Concert Review – Vintage Trouble at The Park West [Chicago, IL]

This review is from their show on October 4, 2014, and was originally published on October 14 of that year.

There are few instances where a live performance exceeds the pre-concert hype. Often, anticipation from a dedicated group of hard core fans tends to amp up pre-event intensity to heights that are nearly impossible to attain. Social media is our word-of-mouth hype machine, and Facebook groups populated with like-minded individuals often push the excitement for their beloved bands into rarified air, an emotion-driven phenomenon that seems almost unfathomable to an outsider.

Saturday was my first Vintage Trouble concert, and though I was intimately familiar with their music, I was unprepared for the spectacle that was their show at the Park West on October 4, despite all the pre-game hype. In this instance, the band was so much more than advertised, and the Vintage Trouble provided an intense, kinetic, and enveloping two-hour show that genuinely exceeded its touted buildup.

Because this was my first VT show I wanted to go in a “virgin” (the band’s followers, known as Troublemakers, call all newbie Vintage Trouble attendees virgins), and with no preconceived notions, so though I was aware that live performance video from previous shows and television appearances existed online, I made a concerted effort to avoid viewing that content. I asked a few people to describe what a Vintage Trouble concert is like, and nobody could give me a defining answer. Here is my best attempt. Imagine being able to see Wilson Pickett at the height of his popularity, but instead of having his backing R&B ensemble, picture Pickett playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. 

The concert consisted of three acts with a two-song encore, sandwiching an acoustic set between two energetic bookends. Their opening set was everything I was told it would be and more: a band with a huge sound that was equal parts southern soul and vintage rock and roll, with all the raucous fervor and firepower of the legendary early ’60s Atlantic Records catalog. Vintage Trouble offers charisma and swagger on stage. They are an incredibly talented band, but there is also an honesty to their performance. The band is as dedicated to their fans as their fans are to them. Highlights of the first set were Still & Always Will and the audience participation number Pelvis Pusher.

Lead singer Ty Taylor is a throwback, a combination of any number of similar Stax-like front men that includes James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Sam Moore. He’s a galvanizing performer with limitless dynamism, a soulful ball of fire that works most comfortably on the uptempo wailers.

Vocally, Taylor stays locked in, never off key or in winded battle despite exuding a tremendous amount of intensity in his performance. Vintage Trouble is a band that plays raw but feels immediate and polished, and Taylor captures that essence with tough, swaggering singing that accentuates the accompanying arrangement. Taylor’s stage presence often steals the show, and it’s easy to get lost in the dance moves, the stage theatrics, the hollers, and the extended shouts, but make no mistake, he is a legitimate vocalist, and comparisons to Redding are certainly well-founded. 

On the second part of the show the band grabbed some stools and did a four-song acoustic set in support of their Swing House Acoustic Sessions EP. The interlude included GracefullyNever MineAnother Man’s Words, and Blues Hand Me Down. In slowing down the tempo, Taylor was able to leverage intimate musical moments with a spirited band-audience rapport. That type of charismatic call-response shows a respectful confidence in the audience. It’s easy to feel like these guys are your good friends even while they’re on stage performing.

The band kicked it up for a more audacious assault on the third set. I’ll go right to the highlight, which was the song Run Outta You. The guitar/vocal interplay between Taylor and guitarist Nalle Colt on this song can best be described as ‘arresting frenzy.’ It’s addiction and salvation rolled up into one song, a soulful, gospel, rock and roll experience that feels like a religious experience of sorts. Nalle Colt’s guitar was fiery, powerful, and emotionally direct, and the song burns.

The show was fascinating to experience and typical of how a band should add new fans: using a dominating performance to fully connect. For most of the night, Vintage Trouble was legitimately transcendent. In fact, the four-song span starting with Low Down Dirty Dog (featuring Papa Ray on the harp) and ending with Run Outta You was so good it made the band’s encore almost anticlimactic. I am a new fan.

Set List

— First Set —
High Times
Total Strangers
Still & Always Will
Nancy Lee
Pelvis Pusher

— Acoustic Set —
Gracefully
Never Mine
Another Man’s Words
Blues Hand Me Down

— Third Set —
Get It
Low Down Dirty Dog (featuring Papa Ray)
Strike Your Light
Run Outta You
Run Like The River

— Encore —
Blues Hand Me Down
Nobody Told Me

Published by Michael Canter

I love music, particularly indie music. It's a bittersweet affair that has been equally fun and soul-crushing, but I couldn't live without it. Personally, I'm a Deadhead, but my passion for all music styles is unparalleled. If I like you I will let you call me Mickey. If you look hard enough, you'll find me at SXSW every year.

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