“This is a tour about celebrating our resilience,” announced lead singer Mandy Lee during MisterWives’ Dec. 3 stop at Thalia Hall in Chicago, adding, “Because life is hard enough already and then COVID hit.”
Resilience, joy, sorrow, and camaraderie pulsed through the sold-out crowd throughout the night as the band shared an uplifting collection of songs primarily drawn from their 2020 release, Superbloom. The album – which was written in the wake of the romantic separation of Lee and the group’s drummer Etienne Bowler – isn’t your typical breakup fare. Rather than wallowing in cliches of heartbreak, the release offers a funky and optimistic theme of choosing to find inspiration in new beginnings, peppered with a few tender tunes blossoming with thoughtful reflection.
Starting the show with the Superbloom opener “The End,” MisterWives – Lee, Bowler, William Hehir (bass), Marc Campbell (guitar), Mike Murphy (saxophone) – set an exuberant tone from the very moment they took the flower-filled stage.
Lee, with her powerful voice permeating every inch of the venue from the first song to the last, sang, “All good things come to an end / To make room for new beginnings.”
The crowd shouted the lyrics right back at her while dancing like their lives depended on it. Earlier in the night, attendees got warmed up expressing their love for the show’s opener, Frances Forever, who shared the charming, ukulele song, “F*ck U,” and the viral TikTok hit, “Space Girl,” among other tracks. Fans even kept their energy up between sets singing along with such favorites as My Chemical Romance’s “Teenagers” and “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers while waiting for MisterWives to start their headlining set.
“Whywhywhy,” “Coming Up for Air,” and “Ghost” continued MisterWives’ mission to triumph in the face of sorrow. The song that best summed up a concerted effort to turn pain into a path towards goodness was the soulful “Decide To Be Happy.” Murphy’s saxophone packed a punch as Lee adapted a favorite childhood lyric singing, “If you’re sad and you know it, now’s your chance to dance.”
You could have heard a pin drop when Lee bared her soul sitting at the front of the stage to sing “Valentine’s Day” mere moments after Bowler ended “Alone” with an affecting solo as she air-drummed with him in tandem. It was a powerful example of the strength of the band as musicians, collaborators, and people.
“Love Me True” in all its funk glory found Hehir jiving across the stage as he plucked his bass while Campbell unleashed a deliciously choppy strum. Next, the band took time out to celebrate love by helping a couple in the front row to get engaged via a surprise proposal. “Coloring Outside the Lines” was dedicated to the new fiances.
Through their own personal ups and downs, MisterWives created a space for fans to celebrate setbacks as a reason to try something new while singing along to songs that defy genre or generation. As we approach another uncertain winter, the sometimes daunting task of looking forward to the future is made easier with good music in our ears and hope in our hearts. After all, flowers will once again bloom in the spring and Superbloom is always just a play away.
More information about MisterWives can be founds at MisterWives.com.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)