Christopher Owens, the former head of a perennial favorite band here at FPT, Girls, stepped away from the group in July of 2012. At that time, he promised his listeners two things: that he would continue making music, and that he would never be in a band again.
On Tuesday, January 15, 2013, a new chapter in his life and career began, as he began a tour in Chicago to support his first solo album, Lysandre, released that day via Fat Possum/Turnstile (read my review of the album, here). The album serves as a story, Owens' story, of his rise to fame from a troublesome childhood, to travelling to France with his band Girls, as well as a story of boy-meets-girl(-named-Lysandre).
I would like to say outright that the show was fantastic. Owens travels with a 7-piece band, complete with a flutist, saxophonist, and female background singers. For those in the audience who had heard the record before, Owens' set was only there to enforce the fact the album is clearly meant to be taken as a whole; meant to be listened to as a story with common themes and elements throughout. The fact that Owens decided to tour with a full 7-piece band was undoubtedly the right decision for what he's trying to accomplish with the next stage in his career as a solo artist. As he describes in a Pitchfork interview, Owens was approached by people (assumedly in his management, record label, etc.) and told that if he toured with a smaller band, he could stand to make "a few thousand dollars." His response?
"'Fuck the few thousand dollars.' That's a conscious decision. I'm building my legacy and making my dreams come true. What else is there? I don't want a new car."
It takes a lot of guts to do that and say these things, but it is clearly the right thing to do. To leave out specific parts of that album's music would have been like creating a landscape painting without the color blue; elements would have been left out. It's a relief to see/hear a musician live that actually cares about the music being played. Will the sets be the same throughout the tour? Sure. But it's important to remember that this is exactly what Christopher Owens wants.
It goes without saying that he played Lysandre straight through. Owens talked very little in between each song, letting the music speak for him (note: I had never seen Girls before their disbandment, but Owens does not strike me as a "gabber" on stage); there was the occasional sign of gratitude for those of us who came out.
The crowd seemed a little surprised, if not foolishly disappointed, at the material covered in the show. There were no Girls songs played, and the encore was strictly covers. Even if I hadn't known this was going to be the case going in to the show, I would have been extremely pleased with what I had seen. I was able to connect to the songs in a whole new way, as every song was played almost flawlessly with each instrumentation in tact. "New York City", "Here We Go Again", "Riviera Rock" and "Part of Me (Lysandre's Epilogue)" all were played majestically.
The encore, as mentioned, comprised of covers. As each song began, you could feel the audience smile collectively (some even chuckled) as their familiarity with the music hit them.
Overall, the show was a great success. I'm sure the audiences will become a little more welcoming as the tour rolls along and the general listener will be able to become more familiar with Lysandre as an album, and the notion that Owens is ready to leave Girls' music behind... at least for now.
To see more photos from the show check out the Flickr Photoset here
(all photography by Kellen Nordstrom)