Christopher Owens live in Chicago
- By Killian Young -
- Jan 18, 2013
Christopher Owens, with a Godin semi-acoustic guitar cradled in his lap, sat onstage. The start of a five o’clock shadow was visible on his chin. With dark circles accentuating his piercing, blue eyes, Owens stared at the crowd. Showtime.
For the night, Owens played the bard, telling a tale of love and loss from his new album, ‘Lysandre.’ Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, a decidedly intimate venue, contributed to the theatrical feel of the show - the first for the former Girls vocalist since his solo album dropped.
Owens started the show with 'Lysandre’s Theme' which featured talented multi-instrumentalist Vince Meghrouni keying the track on the flute. (Meghrouni played the flute, saxophone and harmonica throughout the show.) The endearing riff appeared at the end of multiple tracks but was played on different instruments, and served to tie the performance together, like small indicators of acts ending. ‘Lysandre’ operates as a concept album, which Owens explained in detail on his website. The story meanders through Owens’ time with Girls, as well as his romance with a woman named Lysandre. Owens played the album in order of the track listing, which added to the artistic effect of the music. Along with Meghrouni, the two supporting vocalists, Hannah Hunt and Cally Robertson, and the keyboardist, Matthew Kallman, helped give the performance a jazzy, spacey feel. (In addition to Owens, a total of seven members performed in the touring band.)
Like most love stories, there were lows and highs. There were times when Owens’ furrowed brow revealed a pained sense of pouring out his heart to the crowd; there were times when Owens sprung from his seat and jammed to the upbeat tracks. All the while, Owens maintained an enigmatic presence, as he uttered no more than a few words to the crowd during the entire show. Although he barely spoke, Owens managed to mesmerize the rapt audience members, who politely clapped after each song, seemingly afraid any rowdiness might crack the fourth wall.
Before Owens started to play 'Love Is in the Ear of the Listener' a person in the crowd yelled, “You’re great!” A frustrated look briefly flickered across Owens’ face as if to ask, Who let the groundlings into the show? The lyrics of the track fittingly reflected Owens’ self-doubts as an artist: “What if I’m just a bad songwriter/And everything I say has been said before? … What if I’m lousy up on the stage/And everybody watching is rolling their eyes?”
However, Owens’ desire to succeed after Girls shined brightly through his lyrics and his stage presence. He played through both the whimsical tracks, like 'Here We Go Again' (“So don’t try to get me down/Don’t try to harsh my mellow, man”) and the bittersweet tracks, like 'Everywhere You Knew' (“I knew that even if my plane went down/I’d be just fine if I was thinking about/Falling in love with you on the first tour with my band”). Owens performed for only 29 minutes, which closely matches how long ‘Lysandre’ runs, before he exited.
After the crowd grew loud, Owens and his band returned for a five-song encore comprised entirely of cover songs. This included a solid cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s 'The Boxer' and a cover of Bob Dylan’s 'Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright', the final song. Although Dylan released 'Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright' nearly 50 years ago, it wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Lysandre,’ especially with Dylan’s lyrics: “Look out your window, and I’ll be gone/You’re the reason I’m traveling on.”
At the end, Owens broke the fourth wall as he passed out red and white roses to members of the audience. Owens flashed a small smile, took a curt bow, and gave a quick wave to his fans before disappearing backstage. With Owens’ blessing, the fans seemed to simultaneously experience a collective wave of euphoria, with people deeply inhaling the smell of their roses. In one of the more bizarre actions in the aftermath of the show, one man grabbed the flower vase off the stage and proceeded to drink a hearty gulp of the rose water. If Owens sought to invoke strong emotions through his story, it looked like he succeeded.
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