Sir Sly Return With a Raw Performance at Bottom Lounge
“We’ll play at least one more old one. But that’s actually all we’re going to play. I don’t know why I said at least... I’m using my words terribly right now,” Sir Sly’s frontman Landon Jacobs rambled onstage at The Bottom Lounge, right before the trio performed the viral single “Gold” from their first album You Haunt Me. Up until this moment, Jacobs had been using his words beautifully.
Rewinding the clock back to about an hour prior, the lights in the Chicago venue had dimmed and the three members of Sir Sly appeared onstage to ominous intro music, which gradually faded into “Astronaut,” a tune from their highly anticipated sophomore album Don’t You Worry, Honey. Painstakingly honest at times, the album offers an unfiltered and raw glimpse into some of Jacobs’ personal tribulations over the past few years. As you absorb the lyrics and listen to the struggles that are threaded throughout each melody, you’ll find yourself filling with empathy over Jacobs' descriptions of a young marriage falling apart and the pain of losing a parent to cancer. As the words seep in, you suddenly understand why this second album has been such a long time coming.
Before the LA-based trio performed “Altar” from the aforementioned album, Jacobs declared “this is easily the angriest I’ve been while writing lyrics,” and the live performance only amplified the bite behind the song’s chorus, where Jacobs sings “You do what you want/ Sleep with who you want /I can't stop you/ Even if I try, the whole time, you will lie.” The remainder of the set weaved in and out of newer and “old” tracks, which Jacobs points out sounds ridiculous to call any of their music “the old stuff,” as the Chicago tour date fell on the eve of his 27th birthday. Although he may be young, when the band performed “Change” about halfway through the set, it’s evident that Jacobs has gained wisdom beyond his years after experiencing some of his recent hardships. The live version of the song features an auto-tuned spoken word bridge by Jacobs. “I get to improvise that part each night, but the central theme remains the same,” he said, adding that he won’t change who he is for anyone else. And of course, he made the obligatory positive comments about deep dish pizza that touring bands usually mention onstage during the improvised part, which kept it lighthearted.
Continuing on the lighthearted path, Jacobs told the crowd to “smoke em if you got em” before he and his bandmates Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen played the debut single “High” from Don’t You Worry, Honey. The Chicago crowd had been moving the entire time, but the anthemic single got them jumping higher and thrashing around more than any song prior. The high energy continued throughout the next new track, “&Run,” which also featured an extended jam that you’ll only hear during one of the band’s live performances. During this jam, it was clear that Jacobs, Suwito, and Coplen have matured and grown as both friends and musicians during their years of making music together.
Contrasting the infectiously high energy of the last three songs, the crowd went quiet as Jacobs took a step back to introduce the emotional song “Oh Mama.” Jacobs vulnerably described the heartfelt track as an ode to his mom, which alludes to childhood memories, like singing 80s songs with her. The song is also Jacobs tribute to his mother, who recently passed away from brain cancer. For the unknowing in the crowd, suddenly the meaning behind the band’s backdrop of a giant, light up brain clicked. “She gave me a love of language and taught me how to use my words clearly,” Jacobs said during his song dedication to his mom. As he fondly recalled more memories of his mom, the crowd hung to every word. As Jacobs sings the final line “But oh, mama, one day I'm gonna sing, I'm gonna sing with you again,” his eyes cast upwards to the ceiling, as a final tribute to his mom for the evening.
At this point, Sir Sly’s set has come full circle, to Jacobs' introduction of “Gold,” but once the song came to an end, Jacobs made up for his “at least” blunder. The band performed “High” for a second time that night, closing the night on a high note (pun totally intended). The trio look genuinely humbled and gratified as the crowd let out bellowing cheers, but the praise was much deserved after the precision and passion that had been poured into Sir Sly’s performance. Easily one of the best performances I've seen all year, Sir Sly's set was an emotional rollercoaster, laced with dynamic arrangements and layers that make their show a must-see.
Photos: Sir Sly at Bottom Lounge on 7/19/2017