Bush @ The Rivera Theater

Show Review: [email protected] Rivera Theater – Friday, February 13th 2015

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Friday the 13th is supposed to be scary and unlucky, not hot n’ sexy.  Apparently, Jason Voorhees never met Gavin Rossdale.

The Rivera theater is full of people almost exactly my age when I enter at about 9pm, and with good reason.  90s legends Bush are performing tonight.  Although it is just another of a string of freezing cold nights in Chicago, “The Riv” is hot as balls.  I go to check my coat… no dice.  It looks at though I’ll be standing all evening in a big winter jacket and Timberlands, which is quite fitting for a dude who dressed quite similarly in the 90s.

The temperature isn’t the only steamy element, however, as Bush take the stage.  Gavin Rossdale, much like Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in Pulp Fiction, is a bad motherfucker.  He takes the stage in an impossibly cool , European motorcycle jacket before revealing a sleeveless shirt and Allen Iverson-esque compression sleeve.  Although homeboy is pushing 50, he’s the fittest guy in the building.  His voice is raw and genuine, his guitar playing creative and surprisingly agile.  The only other surviving original member, Robin Goodridge, is also in great form.  The trademark Bush sound is most alive in his drumming without question and his energy is absolutely contagious.  The replacement guitar and bass players are precisely just that, not deviating from the formula and staying the fuck out of Gavin’s way.

Bush open with “The Sound of Winter”, which is not a song I know.  I should admit at this point that I only know Bush’s first four albums (mostly the first two), so a good portion of the setlist is new to me.  Judging by the crowd response, most notably the three drunk people I am standing near, I am not alone.  Bush hit all the songs they can’t afford to miss.  The opening chords of “Everything Zen” whip the crowd into a frenzy.  Greedy Fly” follows and has everyone officially back in middle school. 

Girlfriends are kissing boyfriends, friends are screaming lyrics at each other, people falling all over each other like they just had their first beer.  The Chemicals Between Us”, “Swallowed”, and “Little Things” are all knockouts in a great set that spans Bush’s full catalog.

Gavin Rossdale puts on a hell of a show.  Jumping all over the stage, into the crowd, and even up into the balcony just feet away from me, the dude is the prototype for a rock n’ roll frontman.  As he ascends the rows of the upper balcony, girls shriek and a few even hug him.  One won’t let go until a security guard pries her off him.  Rather than get weirded out, Gavin simply smiles at her and all the other fans he encounters with genuine affection like he isn’t married to Gwen Stefani or something.  It’s not that I expected him to be a dick, but his warm disposition as he gushes about how lucky he feels to play in Chicago with its rich music history, for example, is very endearing.  For god’s sake, the man is David Beckham with a guitar!

Machinehead” opens the encore and nearly has the roof coming down.  Its by far their strongest song of the evening and it’s obvious the lads have everyone time traveling back to the days of MJ winning Championship rings.  Once in a Lifetime”, a great, unexpected Talking Heads cover turns the energy into a dance party.  Although I couldn’t imagine Gavin singing David Byre, he pulls off the feat nicely.  Next came the highlight of the evening: Gavin, alone with his guitar, audibly emoting through a gut-wrenching version of “Glycerine”.  I somehow run down from the balcony and onto the floor about ten feet from the stage just before the opening chords, and the energy is incredible.  Everyone is focused on every word.  It is truly a beautiful moment between an artist and an intimate crowd.  Then, I’m back up with the hooligans in the balcony for “Comedown” which closes the night.  As Gavin repeats “I don’t wanna come back down from this cloud” the crowd follows in earnest.  The energy is at its warmest.  Bush do an incredible job of turning their set into a wonderful emotional arc of an evening.  I’m really not one for nostalgia, but even I am having “I love you man” moments with my friends.

As I watch my brother and sister wait in the coat check line for 45 minutes after the show, I notice that no one seems bent out of shape about it.  Rather than half-in-the-bag late 20/early 30-year-olds, the crowd hangs around the lobby like tweens waiting to be picked up from a dance.  People are giving piggy back rides and chugging beers like they’re about to try to close the deal at prom.  Although I will tragically lose a sweet Nike glove on my way out of “The Riv”, everyone seems in agreement, this was a pretty lucky Friday the 13th.

Written by Fusion Alternative Blogger: Jason Polakowski