Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisConsidering the Field Museum is right in the smack dab middle of downtown Chicago- just a few miles from the Smashing Pumpkins' Metro birth place and literally a couple steps away from Zwan's official Museum of Science Industry introduction- it was only fitting to have the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex as part of the institutions' recurring concert series. Dubbed "Play the Field," the event not only connects locals with top-notch musical talent from the city and beyond, but it also allows them to catch it in the unconventional presence of Sue the Dinosaur and the acclaimed exhibit Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years. So when the famed drummer and his solo debut act returned home to promote the freshman effort Life Begins Again, it sure had its perks for Pumpkins and Zwan die-hards. The cultural Mecca also seemed to draw in new listeners as well, perhaps initially reeled in by the attractions with the celebrity factor falling second in line.
Either way Chamberlin, Billy Mohler (vocals, bass) and Sean Woolstenhulme (vocals, guitar) seemed to cater to both crowds, appealing to faithful whose paying attention fervency was equal to a packed club, while leaning more towards background accompaniment for exhibit browsers. In concert, the trio picked a much more cohesive direction than found on the somewhat scattered record- one accused of playing with too many different identities instead of sticking to a definitive style. When presented live, the players pretty much stuck to a jazz-fusion direction, allowing room for additional spontaneity than originally presented and more of a dynamic experience for the listener as opposed to merely popping it in at home or on the road.
"P.S.A." was a perfect example of getting a boost on stage compared to the studio, building off its ethereal, floating feel with a more electric direction. Slicing guitars and prog focused pounding encompassed "Cranes of Prey," while "Love Is Real" swung in a somewhat unpredictable, but heartfelt direction embodying Chamberlin's new attitude. Free flowing lyrics like "I walked outside tonight with the stars as my guide/ Knowing where to go/ It's my heart that tells me so" aptly summarized his post solo goals. However, fans hoping to hear bits and pieces of the Pumpkins/Zwan past were left without their wish, though considering the completely different nature of this material, any oldie insertions would've probably been inappropriate. Yet at least for those followers to get their fix, a handful of stylistic similarities to either act popped up during "Loki Cat," a much more scaled back, melodic pop rendering (ironically sung by Billy Corgan on the album).
Although Life Begins Again can't be wholeheartedly recommended, taking in a Chamberlin concert (especially under these unique circumstances) is certainly worthwhile. And for those that may have missed "Play the Field" this time out, stay tuned to local concert listings and sponsors 93XRT for details on the next installment. It may not be acoustically ideal (considering the museums' lofty rafters) but as long as one stands within the stage's boundaries, they'll make out just fine. As for those stopping by simply for the extracurricular activities, there are plenty of those as well, which can be investigated further at www.fieldmuseum.org.
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