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Show review: The Almost use their inner light to create an emotional show experience in Chicago

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The Almost’s If I Believed You tour brought ‘Southern Weather’ into a grown-up (and maybe beat-down) crowd of “fear calling” adults, resurrected by a sense of tattered hope and grace in the dead of Midwest winter from a red-haired guy with just an acoustic guitar.

Aaron Gillespie is a well-known name within any rock-based household as the red-headed, smooth-voiced drummer of explosive post-hardcore/metalcore band Underoath, who doubles as the frontman for the pop-rock band The Almost. In 2007 when pop-punk bands ran rampant with flashy emo Myspace egos, The Almost released their debut album Southern Weather, who’s title track “Southern Weather” and lead single “Say This Sooner” would both secure the band’s position as a pop-punk crossover success based on Aaron’s outspoken religious beliefs, with the record charting #1 on Billboard’s U.S. Christian and #10 on U.S. Rock.

Southern Weather, aside from the aforementioned crossover from the heavy-hitting drummer of Underoath to the front and center vocalist of The Almost, mixed a multitude of genres and gave Gillespie even more praise and attention on a silver platter. Followed by another solid success with second record Monster Monster, Gillespie’s own success continued to grow and inspired the earnest honesty behind The Almost’s 2019 record Fear Caller. In an interview with Alternative Press, Gillespie addresses his growth from his 20s into his 30s, from a young, success-hungry young man to a dedicated husband and father: “It is a check yourself at the door kind of thing. For me in my mid-20s, I really got wrapped up in the success of [Underoath].” That growth and human development presented itself loud and clear at their Chicago show on their “If I Believed You” tour January 19th, 2020.

With support from three incredibly sturdy acts, Rowdy, Ghost Atlas and All Get Out, The Almost exploded onto the stage, surprisingly, with the single everyone couldn’t wait to hear, “Southern Weather”. A few songs in, Aaron took some pause to address the crowd in his Nascar shirt and red bandana combination (courtesy of Rowdy) about the structure of the set. They would be rotating between playing a song from Southern Weather and a song from latest record Fear Caller, leaving me (who hadn’t heard anything from Fear Caller) wondering if I would actually enjoy the set. If you’ve heard anything from this record, I’m sure you’ve guessed that it was phenomenal. I bought Fear Caller on vinyl after the show. There’s something incredibly special about hearing a record like that for the first time via live performance, especially when it comes from a musician such as Aaron Gillespie, with his strong vocal tone creating energy-charged storm clouds over Illinois.

As he moved through the set after playing “I Mostly Copy Other People”, Gillespie shared “a lot of these [Southern Weather] songs I wrote when I was a kid, and a lot of the lyrics don’t make sense to me but I hope they make sense to you. And another from the pit of my soul back out to you.” before bursting into “Tame A Lion”. After I giggled over a strange mildly-violent mosh pit to rough acoustic riffs on “Say This Sooner”, the rest of the band left Gillespie to finish the last two songs of the show alone.

I saw The Almost back in 2012 at Raleighpalooza and remembered one part of the show that rattled everything in my body: Gillespie’s angelic performance of “Amazing, Because It Is”. Just like in 2012, he poured out what seemed like every possible ounce of love and gratitude into Bottom Lounge as he instructed everyone in the room, “Find grace. No matter what that is for you, find grace.” In 2012 I wasn’t religious but his raw, emotional performance as “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” echoed through the crowd’s soft chants made me cry. In 2020, I’m still not religious and during that same performance, with even more emotion pouring out from Gillespie, I cried again.

The Almost’s If I Believed You tour brought ‘Southern Weather’ into a grown-up (and maybe beat-down) crowd of “fear calling” adults, resurrected by a sense of tattered hope and grace in the dead of Midwest winter from a red-haired guy with just an acoustic guitar.

Purchase or stream “Fear Caller”

 

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