While The Fiery Furnaces has been on hiatus for half a decade, Eleanor Friedberger has been amassing quite the impressive solo work. With Last Summer and Personal Record, Friedberger turned to making beatific pop songs that sound like familiar friends. Her sound is drenched in 70s nostalgia and a sort of universal reliability that few artist are able to keep fresh. Her latest album, New View, keeps that trend going and finds new ways to improve on it, making songs that feel like instant classics. On her second stop in Chicago in as just about many months, Eleanor Friedberger and Icewater were a welcome addition to SPACE.
Friedberger and her backing band Icewater, who opened the show, are the epitome of a great live band. I was completely unaware of Icewater until I realized they played on Friedberger’s new album New View and quickly acquainted myself with their music. There a slight hint of psychedelic tones to their sound that sneak through every once in a while in their performance. Icewater was able to pack in all of their highly catchy grooves in their quick opening set and were able to transition to Friedberger’s more laid back sound.
I had seen Friedberger at her first stop in Chicago and seeing at her at SPACE was an incredibly different experience. Back in February she stopped by Empty Bottle where some technical irregularities understandably put a damper on het mood and performance. This time around she was much more in sync with the venue and audience. It was the ideal setting for an artist of her caliber. She laughed and joke with the crowd immediately after her first song “ He Didn’t Mention His Mother”, admitting that despite having the Chicagoland area as her home town, she was completely unfamiliar with Evanston. Luckily she had a devoted crowd, which included her parents and friends, to make her feel at home. She even had her brother’s keyboard in tow, “so it’s like we’re all here.”
It truly felt that way as Friedberger and Icewater continued their set She laughed about seeing familiar faces that had seen her in her youth, drunkenly dancing and singing American Woman in a living room. it was candid moments like this that really set this show apart from her previous one at Empty Bottle. Even the familiar setlist felt refresshing. They continued on with “Open Season” and “Sweetest Girl”, which lined up with the beginning of New View and blend so wonderfully that they are forever interlocked with one another. “Sweetest Girl” stands out the brights of the three. The song has such a necessary quality when Friedberger closes her eyes and belts out it’s repeating lines, “Sweet girl with the broken heart/stop crying so I don’t start”.
Throughout the night Friedberger swayed between songs with a quiet glee. Everything seemed to be working out perfectly and her performance reflected that. Even melancholy songs like “Inn of the Seventh Ray”, which she introduced as “being about Los Angeles and blah blah”, were breathing with a particularldelight. The band ultimately let loose with “I Won’t Fall Apart Tonight”, a song they somewhat ironically almost skipped over completely. Icewater was preparing to leave the stage, leaving Freidberger a little befuddled on stage. “I wrote it wrong” she uttered about her setlist, “I do want to play the song we usually play last.” They reassembled and became incredibly enlivened. The song became very big and served as the first farewell from the group,
The beginnings of “A Long Walk” had Friedberger alone on stage. It created for a serene moment as the song was transformed into a slower and softer ballad from its original. She sounded so at ease and personal, slowly building up to the return of Icewater. Their introduction to the song lifted it over to its origins, filling up the beautiful empty spaces with equally satisfying instrumentation. “I Don’t Want to Bother You” continued their fuller sound before settling on “Stare at the Sun.” I know this is often Eleanor Friedberger’s closer on this tour, but the song felt so appropriate at SPACE. “I’m far from the town, in the suburbs of your pleasure,” her powerful voice rang out at the precipice of the song’s finish, ending her incredibly pleasurable time in Evanston.
All photos by Julian Ramirez