By Jess Mayhew
I walk into the Metro, one of the musical Meccas of Chicago, for the first time. In the four or five years that I’ve been living in and around the city, I feel like Chicago is finally welcoming me into her center, but I’m too rushed to appreciate it. Spurred on into the venue by the sounds of an already-beginning show and dragging what feels like my consciousness and clarity of mind behind me, I am ushered into a space that feels like it balances on the precipice of being something sacred. Too big to be intimate, too small to become an overwhelming throng of bodies, the Metro greets me with the pounding drum pads and crooning voice of Jarryd James.
It’s been a tough day; engaging in an intense argument with a person who once occupied a large amount of anxiety-ridden space in my life will do that. And pushing myself into the crowd of people chatting amongst themselves, drinking, or already enthralled in the show, in preparation for a three-hour pop concert seems like the worst thing I could be doing for my state of mind.
Tuning in to the Australian’s intense pop songs, the drum and bass mixing together to provide a heart-rending, ear-splitting backdrop to James’ soaring falsetto, I find a heaviness in the music that mirrors the one I’ve been carrying inside of myself. But instead of feeling weighed down, or burdened, I feel anchored to the floor in a way I wasn’t expecting. I feel grounded. I hear whispered comparisons to Sam Smith from the concertgoers around me.
Looking at James’ face and stoic demeanor on stage, it’s easy to see that perhaps he’s not the most comfortable in front of a crowd of people. He seems to have turned inward, singing his intense and entrancing songs to himself while occasionally looking out at the audience for something — though what that is, I don’t know. Although he’s been in and out of the music industry for years now, there’s still something relatively green about him, something refreshing and earnest that makes the show feel more about his voice and music than anything performative he could do on stage.
About halfway through a considerably banter-less set, James quietly says, “I’m just going to keep singing my love songs until it’s time to go home.” As if on cue, Georgia Nott, lead singer of Broods, joins James on stage to perform their duet, “1000x,” to much excitement and applause from the audience. Their voices mingle together in a delightful way, his more soulful and subdued while hers takes on a strength indicative of her upcoming performance.
And, what a powerful performance it is. After James finishes a fantastic set, Nott and her brother Caleb take the stage. The overall run of the show feels as though it has a calculated emotional ebb and flow, starting off with the edgier, vivid “Conscious,” the closing song and namesake of the band’s most recent album.
When her brother’s harsh, buzzy synths double her vocals during the opener’s chorus, Georgia shouts the lyrics as if screaming into the void, as if she could not be heard enough: “Sweet paralyzation/No one here to keep me safe/Hyperventilation/I’m about to go insane.” Despite myself, despite my mood, I find myself getting goose bumps at the obvious rawness of the song and her emotions. She doesn’t care about sounding pretty, though she does; she doesn’t care about how she looks; all that matters in the context of this song is survival.
As Broods continues their performance, Nott’s voice modulates from powerful yells to soft, reedy whispers. All throughout, she moves her body across the stage, sometimes graceful, sometimes goofy, but never unsure or awkward. Nott commands and owns the stage, which has been turned into a honeycomb of hexagonal lights dousing the duo and their backing band in purples and blues and sometimes even, aptly, honey-yellow gold.
About halfway through the set, Caleb steps down from his platform, from which he has been orchestrating much of the instrumental content of the performance, to join his sister in an acoustic two-song interlude consisting of, “All of Your Glory” and “Taking You There.” After presenting the audience with their more emotionally intense and taxing songs, this brief, quiet intermission gives us all a little breathing room and provides a tactful lull in energy just before the upswing.
Bringing my own personal feelings of overwhelming heartbreak and negativity into the experience, I respect and appreciate Broods’ slow creep into their more upbeat, ecstatic work. It’s as if they spend the entire concert preparing you for the emotional climax, which begins at the joyous “Heartlines” and hits its peak at “We Had Everything” and “Full Blown Love.”
Though I might not have been prepared for a song as ecstatic and, well, loving as “Full Blown Love,” I find myself sold by Nott’s exuberant proclamations during the chorus, jumping up and down and pumping her hands to the sky as if to thank whatever deity for the love that inspired the song in the first place. I find myself loving along with her.
As the show comes to a close, the audience carries on their applause and shouts for a full minute before Broods takes the stage once more for an encore, performing “Four Walls,” “Bridges,” and “Couldn’t Believe.” By the final song, Nott is practically glowing, bright lights glinting off of her white outfit and providing an apt visual metaphor for the entirety of the performance: despite what emotions they were conjuring up, Broods always did so with a glowing conviction.
After the nearly three-hour show, despite having to walk back into the life I briefly left outside of the venue, I find myself with a slight smile on my face. I guess truly good pop music can soothe heartbreak, if only for a moment.