Review: Everyone’s a Winner When Flyte Comes to Schubas!
Sometimes you really just need some good ol’ British folk-rock to brighten your day and you shouldn’t have to explain yourself. If there’s one band going today that is doing indie folk rock right, it’s London’s Flyte. They stopped by Schubas on Friday for the second date of their very first US headlining tour and it was one of the more memorable shows I’ve seen in Chicago to date, without a doubt. I know I just published a review on the Told Slant show I saw at Beat Kitchen saying that was one of the best shows I’ve seen in Chicago, and I wasn’t lying, but I can’t lie and say this Flyte show wasn’t really up there too; what can I say, everyone knows Chicago has the best roster of shows and it’s been a really good week for me.
Flyte got Chicago-based sister duo Lilla Sol to open their very first headlining show in Chicago and it was a pretty solid choice if I do say so myself. The multi-instrumental sisters alternated between guitar, cello, and keyboards but one thing that never changed throughout their set was how damn soulful and majestic their vocals were. I got hints of artists like Léon and Adele but the harmonizing they were able to achieve gave them a very unique sound that extended past my simple surface-level comparisons. They’re preparing to drop their first single, “Room”, in late April and even though I’m unsure if I heard it Friday night, everything they played was blissful romantic perfection so you really can’t go wrong. They also covered “Jolene” by the legendary country queen, Dolly Parton. It was such a brilliant, creative reimagining that was completely in their own style and sounded so fresh and interesting. Indeed, the audience doffed their caps.
Will and Nicolas, due to the costs of international travel, chose to tour the US as a stripped-down duo of Flyte instead of bringing a backing band along but assured us that they’d be back later in the year with not only a full band but also a new album! A non-breakup album at that, too! They appropriately opened with “Mistress America” from their last album, This Is Really Going To Hurt, released in 2021. The song easily has one of the more fun, upbeat rhythms and choruses off an album that I now see as being the ultimate collection of breakup songs, something I really didn’t realize until this concert after hearing all of their pre-song stories that went along with most songs.
They mostly played from their last album but did include a healthy collection of songs from their debut as well as three fantastic glimpses into their new album coming later this year. Speaking of brand new songs, the first they played was entitled “Even On Bad Days”, and it instantly became my favorite Flyte song for several reasons. First, the simple yet effective chord progression is one that immediately puts smiles on faces as it’s the complete musical equivalent of “awww.” Second, the lyrics are so lovely and wholesome to the point that you may feel like crying from pure happiness alone. Top that all off with the fact that it’s two Brits with the most dangerous vocal harmonies in all the land singing and you suddenly have a folk song that would make Simon & Garfunkel sweat.
A couple of favorites from This Is Really Going To Hurt that were also played were “Everyone’s A Winner” and “Easy Tiger”. “Everyone’s A Winner” has always been my favorite song from that album as it reminds me greatly of Gillian Welch and ends with a cacophony of the most beautiful, lush instrumentals that were all captured so well live. “Easy Tiger” was a song I always fancied but didn’t totally love until I heard it live. The song is the quintessential breakup piece from the album and it honestly didn’t strike me as such until I was forced to really focus in on the lyrics live; it actually hurt to listen to at times so I suppose its lyrics about how this is really going to hurt ring true.
The songs they played from their first record entitled The Loved Ones from 2017 were incredibly effective live and sounded even better than on the record. “Faithless”, the first track the two ever wrote together, sounded as loud and anthemic as ever while “Cathy Come Home” took home the award for biggest and loudest sing-along with its catchy and inviting chorus making it impossible not to shout back.
Going back to the new songs played Friday, “Chelsea Smiles” is a song centered around a chord progression dating back years and years that they could never quite get right. Once they finally got the chords down, they incidentally couldn’t seem to come up with lyrics that fit the complexity of the chords so, as Will recounted, they sent the song to the British Poet Laureate who sent back, in a surprising twist of fate, complete and utter rubbish. Eventually, they nailed down the lyrics themselves and gave us all the honor of being the first crowd to ever hear the song live in all its fun, quirky glory. The third and final new song played was “Defender”, a love song written for Will’s partner, Billie Marten, a fellow British singer-songwriter who just recently dropped her latest album, Drop Cherries, earlier this month. Out of the three, and despite all of its grand sweetness and displays of everlasting love, this one was probably my least favorite but I may only be saying that because I’m remembering it the least. I’m sure if I had the new album in front of me, I’d be singing a different tune and writing a different run-on sentence.
They fittingly closed the night with a performance of the last track from This Is Really Going To Hurt, “Never Get To Heaven”, a song Will wrote when he was just 14 years old if you could believe that. Its role on the album is that of a eulogy for a meaningful adult relationship and I couldn’t help but think that it was also, in a way, serving as a eulogy between Flyte and Chicago, albeit in a less emotionally severe way. But they’ll be back. Flyte always comes back.