‘I am for you, Chicago’: Peter McPoland Rocks the House of Blues

A rising alt-indie artist, McPoland shook the floorboards of the iconic venue for his Piggy Tour, fresh off the release of his eponymous sophomore album. 

“I think somehow, against all odds, this will be the best night of my life,” Peter McPoland said to the audience at the House of Blues Chicago Oct. 20.

A rising alt-indie artist, McPoland shook the floorboards of the iconic venue for his Piggy Tour, fresh off the release of his eponymous sophomore album. 

Just before his scheduled start time, opening act and indie-pop artist Stephen Dawes captivated the stage with tunes from his debut album “The Day We Met.” His final song, “19,” prompted jubilant cheers and dancing from the tightly-packed crowd.

Misty and orange-hued, the stage was prepared for McPoland — and so were fans. 

Strutting onstage with over-the-ear headphones and a black guitar, McPoland began his set with a trio of intimate, acoustic songs. “happy birthday babe (voice memo)” was included, marking his debut performance of the poetic track. 

“I’d teach the clouds to pour / I’d turn the nights to days / But I turn and close the door / Sing, “‘Happy birthday, babe,’” he crooned to a swaying crowd.

Notable on-stage accoutrements included a life-size figure of a pig standing atop a speaker adjacent to the drummer’s kit. On standby, smaller piglet-like stuffed animals decorated the floor of the stage, adding a humorous, on-the-nose touch to the otherwise simplistic setup.

Peter McPoland performed a medley of “To The Big Sleep” and “Happy Birthday, Babe” for the first time in Chicago. (Angela Ramírez / The Phoenix)

The remaining portion of McPoland’s set would be unapologetically indie-rock forward, sending concertgoers from the floor to the mezzanine into an energetic frenzy.

The deep synth-ridden “Mold” kicked off McPoland’s high-octane portion of the night. Guitar in hand, the 22-year-old effortlessly commandeered a dynamic environment with the tracks “Make It Stop” and “Tonight.”

Noting his first Chicago appearance in Lake View’s Schubas Tavern in 2021, the Vermont native said he sees Chicago like home. 

“You can decide to make it a good night — maybe make it a great night, Chicago,” McPoland glared. “But Chicago, if you so try, you may just make it the first night of the rest of your fucking life.” 

While his tour is named after his most recent studio album, McPoland’s varied setlist reflected the growth –– both instrumental and vocal –– he has amassed since his debut single “Lady Bird” in 2018. 

“Piggy” is an experimental from his more traditional indie sound, but it translated into an effective live enactment at the House of Blues.

McPoland’s performance of “Were You There?” was an eminent portion of the night, prompting synchronized chanting and jumping from the crowd.

“Were you there when they crucified the Lord? / Oh, sometimes, it causes me to tremble / Were you there when they crucified the Lord?,” McPoland sang.

Just before the animated spectacle “Turn Off The Noise,” McPoland signaled a splitting motion to the crowd, indicating his intention to hop over the barricade and dance with the audience within the pit during the tune. 

After a few solid minutes of performing within the crowd and bouncing to no end, McPoland finally found his way back onstage –– with a slight limp.

“I twist my ankles in the pit, but I look out for you,” he said. “I can’t believe this is my life.” 

Following his night at the House of Blues, McPoland revealed he broke his foot in an Instagram post during “Turn Off The Noise” — his “5th metatarsal to be exact.”

A performance of “Shit Show” followed the preceding chaos.

“Honestly, it’s a shit show, my God / But it’s this show / I want to be there,” McPoland synchronously whined with the crowd.

The indie artist’s performance at Chicago’s House of Blues was the sixth stop on his North American Piggy Tour. (Angela Ramírez / The Phoenix)

Lights shone down on a guitar-clad McPoland just as his performance was nearing its opportune ending. The chords to his 2020 single “Romeo and Juliet” echoed over the loudspeakers before his parting words for the night.

“For you, Chicago,” McPoland said. “All of us. I am for you, Chicago.”

Fittingly, the show couldn’t have ended without an encore of “Digital Silence.” The song’s chorus bled from the floors to the ceiling, etching its rock influences into the heights of the iconic venue. 

With bouquets of flowers poking out from the pit, McPoland gave a slight, open-armed bow and left the crowd during the first night of their lives.

Featured photo by Angela Ramírez / The Phoenix

Angela Ramirez

Angela Ramirez