The most controversial thing artist Michelle Shocked did at City Winery in Chicago on June 27 was to not allow photographs to be taken by anyone.
It is a shame because she appeared happy, healthy and ready to perform. While it was nice to see a show where fans were not recording video and snapping shots with their phones every minute, a professional photo taken from the side for a few minutes of the first song would not have been distracting, and would have allowed people who did not attend to see her.
The Pete Anderson Trio kicked off the City Winery show that night. Anderson has been working with Shocked for over 30 years as a producer and instrumentalist. He provided the backing band for the Texas singer after a short break of opening for her. There were some technical problems with her earpiece and a broken cymbal, but otherwise the casual listener wouldn't have noticed anything wrong until the group called attention to it. The notoriously outspoken singer kept things moving and didn't need to tell the audience to talk amongst themselves while things were quickly adjusted.
She did restart a song saying that it just wasn't going right at one point though. The crew had driven straight from New York the night before, so maybe there was no time for a soundcheck.
This show focused on a series of the three Mercury recording albums ranging from the '80s and '90s, each played at different venues over the course of three separate months. This particular set list was dedicate to 1988's popular Short Sharp Shocked. There are 10 tracks on the record, which sports an unforgettable cover of Shocked being arrested in San Francisco during the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
She told a few short stories in between several of the tracks, such as using her dog while asking for money for "Hello Hopeville" and the white-on-Black police brutality inspiration for "Graffiti Limbo."
From the beginning, the artistwho changed her name to refer to shell-shocked victims in World War Ihas always been enmeshed in controversy. Her opinions addressing war and the gay community ( which switched from pro to vehemently anti ) have alienated many of her fans over the years. This night, everything was kept focused on the music that combined many genres, including blues and folk. In fact, she thanked the audience several times for being there.
The crowd sang along to several lyrics with her encouragement and gave her a standing ovation at the end. She ended the night with an encore of "Fogtown," a hidden track on the record.
Her energy, humor and vocals were all in harmony, boding well for her return shows on July 23 and Aug. 23. Visit Citywinery.com for tickets and information.