Throughout the course of Ours’ set at Ultra Lounge in Chicago on Thursday Gnecco treated his time on stage like a gymnast would treat the overall competition. He bounded, swooped, soared, and above all, was fearless in his performance. Unlike the games overseas, there are no points and no scores. The only judges were the 100 people crammed into the small back room of the venue.
Speaking to Gnecco’s discipline, he clearly doesn’t mind making his fans suffer a bit, as he made sure the air conditioning was turned off to avoid drying out his voice.
While a few casual fans didn’t last long with these rules in place, the diehard Ours fans seemed to understand if not willingly sacrifice their comfort for the good of the live show.
“Well it wouldn’t be an Ours show if it wasn’t 300 degrees in here,” Gnecco said after finishing popular song “Miseryhead,” which references crowds and excessive temperatures. “We’ll get the AC on in a bit, let me just make sure my voice is feeling good enough,” he said in a long and candid conversation with the audience.
photo courtesy of Adam Powers.
The first two songs of the set started to show the depths and prowess of Gnecco’s pipes. Whatever training he has done to get himself into Olympic shape is working, as there was seemingly nothing he couldn’t accomplish. Let’s go to the boards. In the falsetto category, a 10, as he balanced the intense moments and flares of energy with light, smooth tones sailing just above the instruments. In the full range event, a 10, as he sank to a low baritone only to jump what had to be a clear three-and-a-half octaves in the chorus.
In the screaming event, another 10. A clear master of his voice, Gnecco pushes his vocal cords to the brink with some throat torching yells that would leave lesser vocalists out of the game for days.
While it did seem like the Jimmy Gnecco show, complete with his slightly delayed entrance from the rest of the band, it is important to mention that the rest of Ours were no fourth place finishers. The four other members were supremely tight. It was a shame they played such a small venue where the sound system could barely keep up with them, because the band would have fit right at home at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall or the Metro.
Set highlights for Ours were “Miseryhead,” “Sometimes” and a few new songs, pending availability on an upcoming album funded by fans.
“Working with labels,” Gnecco said to the crowd, “everything takes too long. We have too much music to get out there for you, but now we’re doing it on our own. We can’t keep waiting because we’re getting older, and I don’t know how many more years I can sing like this.”
Chicago locals, Model Stranger opened for Ours with a brief but inspired set. Singer-guitarist Stephen Francis, a long-time fan of Gnecco, played to impress. Luckily, many more were in the crowd to be impressed by Model Stranger’s tight playing and excellent song writing. After opening with crowd pleaser (and typical show closer) “Monster,” Francis introduced his band, explaining that they added a few members for this performance.
J.B. Schiller filled in for Model Stranger’s drummer, Vincent Joseph, adding a new but welcome dynamic to the songs. “J.B. only had three rehearsals to learn these songs, and he’s doing a good job so far,” Francis said, tipping his head to the back of the stage.
This was without a doubt one of the band’s strongest performances in Chicago. Model Stranger played its songs with a renewed fervor. Highlights included “Fire, Fire” and “Dreams and Bones” off of the band’s most recent album of the same name. Francis is also a daring singer, and while he doesn’t have Gnecco’s range, he rarely shied away from his more challenging parts, which kept energy high throughout the set, both on stage and in the crowd. A band of true showmen, Model Stranger ended the set with a crowd sing-along.
photo courtesy of Adam Powers.