Review: Kate Bollinger and Lael Neale Connected with a Sold Out Schubas Crowd

Last week before the blazing heat and storms took Chicago by surprise, a pair of singer songwriters took the stage at Schubas. Kate Bollinger and Lael Neale brought their incredible sounds to the sold out venue for an intimate evening filled with gorgeous voices. Both artists are on the heels of amazing releases, with Neale's latest single "Hotline" and Bollinger's EP Look at it in the Light being perfect representations of each of their unique sound. Bollinger and Neale serenaded the attentive and reverent crowd with short but oh so sweet sets.

Lael Neale's opening performance set the ideal tone for the evening as her sound filled Schubas with gentle ease. A mix of atmospheric soundscapes produced by her Omnichord, guitar and keys by Guy Blakeslee, and intense poetic lyricism; Neale's entire set felt like a cathartic mediation. It's no surprise as her latest album Acquainted with Night focuses heavily on themes of yearning and isolation, with every song feeling like a much needed release. "Sliding Doors & Warm Roses" in particular exuded that feeling as Neale ruminates on an ever growing love for someone who "come and goes". The song's refrain turns into a ethereal chant of "I'm never lonesome", transforming the statement from a matter of fact to one that is trying to convince one's self that it is true. The song's elongated finish only set the ambiance of the night deeper into that reflective space, reaching an almost transcendent peak just as the track abruptly finished.

Lael Neale - Photo by Julian Ramirez

When Kate Bollinger and her band emerged from the side door at Schubas, the sold out crowd couldn't have been more ready. They held this intense reverence as the set started and Bollinger's pristine throwback sound began it's stunning stint on stage. "I Don't Wanna Lose" had he crowd swooning in no time. Bollinger's voice is so gentle and calm as her band's instrumentation lead the song along with a gentle ease. Every passing note transported the crowd further into Bollinger's beautifully crafted sonic world.

While that calming feeling was infused throughout every song regardless of it's themes, there were a few tracks that had the crowd burst with joy upon hearing the opening chords. "Who am I but Someone" was one that met with a quick wave cheers as the familiar tune's catchiness followed by the crowd quietly singing along. Both Bollinger and the crowd seemed utterly entrance with the songs, giving this connection between them that felt genuine and invigorating. The connection only grew larger when Bollinger shared her unease of using a new microphone on stage, relating it to a scene in Ice Princess. A sizeable bunch of fans screamed in tandem, acknowledging their shared fandom of the movie and reveling in it.

Kate Bollinger - Photo by Julian Ramirez

As the evening made it's way to a close, the set ramped up a bit more with the audience giving back as much as they received. "A Couple of Things" felt like an incredible highlight, feeling more groovy and powerful live. A pair of new song in "Running" and "All this Time" (the latter of which was only the second time she ever performed the song) gave the audience something pretty damn great to look forward to in the future. They sandwiched "Lady in the Darkest Hour", another big highlight of the night that really showed off Bollinger and the band's cohesion and ability to infuse songs with a feeling of lost nostalgia. As the song says: "To feel those things I can’t remember".

Kate Bollinger called it a night with "Look at it in the Light", the eponymous song of her latest EP. The track had so much life breathed into by the band and live reaction, with the crowd swaying along with countless woos and smiles. It was grand end to a wonderful set.

All photo by Julian Ramirez

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Julian Ramirez