During their Circles Around the Sun tour, Dispatch stopped in Chicago for a two-night run at the Riviera, on Oct. 2 and 3. The folk-pop group Good Old War accompanied them in what seemed like an odd match-up at first, but proved to be a perfect fit. Both bands enjoyed themselves on stage, were engaged with the audience, and put on a spectacular performance.
Good Old War kicked off the show with its unique, eccentric energy. Frontman Keith Goodwin entered with a casual “Wazzup?” to the crowd before the band started in on “Looking for Shelter,” a typical Good Old War track featuring upbeat guitar plucking and a sing-along melody.
An odd talent of the Philadelphia-based group is the ability to explore depressing topics to the backdrop of lighthearted instrumentation. The dichotomy was even more pronounced live, thanks to the addition of the band’s endearingly awkward dance moves. During instrumental segments, Goodwin bobbed and swung his arms while guitarist Dan Schwartz shuffled onstage with commendable enthusiasm. They were (hopefully) aware of how bad their moves were, but seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, making them extremely fun to watch.
The silliness didn’t detract from the overall quality of the performance, though. Good Old War executed its signature harmonies extremely well, creating a natural, full-bodied sound that resonated with the audience. By the end of the set, catchy tracks like “Calling Me Names” and “Better Weather” from the group’s newest album had charmed the crowd, who were clapping along and indulging in some bad dancing themselves.
However, this was nothing compared to the pandemonium that took place when Dispatch hit the stage.
Dispatch is best known for its live performances. In fact, it broke the record for the largest crowd for an unsigned band when it performed a final goodbye concert in 2004, so it was no surprise that the hipster-chic twenty-somethings at The Riviera in Chicago arrived ready to be amazed. Dispatch took the stage to uproarious applause as blue and white lights combed over the frantic crowd, illuminating a light fog of what was likely marijuana smoke.
To open the set, the three-piece group swelled its ranks with two drummers and a ukulele player to perform the frenzied, ultra-ska track “Bats In The Belfry.” The most notable moment in the opening song was a surprisingly epic bongo solo. Dispatch had the ecstatic audience in the palm of their hand.
At first, the performance was rather typical: die-hard fans swarmed the stage and were pleased by every word out of Dispatch’s mouth or every riff that spilled from their fingertips, so the fact that the bassist played with no discernible enthusiasm and the other members had hardly more energy went unnoticed. They seemed the epitome of big name, disconnected players. Further into the set, however, the band showed off more of their playful side, as well as their impressive multi-instrumental abilities, in the end putting on a truly memorable show.
In the new, bluesy ballad “Josaphine,” one of the rare tender moments in the show, guitarist/vocalist Chad Urmston sang wonderfully. Good Old War added their voices, creating a full-bodied harmony that was positively chilling.
The majority of the set, though, featured the quintessential Dispatch. The powerful guitar solos, call-and-response with the crowd, and wide range of instruments proved the band’s expertise at getting an audience on their feet. Their energy peaked just before the encore.
“We’ve spent most of our time on a bus … We need to get out of our cage,” drummer/vocalist Brad Corrigan told the crowd before performing “Elias.” The performance that ensued was perhaps the most genuinely dynamic out of the entire show.
Corrigan danced an unusual mix of square dancing and thrash before pouncing on his bongo set for a vigorous solo. Dispatch took a break in the middle of the track to address the audience. Urmston jokingly explained that Corrigan has been practicing dancing at high altitudes, so “when we get down here to lake level, you can’t stop him,” as proved by the drummer’s constant thrashing during the speech. Then, suddenly, round two of “Elias” began and the track was finished with incredible energy.
During the few minutes between the “final” track and encore, Riviera’s colossal, domed interior resonated with cheers and wolf whistles that never died down, but instead swelled to epic proportions when the members of Dispatch playfully crept back onstage to bring the show home.
The closing track, “Mission,” was skillfully played, featured a rousing chorus, and ended with the two guitarists playing solos in epic power stances. It was the perfect finale for such an energetic show, and once again highlighted their ability to rile up a crowd.
Dispatch’s track record sets the bar high for any live performance. Fans came expecting the best, and Dispatch didn’t disappoint, performing with the talent and showmanship that ultimately define them.
Dispatch at The Riviera on Oct. 3, 2012 setlist:
- “Bats in the Belfry”
- “Broken American”
- “Circles Around the Sun”
- “Bang Bang”
- “Sign of the Times”
- “Two Coins”
- “We Hold a Gun”
- “The General”
- “Get Ready Boy”
- “Flying Horses”
- “Feels So Good”
- “Here We Go”