Article by: Adam Moyer, Contributing Writer/Reviewer/Interviewer
Photos by: Thomas Mayer
Music fans continued to trickle in as keyboardist/bassist Jeremy Dawson filled the sold-out music venue Subterranean with lush, ambient synth chords this Thursday. Joined onstage by guitarist/vocalist Chad Petree, drummer Mikey Martin and vocalist Carah Faye Charnow, the band launched into ‘Wait For Me.’ This quiet and romantic ballad of forbidden love isn’t what a normal band would open with to snag a crowd’s attention. Luckily, Shiny Toy Guns are not a normal band. The intimacy encompassing this opening performance owned the attention of everyone in the room. As the Grammy Nominated band showcased new material from their third release, (III), and treated fans to past hits, there resonated a feeling that something very special was happening.
The word “flawless” came to mind several times as the band blasted through hits from their first two albums. The songs ‘Rainy Monday,’ ‘Ricochet!,’ ‘Le Disko,’ ‘You Are The One,’ ‘Major Tom (Coming Home),’ and ‘Rocketship’ were delivered with a raw intensity that washed over the crowd- most of whom were singing along with every word and jumping up and down to the point where the entire upper level of the venue shook. On the other hand, new ballads such as ‘If I Lost You’ and ‘Fading Listening’ were delivered with a gentle softness that urged couples in the audience to embrace and sway to the steady rhythm . The ability to effectively change the mood musically throughout the night felt like a well-structured mixtape with the softer dynamics placed perfectly within the louder ones- it was a journey!
One thing that certainly makes Shiny Toy Guns stand out is the cunning use of opposing male and female vocalists. Taking turns singing lead on some songs and backup on others, Carah and Chad each turned in brilliant performances. The truly standout moments, though, were when they harmonized and traded lyric lines with each other. This is where a glimpse into the relationship of this band could be found- Carah and Chad took every opportunity they could to sing these harmonies and words to each other on stage. Whether making full eye contact or simply sharing the same microphone, there was an evident closeness that brought the songs to an even higher level. On songs where Carah picked up a bass, took over keyboard while Jeremy picked up a bass, or was singing backup duties, she made the most of it by exchanging smiles with and playing to Mikey (one of the busiest and energetic drummers I’ve seen) and rocking out with Jeremy as he pounded out synth notes on his two keyboard setup. Without diving into the drama the band has endured over three albums, let’s just say thank God Carah is back and the members’ multitude of interactions on stage indicated that they are more than best friends and band-mates- they are family.
The connection with the crowd was strong and the level of engagement was high. Carah didn’t hesitate to move to the edge of the stage and interact with those in the front row, at one point exclaiming “Chicago, you rock!” Even on the upper level, the vibe was intoxicating. All around me, there were several moments where I overheard fans saying things like “I Looove that song! I’m so glad they played it!” or “I love Chad’s voice!” After the show, I spoke with Jen Jilbert, a Shiny Toy Guns fan from Chicago who told me the highlight of the night for her was the song ‘Rainy Monday’ because “…it’s very dance-y and very rock- that’s my thing!”
With that level of crowd engagement, solid performance, and again, the conscious ability to control the mood of the room, it’s safe to say that Chicago will gladly welcome the return of Shiny Toy Guns. The die hard fans will be there, and with those fans sharing their experiences on social networks and some good old fashioned word of mouth, there will be more fans anxiously waiting to experience a Shiny Toy Guns show for themselves.