Though the politics of
booking artists remains controversial, and the self-promotional aspects can
become annoying, multiband radio festivals such as alternative-rocker Q101's
seasonal shindigs remain some of the best bargains on the concert scene.
It was disappointing that the station failed to host its annual Jamboree
this summer; the official reason was competition from the revitalized
Lollapalooza, but a moribund modern-rock scene seemed to have just as much
to do with it. But Q101 came back strong with its 10th annual Twisted
Christmas concert, which took place at the Allstate Arena on Saturday.
True, each of the five acts had played their own headlining shows in
Chicago within the last few months. But seeing all of those shows would have
cost much more than the $35 ticket to Q101's holiday soiree. (And still,
despite the reasonable cost for such a wide sampler of current sounds, there
were a surprising number of empty seats in the arena's upper tiers.)
The show kicked off with California's hard-core punk revivalists A.F.I.
The group, whose acronym stands for A Fire Inside, has been active for about
a decade, but it made a major leap into the mainstream (and onto the Q101
play list) last spring with the release of its major label debut, "Sing the
Sorrow," which was produced by Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins,
Underground punks tend to dismiss the group as Misfits wannabes, and the
album is more or less forgettable. But the group's set sped by in a blur of
sweat and energy on Saturday.
In contrast, Chris Carrabba and Dashboard Confessional fare better on
album than onstage -- or at least on a stage as big as the Allstate Arena's.
Their earnest, hyper-romantic, gently lilting emo/indie-rock was a bit too
willowy to hold up to the boomy acoustics, until the last two songs of the
set, the back to back hits "Rapid Hope Loss" and "Hands Down."
In fact, muddy sound was a problem throughout the night, but the group
that suffered the most was 311.
The most accomplished and ambitious musicians on the bill, the Nebraska
natives' mix of dub-reggae and hip-hop rhythms and anthemic alternative-rock
choruses was derailed twice during their 45-minute set when the wireless
sound system supporting the vocals and the guitars crashed (the fault of the
hired sound company, not the band).
Nick Hexum and his bandmates bravely soldiered on after the breaks (one
of them about 10 minutes long) when other groups might have simply given up.
They salvaged their performance through the strength of their undeniable
grooves, whether in the form of their older rap-rock material or the newer,
mellower sounds of their last album, "Evolver."
The nadir of the evening was the penultimate act, Korn.
A former Q101 program director once dubbed this group "the king of the
Cookie Monster bands," referring to the guttural, barked sounds of
skirt-wearing, bagpipes-playing vocalist Jonathan Davis. While its
popularity has dipped somewhat with its last release, "Take A Look in the
Mirror," Korn's success remains inexplicable: The group is utterly devoid of
melody, interesting rhythms, engaging sonic textures or genuine emotion.
At the Allstate Arena, Davis and his bandmates made the mistake of
projecting selected phrases from their (otherwise indecipherable) lyrics on
a giant video screen. The utter inanity of their angst-ridden, tortured-soul
whining only underscored how thoroughly vapid and banal their music is.
Closing out the night, alternative pioneers Jane's Addiction played a
much simpler and more straightforward set than it did at previous stops in
Chicago, eschewing the elaborate stage props and many of the theatrics that
marked its Lollapalooza performance and simply focusing on the music.
Perry Farrell, the perpetually bare-chested Dave Navarro, master drummer
Stephen Perkins and new bassist Chris Chaney also offered a more satisfying
mix of classic tracks and new material from their 2003 reunion album,
"Strays," finally delivering on the promise that this wonderfully complex,
psychedelic and sexy band is indeed dedicated to moving forward instead of
simply rehashing past glories.