I saw a few different cowboy hats in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood last night.
The first belonged to a man at the bus stop. Staring through the sunlight, he spots me using my phone and asks, in Spanish, when the 9 is due. “Dos minutos,” I respond, and we spend those two minutes chatting about my vacation in Chicago and the sixty years he’s spent here since emigrating from Mexico. We flip between Spanish and English.
The second cowboy hat is worn by Margo Price’s husband, Jeremy Ivey, who joins Blackfoot Gypsies for a couple songs of their opening set. “Make me cry,” frontperson Matthew Paige calls, and Ivey bounds into a harmonica solo. He stays on call throughout the show, joining his wife on guitar, harmonica, and vocals now and again.
The third belongs to a man in the second row. Face tilted toward the stage, he spills beer on my feet while pulling a blonde woman close. I forgive him.
Illinois native Margo Price threw a delightful show at Chicago’s Thalia Hall last night, performing music from her latest album, All American Made, and beyond. I’ve seen her twice before and thought I knew what to expect, but she blew me away on this tour. Her voice sounded even better than ever: sweet and strong as an old-fashioned.
Not only did Price sing and strum her guitar, she hopped behind the drumset and keyboard and struck a few poses on tambourine. She’s mastered crowd banter, making cracks about her hated former piano teacher (“Those mistakes: they were for her”) and “This Town Gets Around” (which she wrote “about the music business and what a cesspool of s— it is”).
She and her band are tour-tight, but they don’t waste any opportunities for fun. Price’s turn behind the drums sent her sleeve fringe flying during “Cocaine Cowboy,” with her guitarist getting funky as she bashed away. The encore was a blast as Price incorporated Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” into “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle)” – even adding a bit of yodel to her hit. The night culminated in a raucous, extended “Proud Mary” that saw Price hopping into the photo pit to give out red roses.
Thalia Hall is a gorgeous old venue, and Price is just the latest of many performers to set it alight. Built by Eastern European immigrants in 1892, it was modeled it after a Prague opera house, which explains the box seats on either side of the stage. When Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden bought it in 2013, they cranked up the tungsten lighting and re-lacquered the floor. The 1,300-capacity venue felt roomy on Thursday, but Price’s second show is sold out tonight. Next, she heads to Minneapolis for a First Avenue show on Saturday.
Margo Price set list
A Little Pain
Learning To Lose
New Cut Road (Guy Clark cover)
All American Made
The Devil’s In The Details (unreleased song)
Do Right By Me
This Town Gets Around
Four Years Of Chances
Hurtin’ (On The Bottle) (featuring interpolation of Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River”)
Proud Mary (John Fogerty/Tina Turner cover)