy with songs from Hey, Killer, which is never a bad thing as the album is full of songs that translate really well in a live setting. The night started off with Buffalo Trace from Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles? For those that don’t know, this song was just over ten minutes long. What an opener!

This lead into two back to back songs from Hey, Killer. City of Knives, which included Gabe Rodriguez on tambourine, flowed straight into Freshly F–ked. Throughout the entire night Gabe would mysteriously appear to sing a few lines of backing vocals on various songs while simultaneously shaking a tambourine. However, if you weren’t paying attention, he was gone so quickly you were left wondering if you had imagined him on stage in the first place.

Scott eventually addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for coming to the show, “We’re Local H. Hi. How are ya?” He talked a short bit to the crowd and mentioned he was nervous. He also asked if everyone brought their sleeping bags because we were all going to be there for a while. They continued with Keep Your Girlfriend from Here Comes the Zoo and this time both Gabe and Mike Grogan provided backing vocals at each of the mic stands set up on either side of Scott. I’m not sure on the back story, but the version of I Am A Salt Mine on Hey, Killer is not the version that gets played live. In fact, they are both good for different reasons, but I have to say, the rock version of the song is one you need to see live for yourself.

Next was The One With ‘Kid’ from 12 Angry Months, with its trippy sounding intro. It’s amazing the sounds Scott can create with a guitar and his pedal boards. During part of the song, the crowd could be heard singing along. It was at this point, that the first crowd surfer also appeared, and to be honest, I thought they would have started earlier in the set. Scott sang and played with such aggression towards the end of the song and the crowd loved it. The intro for Leon and the Game of Skin has a steady drum beat which allowed for the crowd to clap along easily, and they did as Scott encouraged them. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it’s pretty fantastic. If you don’t already own Hey, Killer, I suggest you purchase it today. Up to this point Ryan’s drumming was aggressive, massive sounding and all in all a perfect compliment not only to the songs, but to the overall vibe of the performance. While you mostly just see hair and arms flying, every once in a while you would catch a glimpse of him gritting his teeth as he pounded on the skins.

Immediately at the start of the next song, the crowd cheered and even more so when Scott said, “A song to the Midwest.” As I witnessed, most Local H fans knew what was coming. They were also more than happy to sing along off and on during the song especially when it came time to express how they felt about those California Songs and New York too! For the next minute or so Scott made more of those groovy distorted tones he’s known for which lead into the last Hey, Killer song of the set, John The Baptist Blues. Much like the opening song, this was another long one clocking in at well over eight minutes, with plenty of opportunity to have everyone watch every note he strummed. Scott also played at various spots at the edge of the stage and fairly close to and facing Ryan’s kit. Scott didn’t have a lot of chances to move away from the mic or his pedals during the set but he took full advantage during this song to get up close to the fans. One of the things I’ve always liked about this song is just when you think it’s over, it’s not. Just a few seconds passed when the song appeared to be over before Scott started playing these amazing deep, electronic tones as he sang, “Hey, all you philistines,” a few times. Then, he and Ryan started going absolutely ballistic. Now that was how you ended a set!

Scott thanked everyone, said good night and mentioned that Local H was up next. Oh the humor. Ryan threw out some sticks and they both left the stage. During the 25 minute break, there was quite an interesting mix of songs playing through the speakers. I happened to catch the word Zion from what I’m guessing was Bob Marley’s Iron Lion Zion. Cool tie in with that one.

After 16 years, the time had come. Original drummer, Joe Daniels, was about to take a seat, stage left, to play all of the songs on As Good As Dead. The anticipation level was pretty high. Around 10:45 p.m., Joe and Scott walked on stage and immediately the crowd cheered. Joe waved and then proceeded to shake hands with those up front. Scott said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Daniels.”

I don’t know why I thought the band would play As Good As Dead in order. I mean, I should have known better than to think Local H were going to play one of their most iconic songs second out of the gate. In fact, I had no complaints about the order at all and the flow was perfect. Scott strummed his guitar a few times and Joe stomped on the kick drum pedal a couple times. Scott asked if everyone was ready. Indeed they were. He said he wanted to go back to 1996. He wanted everyone to put their cell phones away and pretend they didn’t exist. Surprisingly, the crowd cheered.

Scott counted to four and he sang and played Manifest Density Pt. 1 by himself before going into Bound for the Floor and the first official song played by Joe. The crowd was pretty active moving around the floor while others chose to sing along. Gabe was out once again to provide backing vocals. This lead into Lovey Dovey, with more singing from the crowd, and Gabe coming out to play kazoo at the appropriate time. Fun. Up next was the fast-paced I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are.

After three full songs of watching Joe back behind the kit, I realized a few things. First let me preface with saying I saw Local H a few times “back in the day” but never quite as close as I was this night. Here is what I observed about Joe’s playing. Yes, everyone knows he is a hard hitter, in fact, he kept tossing broken sticks out into the crowd all night, and that he is an aggressive player with big arm swings. What I didn’t realize was the possessed look he takes on while he is playing. There were times that all I saw were the whites of his eyes as if they had rolled back into his head. Other times you could see his nostrils flare. Add to that the various facial expressions that looked as if he were in pain and it was as if a madman were behind the kit. Of course, all of this rolled in together made for one entertaining show.

They continued with Freeze Dried (F)lies before playing Eddie Vedder. Once again Gabe returned to the stage to play tambourine and provide some backing vocals, however this time he stood at the mic closest to Joe’s kit. Once the song was over, Scott’s guitar started making noises as if an alarm were going off. Quickly, those familiar sounding bass notes at the beginning of Back in the Day along with the quick fast-paced drum beats lead into the short punchy lyrics. This of course was the song that Local H originally teased everyone with on social media when it was announced that Joe was coming back for the anniversary shows. Such a cool moment, almost full circle if you will, in the show. The crowd cheered excitedly once the song was over.

For No Problem, Joe temporarily left the stage and Scott sang and played alone, although, there were times when the crowd could be heard singing along loudly. For me personally, this is always a cool moment. I’m hoping for Scott, as the singer, it was the same. Joe returned to his kit right before the song kicked back in and once it did, it was like a big exclamation mark on the evening. As far as I was concerned, they were killing it up there. I’m not sure how much time they spent practicing or maybe it was a combination of getting back into a groove of when they used to play together, but seeing the two of them on stage again was almost as if Joe had never left the band. It really was a special thing to witness first hand.

During the AGAD set, the thing I noticed the most about the crowd were the number of people that were so filled with excitement, I don’t think they knew what to do with themselves. Not only were fans expressing their feelings with moshing and crowd surfing off and on during the night, I saw many people singing along loudly. I saw many people watching the stage with huge smiles on their faces. I also saw people just literally losing their minds with excitement. Of course, we’ll never know the reason for each person’s reaction. Maybe some never saw Joe play “back in the day,” maybe some never saw Local H live before and maybe some were just happy for the reunion. However, one thing was clearly evident, Local H were giving fans one of the best nights of their life.

There are so many Local H songs that are immediately recognizable by the opening notes and Nothing Special was no exception. Once again, the crowd helped sing along, “What’s wrong with me?” For those that have never seen Local H before, Scott is an interesting person to watch perform. Many times during the night I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what was going on in his mind. There were times he seemed to be lost in the moment, possibly soaking up the very experience the fans were, just from a different point of view. Other times, and usually during the more aggressive songs, he would take on an entirely different demeanor. Regardless, his performance the entire night was from the heart and I’m guessing his emotions in general were running pretty high. I mean, it’s not every day you play with your original drummer again after a 16 year break, let alone two drummers. Contrary to the lyrics Scott was singing, “I know I’m nothing special, I know I’m nothing great,” as a fan and as a witness that night, hearing and watching a good portion of the band’s entire career unfold the way it did, was definitely something special.

The next two songs really had people in a frenzy. Once again, the opening notes of Fritz’s Corner are widely known by many. The guitar tones throughout this song were pretty gnarly. Scott also let the crowd sing by themselves for a couple of the verses. The people on the floor were getting crazy, people around me were jumping up and down and overall, the room was fully alive. Towards the end of the song, someone threw something on stage and Scott yelled that he didn’t want that. “I want your love. I want your f—king energy!” He yelled at the crowd, “Give it to us. Give it to us.” Joe started one of the most famous drum beat combinations in Local H’s history and Scott played along, once again, getting some crazy sounding distortion from his guitar all throughout the song. Again, there was a lot of singing from the crowd during High-Fiving MF and the reaction from everyone was on the highest level of the night. Now, if the night would have ended there, I think everyone would have gone home happy. However, no one had a clue how awesome the rest of the night was going to be.

Scott had Ryan come out and asked for the house lights to come up so he could see the crowd. He joked that the crowd was too good looking and to put the house lights back down. Prior to the show, I wondered what the vibe would be for the song that was played next. Especially now that it was coming on the tail of such an aggressive song. Well, with Ryan on bass, Scott on guitar and Joe on drums, they played a very moving version of O.K. While Scott ended the song with more siren like sounds, Joe had a snare change and held up the replacement snare to show the crowd what he had written on the top, F–K TRUMP. As Scott continued to work his guitar magic leading into the final song of the AGAD set, Ryan continued to play bass and the three of them gave the crowd a stellar version of Manifest Density Pt. 2. The steady beat and groove that Ryan and Joe created was the perfect balance for Scott’s psychedelic guitar trip he was taking everyone on. At close to the nine minute mark, Joe stopped playing and left the stage. A couple minutes after that, Ryan left the stage leaving only Scott on stage. Eventually Scott was kneeling on the stage between his two pedal boards as he created some of the coolest sounding effects that produced an outer space vibe. Honestly, it was a perfect way to end the set.

While everyone waited for an encore, eventually the crowd started to chant, “Local H! Local H!” After a few minutes, and a little past midnight, Scott, Joe and Ryan all walked out on stage. The time had come. Were we going to witness Local H with two drummers? Why yes, yes we were. They wasted no time and got right down to it. While the crowd fully expected to see Joe play songs from As Good As Dead, I don’t think anyone expected to see him play one song from Pack Up the Cats, let alone four songs.

Let me try and paint this picture for you. Ryan Harding stage right, Joe Daniels stage left, Scott Lucas in the middle + All-Right (Oh, Yeah). It was epic! We were witnessing history and it was everything I wanted and more. Based on the crowd reaction, I would say many were thoroughly enjoying it as well. If that wasn’t enough, they continued down Pack Up the Cats memory lane by immediately going into Cha! Said The Kitty. For me, a truly cool moment came during this song due to where I was standing. From my angle, I could see Joe’s profile while he was playing and Ryan was facing me. To watch those two play in unison the way they did was pretty amazing and they made it look like they had been playing together forever. This was a perfect song for two drummers to play simultaneously. After the song was over, the guy next to me turned towards me and said, “That was awesome!” Yes it was.

Scott thanked everyone for coming to the show and for being there through the years. He thanked everyone at Metro and mentioned it was the greatest club in the country, no, in the world. Wait, in the state, no, the greatest club in the city. No, the greatest club over by Wrigleyville. Scott’s got jokes. Scott then had everyone sing happy birthday to an elderly gentleman Metro bartender. They thanked JBTV and Jerry Bryant and the local Chicago radio stations for having them on air during the week leading up to the shows.

Scott told everyone to give it up for Joe Daniels and then Ryan Harding. Scott joked, “It’s a pleasure to be a dick between these two balls.” Considering Scott had labeled this the Two Balls and a Dick Tour, it was even more funny that the guys were wearing different shirts than they had in the main set. Scott had a stick figure penis on his shirt and Joe and Ryan had round smiley faces on theirs. Get it? Ryan jumped in and said, “We wouldn’t be anything without this throbbing gristle in between us. Let’s hear it for Scott.” Scott thanked everyone again for coming to the show and admitted, “Without you, we’re nothing.” Scott asked if everyone had fun and the crowd cheered in response. He mentioned that he had been nervous all night and thanked the crowd for being nice to them because they were making mistakes left and right. To be honest, until he mentioned it, I hadn’t even noticed.

Scott sang, “You heard that we were great, but now you know we’re lame, since you saw the show…” He stopped singing and the crowd finished with, “…last night.” However, Scott changed it to, “…tonight.” As they continued with All The Kids Are Right, I waited for that single line that felt odd every time I had heard it during the past 16 years, “what the hell was wrong with Joe?” Everything felt right again. Scott introduced Gabe again who played tambourine and helped with backing vocals. They immediately went into the fourth and final song in the encore and one final song from Pack Up the Cats. Again, a song with a very familiar intro. A cowbell intro. Scott said, “I got a fever for not just one cowbell, I got a fever for two f–ckin’ cowbells.” Scott encouraged everyone to clap along before the band fully launched into Cool Magnet.

At the end of the song Scott crowd surfed to the back of the venue and then with the help of people on the floor, he proceeded to try and climb up into the balcony. His hands were outstretched but he was just a tad too low to reach. That was until the people in the balcony reached over and pulled him up. Talk about putting a lot of trust in your fans. On stage, Joe introduced his son and together they threw drum sticks into the crowd. Well folks, that was approximately 2-1/2 hours of music, glorious sweet music. The best part, they were going to do it all over again the next night. However, what would the first set and the encore consist of? Would they play some of the same songs? Would both Joe and Ryan play the encore again? Well, it was all that and more.

The entire weekend was professionally filmed by Chicago’s JBTV, with a release date still pending. However, you can pre-order multiple video options here.

The 20th anniversary As Good As Dead tour with Scott Lucas, Ryan Harding and Joe Daniels starts April 29 in Ferndale, MI. Find all dates and ticket links here. If you don’t already have tickets to a show, I highly suggest you get on that before it sells out.

View all photos of Night One here.

Read our review and see photos of Local H’s Saturday acoustic set here and see photos and read our review of night two here.