American Football seemed like a long shot during the decade and a half between their first and second self-titled albums. So many of the band members were doing their own thing, whether it was solo projects, getting a PhD, or just life outside the spotlight, the prospects of another proper American Football album seemed bleak. But then LP2 came into being and a few short years later LP3. Performing shows at festivals and Metro felt like an obvious move after such a heralded return, fans old and new had been clamoring for the Midwestern emo giants for so long that venues of this size were needed. Thankfully, American Football announced two (or three) nights at Schubas, the kind of intimate venue where their sound could truly shine. At night two, it certainly did.
There was no opener for the night. Instead American Football played an elongated set that left fans completely enamored for a couple of hours. It instantly felt special as each night was promoted as full of surprises as they commemorate LP1, where the band would play deep cuts and fan favorites. All three original members; Mike Kinsella, Steve Lamos, and Steve Holmes alongside their “newest” addition Nate Kinsella and a couple of touring members were surrounded by half-painted light bulbs illuminating the stage. They look relaxed and ready to serve up an amazing show. About half way through the set, I immediately wished I had gone to all three nights. Their 16-song setlist touched upon their three full length albums, giving each one the right about of time in the spotlight.
The evening straddled the line between magical moments of the band just losing themselves in the songs and the whole thing feeling like a house show. Opening the show with “Where Are We Now” definitely set the more reverent tone of the evening. The darker song that also opens LP2 is a serious punch in the heart as Mike tenderly and succinctly details the time changing a relationship. Later the even moodier “Silhouttes” and its consequences of infidelity keep up an ethereal feeling that made the night feel unique.
Conversations between band members absolutely added to the small show effect as they joked around with one another as if no one was there. Tour stories about getting drunk and doing stupid things to friendly ribbing occurred throughout with the Lamos’ joke of turning his “snare on” becoming an instant running gag throughout the night. These moments of casualness only made everything else feel all the more heavy and affecting.
The biggest highlight came with “Heir Apparent” as Mike called up a small choir of kids on stage to perform with them. After a few jokes about fake IDs and how they really wouldn’t be doing much until the end, American Football disappeared into the song. The track about a parent-child relationship drifts between apologetic and biting, self-depreciating and truly critical, before rising to a glorious finish where the choir of children came in. “Heir apparent to the throne, the king of all alone”. It was the peak of sad serenity in a night full of it.
The whole show just felt different with a small break in the middle of the set and no encore. Every moment felt special and alluring from fans signing along throughout to little high points like Lamos’ trumpet interludes and Holmes’ wholesomeness (while everyone else was partying on tour, he was at the hotel asleep). American Football‘s history and songs just feel embedded in Chicago music fans, and this fantastic night was an excellent example.
All Photos by Julian Ramirez