It’s been awhile since the last Chris Mills record, Living in the Aftermath, was released in 2008, but he is definitely ready to put out another one. Even going so far as to fly in the producer/guitarist to finish recording in Chicago what they had started in Norway. The bonus is that Mills seldom makes a trip to Chicago without playing a one-off show at the Hideout, so here we were. The record’s, and also tonight’s, rhythm section consists of Konrad Meisner, one of several drummers to rotate behind the kit over the years, and (as always) Ryan Hembrey on bass. It’s always a little disappointing when Gerald Dowd isn’t the one in the drummer’s seat, but I’ve long been a fan of Meisner.
The set was well balanced, sampling from almost his entire catalog, in addition to a healthy dose of new songs, including several I hadn’t heard before. Recent shows had been neglecting “The Silver Line” from the album of the same name. An omission I’ve found inconceivable since I consider it one of the top ten songs ever written. (Though oddly enough, it isn’t even my favorite song on the record.) So it was great to hear it tonight. Other highlights were the heartbreaking, suicide watch “Crooked Vein” and the traditional set-ender, the haunting “Signal to Noise.” For the latter a mysterious man approached the stage, and after getting the OK from Hembrey, took a seat behind the piano. The song was nearly over before I realized their guest was Fred Lonberg-Holm, whose cello makes the track one of Mills’ most indelible in a list of pretty amazing songs.
When they left the stage I was worried they weren’t going to return, the somewhat lethargic clapping from the apparently sated audience hardly warranted another song, but I should have know better. While waiting for doors to open we overheard the end of soundcheck, which to our surprise was Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” Everybody loves Tom Petty of course, but “The Waiting” seemed an odd choice for Mills and band. His cover choices have always been more esoteric (check out his excellent 2001 covers record and you’ll see what I mean), so something so broad was unexpected. It was terrific of course, and just like he had the rest of the set, Mills looked like he was having the time of his life.
I’m looking forward to the new record and the promise of more than one show a year. I’m not sure how many would be enough, but I would like to find out.