Live: Kaiser Chiefs and The Changes in Chicago


Last Thursday night, Kaiser Chiefs visited Chicago and I have to say, it was sad to see them go. The band stormed the stage at the Double Door, thundered through its hour-long set and left almost as quickly as they arrived.

When I got Kaiser Chiefs’ CD a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about them (don’t get me wrong, the CD is pretty hot, but I’d just written about a slew of other British buzz bands), but after seeing them up close and personal, I was blown away. Lead singer Ricky Wilson’s quirky energy surpassed anything I’ve seen in a long time – even Mick Jagger, who took to this same, intimate venue in 1997, doesn’t hold a candle.

Within minutes of the band hitting the stage, I felt like I finally was getting the opportunity to know what young punks had when bands like the Clash, Sex Pistols and Joy Division hit the scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s [I’d like to disclose that I’m not a punk, never have been, but the raw energy and purity of the music is something I missed growing up in the ‘80s]. It goes beyond Thursday night’s show. America is currently experiencing — excuse the cliché — another British invasion with groups like the Futureheads, Kasabian, Bloc Party and, of course, Kaiser Chiefs.

It seems, however, that one difference is that this time around the focus is solely on the music and not the fuck-it-all-tear-shit-up attitude of the punk and post-punk era. Kaiser Chiefs showed that you can have a great time and still keep things under control — even as Wilson, who hails from Leeds, taunted a fan from Manchester.

With little Stateside airplay and their debut, “Employment,” entering the Billboard Top 100 this week, it was surprising that the room was packed. When the show ended, I could see how word on this band spread so fast.

Kaiser Chiefs’ buzz has permeated the zeitgeist – and a lot of it has to do with their ability to meld post-punk rock with forward thinking keyboard electronics. During their prophetic single “I Predict a Riot,” Wilson climbed aboard a guy’s shoulders and walked through the crowd. Later, he tossed his mic to a group of fans (presumably from England), who gladly finished the song for him.

Before the Chiefs took the stage, my favorite local outfit, the Changes, opened with a slightly troubled (technical issues), but exemplary set. During their 60 minutes, they displayed a musical finesse on par with a young Phish, a sound that’s as much Police as it is the Fall and a banter that rivals Barenaked Ladies. Ok, maybe not as eccentric as the Ladies, but they have fun on stage nonetheless.

The Changes released a great EP in 2003, “First of May,” and put out what they’re calling the “white disc” a few months ago. They’re currently working on pulling together a full length to shop around to labels. Check out their music, especially the track “Her, You and I.”