When I last discussed The Thermals here on Chicago Tunes, I wrote about how disappointed I was in their new record, Personal Life. Sadly, their performance at Logan Square Auditorium Sunday night didn’t do much to change my feelings.
Everything seemed very mundane. I understand life on the road is hard and exhausting, but the way most of the songs were played, it all felt commonplace. As if the energy and fun had been sucked out of the room.
I blame some of this on the sound system at Logan Square. I honestly don’t know which I’m more upset with: a) The Thermals show, or b) this particular building and its claim to be a music venue.
If you’ve never been inside, it’s basically just like Beat Kitchen. One big open room with a stage on one end. Except, at Logan Square, it all seems so makeshift. It’s like having a dance in the school cafeteria. Move out the tables and set up a stage, stack up some speakers on top of one another, and now it’s a concert hall.
Most of the vocals were drowned out by the drums and guitar being turned up too loud, and even those instruments sounded muddy and flat. If I didn’t already know the words to some of the songs, there’s no way I would have been able to make them out. Even on my favorite Thermals tune, “Pillar of Salt,” the best guitar part was almost inaudible due to the poor sound quality.
I know I’m being harsh on a band when a lot of the problem wasn’t their fault, but if the sound is that bad in a place, at least do something to make up for it. Maybe play some songs that don’t usually make the live set, or have some banter with the audience that goes beyond, “Thanks a lot. This one’s called ‘Power Lies.’ ”
Even though the energy was down for the majority of the show, especially when they were playing the new stuff (like the first four or five songs played), they did their best to crank it up for some of the older tracks. “Now We Can See” and “Returning to the Fold” both sounded good, and you could feel the change in power when they played other audience favorites, particularly “When We Were Alive” and “Here’s Your Future.”
Unfortunately that power was not sustained the whole evening. If it had been, this would be a much different review, and I a much different reviewer.
As it stands, The Thermals have now disappointed me twice in a month. It’s hard to come back from that. Especially with me. I still hold a grudge against The Zutons for their album, You Can Do Anything (so much so that I probably won’t listen to their music for at least another year).
I hold out hope for The Thermals, though. As bad as it is right now, I’m convinced that sometime down the line they will find their anger again. They seem fairly complacent today, but there’s no way that can last forever. I just hope it’s sooner than later.
- Check out my review of The Thermals’ Personal Life.
The Thermals performing “Pillar of Salt”
The Thermals performing “Returning to the Fold”
The Thermals performing “Now We Can See”