Jeremy Zucker played an energetic yet fairly standard pop show at Chicago’s House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.) Nov 8. Toronto-based Babygirl, the second opening act, gave a subdued performance that perfectly matched their airy vocals and chill guitar.
The first opener was duo Valley Boy, they had a generic sound of lo-fi rock but it feels almost wrong to categorize their music as rock. Vocalist James Alan Ghaleb and bassist Ian Meltzer have been friends since they were 12, resulting in an obvious on-stage chemistry.
“We’re gonna play five songs you’ve never heard of,” Ghaleb said at the top of the show — a promise they promptly delivered on.
Indie-pop trio Babygirl took the stage next. Bathed in pink, red and blue hues, they delivered a mesmerising performance with light poppy vocals to the venue’s growing crowd.
Babygirl’s sound is like condensing the entire genre of bedroom pop into a single band. The music they played was not quite lively enough to dance to but just enough for the indie kids in the crowd to bop their heads and sway slowly.
The group’s stage presence longed for an intimacy the House of Blues venue couldn’t provide. Other than one more upbeat anthem that seemed to liven the crowd, most of their songs felt as if the lead singer, Kirsten Frances, was drawing you in and whispering directly into your ear.
The venue itself was wonderful, packed with visual stimuli. The interior is covered in interesting art; from a serpentine sculpture made of bottle caps to a ceiling covered in dishware, everywhere you looked had something new to offer.
The room with the stage was hemmed in with bars on three walls, all of them bathed in blue light as if attempting to lure in patrons like a moth to a flame.
The risers were ornate and covered in intricate carvings that would have felt at home in the Grand Ole Opry. The set dressing was minimal with only a few geometric shapes mounted behind Zucker that had projections like a winding mountain road and a scene of heavenly clouds.
Zucker oozed charisma from the moment he stepped on stage, with his cheeky smiles and dynamic movements, his clear talent for performing shone through.
Alternating between energetic indie-pop hits and slower melodic ballads, he soon had the audience in the palm of his hand. Even from the rear of the second level, one could still make out the emotion and physicality of his performance.
Some of his songs were upbeat and meant to make the listener feel good, with lyrics like “somebody loves you” played over and over again. His other hit, “all the kids are depressed,” had more of a revelatory spirit.
During the acoustic version of his song “Better Off,” a cloud motif was screened on the wall as several audience members raised their hands to the ceiling and swayed making the atmosphere feel like a church worship service.
Zucker’s vocals were a bit frayed and waning during his performance.
“My voice is kind of falling apart up here,” he said near the middle of his set. The audience made up for it by emphatically singing along to every one of Zucker’s songs.
The crowd passionately enjoyed his performance and seemed electrified by his every move. Jeremy Zucker and Babygirl delivered everything that one could hope for from an alternative rock show leaving the audience dazzled and satisfied.