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Thursday
Jun252015

U2 @ United Center

U2
Where: United Center
When: June 24th, 2015
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

If there is one lesson learned walking away from U2’s opening of a five night stint at the United Center this evening, it’s that U2 is more than just Bono (and his signature sunglasses). Like many monumental rock bands of the last several decades, the frontman often becomes the band to a lot of people.  Until tonight, I was one of those people.  After witnessing U2 perform to an arena the size of the United Center, however, the way the band functions as a unit while still managing to make every person feel like they have a front row seat, is really a sight to behold.  Before this evening, I was more of an old school U2 fan — I grew up with their first few albums and, of course, The Joshua Tree made a huge impact on the music aficionado in me upon its release — but the Innocence + Experience show was immersive and captivating enough to inspire me to really dig into their last ten years’ worth of material.

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Thursday
Jun182015

One Cut, One Life

One Cut, One Life
Directors: Ed Pincus, Lucia Small
Released: May 15th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 of of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After the notable documentarian Ed Pincus was diagnosed with a terminal illness (compounded by other illnesses), he reunited with collaborator Lucia Small (The Axe in the Attic) to create a final first-person nonfiction film, One Cut, One Life.

Told by two different, but not too different, points of view, along with the sporadic disapproval of Ed's wife, Jane, One Cut, One Life offers a grand farewell to one of cinema's most important filmmakers and the wife, friend and filmmaker he left behind.

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Sunday
Jun142015

Rush @ United Center

Rush
Where: United Center
When: June 12th, 2015
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Defying the odds and shattering wrongful expectations that a band like Rush shouldn’t be filling up arenas like the United Center, the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famers delivered an electrifying set to celebrate their 40th year as a band with Neil Peart behind the kit.  There are quite clearly two divisions of Rush fans: those who like their radio hits such as “Tom Sawyer,” “Fly By Night,” and “Closer to the Heart” and those who appreciate their AOR format (Album Oriented Rock).  Rush’s R40 tour caters more to the latter, but there’s no doubt that all fans left the building feeling satisfied.  As someone who’s loved this band for 25 of those 40 years, I’d never seen Rush onstage and I’m still putting pieces of my brain back together from how hard this show absolutely blew my mind.

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Thursday
Jun112015

Pixies @ Metro

Pixies
Where: Metro
When: June 10th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Well, here’s a band to officially cross off the ol’ bucket list.  It may sound snooty, but I’ve held out on seeing the Pixies all these years in hopes that a night like tonight at a venue like the Metro would happen.  When the band comes to town, you can typically catch them at the Riviera or the Aragon…don’t get me wrong, I appreciate these venues.  But who can deny that seeing the Pixies in a Chicago treasure such as the Metro wouldn’t be the ish?  It certainly was quite a treat, but I knew it would be when I was told in my confirmation for our coverage of this show that “for this show, Pixies will pretty much be playing what they want, when they want, so we won’t have an “official” set list at the end of the night.”  That was no joke as the Pixies unleashed a career-spanning massive set of over 25 songs.  One thing is for sure, no one left the Metro unhappy tonight.

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Tuesday
Jun092015

Spy

Spy
Director: Paul Feig
Released: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In her best lead role yet, Melissa McCarthy is Agent Susan Cooper, a computer whiz who gives super support to the best of undercover agents, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), from behind her desk. Susan not only gives the super spy support, she romantically pines for him as well. Bradley loves Susan, too, but in a strictly professional and platonic way. Poor Susan.

As fate would have it, however, Bradley fails in his next mission and it is up to Susan to save the day. On the surface, Susan is not the obvious choice for the mission, but that is what makes her the best choice. Nobody in the criminal world will recognize her.

Starting off her European sojourn, Susan is sent to France, in an attempt to track down the mastermind criminal, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a vicious killer with a nuclear bomb who is not beyond putting people down permanently or with a direct insult to her or his face — mostly Susan's face (and fashion sense).

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Monday
Jun082015

Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth
Director: James Kent
Released: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Set during the days leading up to World War I and through the months following the conclusion of that "war to end all wars," director James Kent and screenwriter Juliette Towhidi's adaptation of Vera Brittain's memoir, Testament of Youth, has its charms, its feminist qualities and its anti-war sentiments, but it is very quaint and adolescent.

Like a heroine straight out of a Jane Austen novel, Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) is a feisty, naturally smart, young woman who wishes to stretch social barriers. Self taught and admirably determined, the haute-bourgeois British Brittain wants to be one of the few women to attend Oxford University. Her father (Dominic Ward) does not understand. He just bought Vera an expensive piano so she can entertain guests. Why can't his daughter just be a shallow, domesticated, pampered woman like her mom (Emily Watson)? Tradition is so much more tolerable.

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Sunday
Jun072015

Karmin w/ Lindsey Stirling @ Chicago Theatre

Karmin w/Lindsey Stirling
Where: Chicago Theatre
When: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

“You’re not untalented, but you’re not good enough to get away with flying through the air and trying to play the violin at the same time.”  Piers Morgan is surely feeling quite salty after witnessing the path to success of former America’s Got Talent quarterfinalist Lindsey Stirling.  Her new album, Shatter Me, just nabbed a Billboard Music Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album and Stirling also won a YouTube Music Award for Artist of the Year.  She’s since been back to perform on the show that helped introduce her to us, so there’s obviously no bad blood.  But 2015 definitely belongs to Lindsey Stirling and her Music Box tour which also currently features the almighty Karmin, who managed to eclipse Stirling’s set with a no frills, musically captivating set of infectiously sweet pop music.

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Thursday
Jun042015

Merchandise @ Subterranean

Merchandise w/Cloakroom and Sorespot
Where: Subterranean
When: June 1st, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed: by: N.J. Gans

Nothing. The first word of the night on everyone’s mind when arriving at the Subterranean. This is simply because the original tour date was booked with Philly-based indie shoegazers, Nothing. Due to an immediate medical emergency, the band had to cancel several tour dates... and that's all I have to say about that.

With Nothing having dropped out, local band Sorespot would get a chance to show their stuff. The young band, who characterize themselves as alternative/dirty rock, opened the show promptly at 8pm to a still filtering in crowd. The quartet seemed a bit uneasy on stage in the beginning but eventually found their groove as their short set continued. Sorespot’s bass-heavy songs featuring male and female vocals offered a balance to their garage sound that could easily be muddied with the two guitars they sport. The local band impressed but showed room for improvement.  Sorespot self released an album this year entitled Teased, Tazed & Kind of Amazed, available online here for those interested.

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Tuesday
Jun022015

Splatoon

Splatoon | WiiU
Released: May 28, 2015
Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Holy shit, Nintendo actually cranked out a new IP (independent property). In the midst of what has been a lackluster era (the 3DS has been selling well, but a successor to the WiiU is already in the works), Nintendo has taken about a billion steps forward by releasing Splatoon. Not only does it get Nintendo out of the self-centered suicide spin of recycling 20-year-old IPs on the constant (due to lack of third party support on the WiiU), it also tears the family friendly company a new loophole that allows it to reinvent and finally join the MMOFPS arena.

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Monday
Jun012015

Refused w/ War on Women @ Double Door

Refused w/War on Women
Where: Double Door
When: May 31st, 2015
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

For most people in the audience tonight, this show helps check off a large entry on the bucket list of bands to see in our lifetime.  A lot of people who found Refused the first time around became almost instantly heartbroken because they disbanded shortly after the release of their landmark album, The Shape of Punk To Come.  It seemed they would never reunite, too, with frontman Dennis Lyxzén not soon after finding a new home fronting The (International) Noise Conspiracy.  While he hasn’t stopped to take a breath from creating music with new projects (also check out INVSN) that have kept him busy in the interim, it seems more fitting than ever that Refused would finally make good on that reunion that happened three years ago.  Our world is in shambles as usual and like all the best politically charged bands of our time, Refused is a band that even in spite of their absence has managed to remain perfectly relevant with a voice that speaks what we all want to say, only a hundred decibels louder.

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