The first time I saw The Futureheads they were headlining a gig at the small, hipper-than-thou venue known as the Empty Bottle. They were still on StarTime International Records and their self-titled debut album was just starting to catch on in cool kid land. In a blistering 40-minute set, the band ran through basically every song on their album and literally wowed a crowd that wasn't quite sure what to expect going in. It was then that I knew for sure that this band was... what's the cliche?... "goin' places". Somewhere between Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Clash and The Beatles, The Futureheads seem to have found the perfect blend of rock & roll influences to mesh with their own youthful innovation. Last Friday, the band returned to Chicago in triumphant fashion. Having made the leap to a major label, the band was now headlining one of the city's most storied music venues, The Metro... but that wasn't all.
For the past couple of weeks, flyers have been getting passed around at all the good shows that promoted a Futureheads acoustic performance just a few hours before the band was to take the stage at the Metro. Acoustic performance? In a cross-promotion with Swatch, fans were asked to visit a Swatch store to get a free ticket to the acoustic show, which was held at the new Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Ave. Not quite sure what to expect, I walked into the Hard Rock to find their swanky lobby bar converted into a TRL look alike set, complete with the band set up in a large window, a lighting rig, and a half-moon couch set up so that adoring fans could be comfortable while they enjoyed the acoustic rock & roll of The Futureheads. After hitting the bar for two vodka drinks that set me back 19 dollars (ugh), I settled in as the band was taking the "stage". The small hotel bar was packed for the occasion and members of The Get Up Kids, who were in town the night before for a show at Metro, even showed up to see the action.
Immediately showing just how much they enjoy the spotlight, the four lads from Sunderland, England, took every opportunity to chat it up in full Beatle-esque fashion. It wasn't necessarily what they were saying (because I honestly had a hard time deciphering their "English"), but their bubbly British guy personalities got multiple laughs from the crowd over the course of the show. Oh, except the drummer, Pete Brewis. Armed with only one drum and a fancy European suit, he said nothing over the course of the performance, except "Cheers" a few times when people where clapping.
The Futureheads exude confidence and with good reason. With two acoustic guitars, a bass and a single drum, they kicked out 40 minutes worth of reworked versions of their tunes. Their four part harmonies were spot on the entire time, and for me, that was the highlight of the show. I appreciated their harmonies in an electric setting, but they get buried a bit in the mix. With nothing to get in the way, their vocals were out front and center and showed just how talented this band truly is. Go listen to "Hounds Of Love" and tell me that wouldn't be hard as hell to pull off in an acoustic setting.
The show ended as it began - with resounding applause. It was a great one-off event and a nice change of pace to the typical pre-Metro-show hang out, which usually involves sitting at the GingerMan next door and drinking beers for an hour with all the industry folk, waiting until the very last minute to make the journey 100 feet down the block.