With summer coming to an end and the cool breeze of autumn beginning to take over, concerts in Chicago are starting to migrate indoors. Ahead of their lasted album release, Natural Affairs, The Growlers took to the city’s North-side for a special, two-night performance at The Metro. Down a block from the Cubs’ legendary Wrigley Field, the heart of Wrigleyville was pumping with energy as fans eagerly waited outside the venue.
Once inside, passing The Metro’s gift store and walking up the black and white stairs, the venue reveals its wonderful glory. Seeing the main bar full of people trying to get a drink, I headed towards the upper deck. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky few granted a chair and small table while everyone else stood throughout the night. Looking onward the base of the stage was covered in a layer of fog with a huge grey billboard saying “The Growlers” in crimson red. Peaking over the edge, the main floor was packed shoulder-to-shoulder from the stage to the bar. Others made their way to the balcony tussling over a decent view. The crowd grew restless as they waited over an hour. But all was forgiven as fans burst with enthusiasm when the band took to the stage.
The Growlers wasted no time, right away the guitarists and bassist threw the straps over their shoulders and drummer (Scott Montoya) clicked his sticks together to kickstart with “Heaven in Hell.” Using the instrumental opening as an entrance, Brooks Nielson causally waltzed his way to the microphone. Draped in a blue overcoat and Chuck Taylors, Nielson took control of the rowdy crowd. The mellow vibes of “Naked Kids” kept the crowd relaxed as they swayed side-to-side. Once his vocal cords were all warmed up, Nielson took off his coat exposing a red bowling polo. The echoing waves of pedal effects blended well with the green strobe lights as the band performed “One Million Lovers.” The Growlers continued their romantic poetry with the bittersweet song “Black Memories” giving the couples an opportunity to reconfirm their devotion to each another.
Being on tour promoting their new album, The Growlers performed the title track “Natural Affair” and recently released single, “Foghorn Town” back-to-back. Right after that, they did a funkier rendition of their hit song “Empty Bones.” The cowboy-reggae song had less reverberation than usual giving it an upbeat tempo. Bright red lights engulfed the band as fans clapped in unison singing along to the chorus. During “City Club” Nielson awkwardly strut across the stage shaking hands with fans. One avid follower handed the vocalist a small plastic rose. Grasping it tightly, Nielson affectionately danced backward with the item before guitarist Kyle Straka grabbed it with his teeth for his solo. The band played for well over an hour and a half. Yet yearned for more screaming the typical chant, “one more song!” The Growlers were happy to oblige. For the encore they performed “I’ll Be Around” and “Going Gets Tuff.” While squatting down and lighting up a cigarette Nielson joked, “ You don’t know if you’re too tired or too drunk. Especially when you’re too old.”