Concert Review: Local H (December 18, 2001, Chicago, IL)

As with every Local H show, a hard-rock earnestness is guaranteed. The Metro free show proved no different.

Local H has made 3 stops in the Chicago area during its “Six Ways To Sunday” tour as a prelude to the Feb. 5 release of Here Comes the Zoo, their 4th album and first with the new Palm Pictures label. As a nice surprise to fans, 2 Chicago radio stations were giving out pairs of tickets for a surprise gig December 18 at the Metro, intended as a thank you for the club’s staff.

Luckily, I won one of the 40 pairs given to Q101 after Scott Lucas called the radio station himself to make the announcement. Lucas is touring with drummer Brian St. Clair (Triple Fast Action), who will make his first appearance on a Local H record for the upcoming release, and Greg Suran (Cupcakes) on lead guitar. St. Clair replaces original Local H drummer Joe Daniels.

Doors opened at 7:30pm and those in line had to specify what radio station they won tickets from or if they were part of the Chicago band’s street team before allowed entry into the club.

Without opening acts, Local H took the stage about a quarter after 8pm to a half-empty club. They stuck close to the sets from Otto’s and Penny Road Pub just weeks before (except that second night at Penny Road Pub when the “Gorilla God” became angry and began performing Tom Petty songs). Donned in his sweat suit gorilla costume minus the gorilla head, Lucas kicked off the set with “Half-Life,” the first single on the new album. Lucas played the hard-knock riff alongside St. Clair’s incessant thumping on drums and Suran’s short but sweet solo and more-than-adequate backing vocals. Ex-manager Gabe Rodriguez and a couple or roadies also provided some backup vocals throughout the set.

Local H also showcased “Son of Cha!,” “Keep Your Girlfriend Away From Me,” and “Hands On The Bible” from the new album. “Keep Your Girlfriend” is probably the most radio-friendly with its infectious melody, recalling “Eddie Vedder.” Reaching a vigor, the boys sang “I will, I will, I will” for the refrain. “Hands on the Bible” took on anthemic proportions as the song slowly builds. Minor hits such as “All-Right (Oh, Yeah)” and “Fritz’s Corner” also rocked the house.

The Nirvana-like “Feed” early in the set and “Back in The Day,” the last song of the first set, carried the frenetic fury that Local H has built their reputation on. “Cool Magnet” and “High-Fiving MF” have become highlights of their live show, and Local H did not disappoint. “Bound to the Floor” garnered a bona fide hit and attention, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean Local H has crossed over as the Smashing Pumpkins, the Creeds, and Stainds all have.

Though Lucas grunted in disdain at an early suggestion of playing a Christmas song, the band performed “Run Run Rudolph” as the first song of the encore. Perhaps, Lucas is not a Scrooge after all. If anything, his sardonic sense of humor would imply otherwise.

It also was the first time I have seen Suran attempt some jokes. Q101’s Freak jumped on stage for a few himself. It was funny hearing the audience berate Freak’s jokes, although they were far superior to Suran’s not-so-existant jokes (which may have been what was so charming about them). Lucas and Suran seemed giddier than usual with friendly bumping in a clumsy manner, while St. Clair seemed his straightforward no-bullshit self. Though it was hard to tell how serious he was, Lucas admitted they had the worst week in months because of all the radio station visits without live shows, which is obviously what Local H is all about.

At one point, Lucas’ strap-on, a device to make his guitar cordless, had fallen off. Impatient with it, he took some duct tape to his electric. Though the club was filled more substantially than just an hour before, Lucas still felt free enough to play guitar out in the audience, at the bar and even upstairs for minutes on end.

During the encore, the band eased into a staple of the “Six Ways To Sunday” tour: Iggy Pop’s “Success.” Fitting for the ’80s “Pop (or pop) song,” as Lucas called it, considering the lyrics: “Here comes my face (here comes my face)/Out of the crowd (out of the crowd)/Sweetheart, I’m telling you (sweetheart, I’m telling you)/Here comes the zoo (here comes the zoo).” I am curious as to why Lucas decided to make this song a theme for their new album. Compared to other recent shows from the band, Lucas did not improvise as much with Iggy Pop’s lyrics. At Penny Road Pub, for instance, he implied a drug habit worth up to “$120” a day.

For the last song, Suran helped the somewhat-dazed Lucas strip from his gorilla costume before he began throwing the guitar at the amp for some mean swirling feedback for “High-Fiving MF.” Since it wasn’t a packed house, the audience was not as responsive and the boys goofed off a bit more than usual, but it was a relief from the sardine-packed full house of most Local H shows.

Lucas admitted to being drunk among other things and that might account for his behavior following the set. While in fetal position and the vocal effects turned high, Lucas screamed or yelled into the microphone for about 15 minutes straight. It made for a strange and not-so-mystical ending to a rather couth set. A few fans even began plugging their ears from the horrific noise.

As with every Local H show, a hard-rock earnestness is guaranteed. The Metro free show proved no different.

Written by Gala M. Pierce.

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