Divine Fits at Logan Square Auditorium | Photos and review
Filing into the Logan Square Auditorium, with its stark stage and boxy ballroom sure to conjure memories of high-school dances and talent shows to most, one gets the sense that Thursday night’s sold-out concert was meant to buck routine. At a place where even bona fide rock royalty of the millennial era like Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner have to part the seas of the crowd to make it to Logan’s stage due to its lack of back-entry, the lines separating crowd and audience, expectation and reality (or supergroup and side project), at least for a moment, are blurred. Returning on the heels of a sold-out Schubas show from earlier this year, the Divine Fits aimed to prove that they’re more than the sum of their high-profile parts.
Openers Cold Cave, fronted by the gaunt and leather-glove-clad Wesley Eisold, turned in a handful of maximal darkwave anthems, oozing a kind of mechanized moodiness that sounded something like The National playing a nightclub in the Eastern Bloc. The rafter-hung sound system, a peculiar sight in that space, was especially unkind to Eisold’s vocals, and reinforced the already terrible acoustics in the auditorium. But to their credit, their songs “look so good on the outside” (to quote Eisold) that I doubt many people were too miffed.
The Divine Fits took to the stage around a quarter to nine, opening with the closing track to their lone, debut album A Thing Called Divine Fits. Like many of their tracks, it’s filled with staccato new-wave grooves stretched extra tight, all the while leaving enough room for either Boeckner or Daniel to unload some whip-smart vocals in the spaces between. The pair, flanked by drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and keyboardist Alex Fischel, worked their way through tracks like “The Salton Sea” and “Baby Get Worse” next, and it became immediately clear that the extra wattage from the sound system was worth it. With vocals surprisingly sharp, drums deafening and crystalline, and with guitars and keys ringing clear, the Fits worked a furious groove, especially on tracks like “Flaggin’ a Ride” and Boeckner standout “What Gets You Alone.” Daniel, meanwhile, was plagued by technical difficulties like breaking a bass string (“the first time since 1996”) and having his Jaguar crap out in the middle of album standout “Would That Not Be Nice.” Unsurprisingly, after a bit of visible frustration, he played it cool and soldiered on.
It’s amazing how well Boeckner and Daniel’s pairing works on stage, each lending a sort of equal-and-opposite vibe to their counterpart’s respective songs and Daniel’s cocksure swagger anchoring to Boeckner’s more untamed flailing about. When singing in unison (as they did many times throughout the night to great effect), Daniel seems to iron out Boeckner’s warbles while Boeckner pares down Daniel’s serpentine howls. Alone, they return to their respective tics and gestures, and the chemistry remains. They’re old pros, to be sure, but to the looks of it they’re having some serious fun together.
Every inch the exception to the myth of the bloated supergroup, the Fits proved to be a perfect mix of the two frontmen’s strengths. Working in covers by Tom Petty, the Stones, and even Frank Ocean, the group powered through their set to roaring response from the crowd with more than enough firepower to warrant a higher-profile return trip to Chicago in the near future. What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly clear that these guys are rubbing off on another, adding fuel to the rumor that this might not be just a casual side project for the prolific frontmen. And would that not be nice?