Laura Jane Grace - Live stream from Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Laura Jane Grace

Live stream from Chicago (2020)

live show

The idea of streamed concerts during COVID was one I never thought would take off. The first one I saw was a festival that Anti-Flag had been planning for months that had to be canceled at the last minute when COVID started and was turned into a free livestreamed concert with the lead singers and guitarists who were supposed to be playing the festival doing acoustic, solo sets from their own living room. While that and many other early livestream quarantine concerts were generally free, artists quickly realized they were missing out on an opportunity to monetize their concerts, and suddenly the vast majority of these livestreams started selling tickets. Laura Jane Grace’s show this weekend, performed live from Lincoln Hall in Chicago, charged less than $20 for a riveting concert that showed what this new forum for distributing concerts, one which is still largely untested, can be capable of.

First of all, I was taking a nap before the concert and missed the first few minutes, but luckily my ticket entitled me to rewatch the concert for up to 24 hours. Upon rewatching the feed, I realized that most of what I missed was just commercials for other concerts on the same concert-streaming service, the site that hosted the concert I was already watching. Grace stopped in between a lot of songs to banter, with an extended explanation before the song “Return to Oz” in which she described, in detail, the plot of the movie Return to Oz. However, there was no spoken introduction at the beginning as she launched into “The Swimming Pool Song” with full force.

While Grace made several comments about the awkwardness of being in this room performing in front of about five people, the lack of people in her physical proximity did nothing to temper her passion for performing her own music, as every song was belted out with the same unbridled enthusiasm as if she was performing in front of a packed auditorium. Her banter, as always, was funny and relatable as she talked about things like being dry for two years as well as her vow not to smoke weed again until Trump is out of office (a resolution she made when I saw Against Me! play on New Years Eve in Denver, she revealed it took her until April to stick to her resolution.) Her banter in between songs is always confessional and relatable and reminds you how human she is.

While the set mostly consisted of songs off of her new album, she covered a few songs from her other projects that leant themselves to being played along on an acoustic guitar, including Against Me! songs “Reinventing Axl Rose,” “Joy,” “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Armageddon,” “Ache With Me,” and “Bamboo Bones,” as well as Devouring Mothers’ songs “Reality Bites” and “The Airplane Song.” Even with the older songs, her enthusiasm for the songs never diminished and somehow she found the energy to sing them with the same passion as when they were new.

Laura Jane Grace gave us a great example of this new medium for live concerts, born out of necessity, and what can be accomplished with it. In many ways, it felt like an NPR live concert only a little more aggressive and vulgar. It’s a testament to Grace’s ability to capture your attention in any situation, even streaming over the internet, and what other artists can accomplish with livestreaming. Perhaps my initial skepticism about livestreams was unfounded, and there’s a lot of potential for them to be really fun.