I hear it all the time. “I would never go to concerts alone,” people say. Some of you may be afraid to roll into a concert venue by yourself because you think it’s pathetic and everyone is judging you. Get over it! No one of any real substance cares that you are attending concerts alone. It’s all in your head. Moreover, there are fun, unexpected encounters you may have by flying solo at a show. I saw these 10 awesome concerts alone this year and I had a blast…
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Chicago Theatre
I began 2016 by seeing the tremendous Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Chicago Theatre. I used to catch Susan Tedeschi in small New York clubs years ago when she was performing solo. In 2010, she joined Derek Trucks (former Allman Brothers Band guitarist and her husband) to form this stellar 12 member, blues/rock band. They are truly something to behold on stage. Each musician is uniquely talented in their own right but together they are a tour de force.
A wonderful bonus for the audience this year was that the late, great Leon Russell (“A Song For You”) opened the show. He also joined the band on stage later in the evening. Leon provided us all with such amazing, musical joy for decades and his death in November was an incredible loss.
Before the show and during intermission, I had the pleasure of chatting with some really friendly folks to the left and in front of me. We discussed our love of Tedeschi Trucks, Leon Russell and numerous other blues artists that we all dig, like Beth Hart and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It turned out that we had attended some of the same concerts for these musicians over the last few years between Chicago and New York. Small world!
Experience Hendrix – Chicago Theatre
This year was the third time I have caught this awesome concert. I have seen this tour with friends in the past but attending these concerts alone is not a lonely experience at all.
Here’s how it works.
Numerous, talented musicians both old and new take turns performing the best songs and licks of the late, great Jimi Hendrix. There are really cool collaborations by the artists during the evening that never fail to have everyone in the audience up on their feet and dancing.
Who’s in the lineup?
Well, for the last few years, the performers included Buddy Guy, Keb ‘Mo, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Noah Hunt, Ana Popovic, Eric Johnson, Zakk Wylde, Johnny Lang, Dweezil Zappa and Mato Ninji, to name a few. Additional artists are added to the roster each year, depending on their availability.
The Experience Hendrix show is a rockin’, soul-stirring, foot-stomping good time whether you go with friends or attend solo. I swapped many fun musical stories with the good people I met in the lobby of the Chicago Theatre, as well as the nice guys sitting beside me during the show.
Goo Goo Dolls, Collective Soul, Tribe Society – Northerly Island, Chicago
Northerly Island is a fabulous outdoor concert venue in Chicago, near Soldier Field. They host many top talents during the summer months and there is nothing better than watching a great show on a warm night, under a full moon. Just sayin’!
While I attended a couple of concerts with friends at this spot early in the summer (Cheap Trick/Heart/Joan Jett), I caught the Goo Goo Golls, Collective Soul and Tribe Society by myself.
Luckily, I live in walking distance to Northerly Island but the cool part was that I met a bunch of funny Goo Goo Dolls fans on the walk over to the venue. Some of them lived in Chicago and the other folks were their friends who were visiting from out of town. I was able to provide them with a list of great cheap things to do in Chicago before summer ended while we discussed our favorite Goo Goo Dolls albums.
Buddy Guy’s 80th Birthday Bash – Buddy Guy’s Legends
One of my claims to fame, as a transplanted New Yorker living in Chicago for 11 years, is my close proximity to Buddy Guy’s Legends. I have had the great fortune of seeing many stellar shows in Buddy’s club over the years and I have met Buddy several times there.
Every year, Buddy Guy is in residence at Legends (his club) for the entire month of January. He performs every weekend with a different artist/band and he happily chats with the patrons and signs autographs (no photos, though!). I usually attend at least one of those shows.
In addition, Buddy Guy returns to Legends to celebrate his birthday at the end of July. I as there once again, this time to ring in Buddy’s 80th birthday with a star-studded line-up. What a blast! Representatives from the Kennedy Center were there to give Buddy a special message and Johnny Lang plus other amazing artists jammed on stage until closing.
Once again, I met some interesting people who had traveled from all over the world to attend this sold out event. When the evening was over, I strolled the 5 blocks home with a huge smile on my face, happy for the like-minded souls I met throughout the night.
Beth Hart Band – Park West, Chicago
Who’s my favorite singer? Why, it’s Beth Hart! I have been a huge fan of Beth Hart since her first album, Immortal, which launched in the late ’90s. She has a voice and range that reaches deep down into your soul and blows you right out of your shoes. No one can touch her. So, when Beth returned with her kick-ass band to Chicago for a 2-night stint, I promptly secured front row seats to both shows.
I attended these concerts alone not because no one was available to join me, but because I bought the tickets the second they went on sale, not wanting to wait and see who was interested in joining me. When my favorite band comes to town, I don’t mess around. I want to go and I want the best seats. Period. I can’t risk waiting around for people to decide whether they want to join me.
Seeing Beth Hart at Park West again was definitely the highlight of 2016 for me. Her new album, Fire on the Floor, launches in the U.S. in February and I am super excited to get my hands on it. She performed two songs off the album on this last tour.
Park West is filled with communal seating which I love because it encourages people to chat before the show. I met a lovely couple from the Chicago suburbs on the first night. We struck up a conversation while we waited on line to get inside the theatre and we decided to continue our chatter inside at the same table.
On the second night, I ran into some folks from Detroit who saw Beth Hart in New York early this year at Town Hall, as did I. Another small world, right?!
Pro Tip: Don’t be shy about talking to strangers when you are attending a concert alone. Everyone there already shares great taste in music and thus, something in common!
Doyle Bramhall II – City Winery, Chicago
Doyle Bramhall II is such a sexy blues musician. I love his cool, Southern style, great guitar licks, sultry voice and wild hair. Will he take the stage in his trademark poncho or a blazer? Who cares? It’s always great to see him perform live, especially in the intimate confines of City Winery. Doyle’s also a very gracious dude. Catch him, if you can!
When I attended this particular concert alone, I was seated next to a rather tipsy older woman who was on a date with a much younger man (good for her!). Upon sitting down at the communal table, she turned and asked me if I “always dream about kissing Doyle.” No joke! I smiled nicely and changed the subject to something that wouldn’t embarrass me or her boyfriend. HA! She was a nice enough lady but it was clear to me very soon that she had not been out of the house in a while. No judgement. She was well behaved the rest of the night 🙂
Danielle Nicole Band – House of Blues, Chicago
I first discovered Danielle Nicole last year when she opened for Devon Allman (Yes, he’s Greg Allman’s son) at Cubby Bear. She is a bad-ass blues musician who plays bass guitar and she has a voice that will make your toes curl. So, I was excited to learn she was gigging in the restaurant bar at House of Blues one night during the week.
I stopped by for an early set and I was able to spend some time chatting with her afterwards. Her new album, Wolf Den, is terrific!
Pro Tip: An advantage of going to concerts alone is that you are free to chat with other patrons, as well as the musicians, without worrying about being rude to your friends.
Matt Andersen – Schubas Tavern, Chicago
The first time I saw Matt Andersen, he opened for Beth Hart back in 2015 in Chicago. It is pretty rare and special to hear an opening act who blows the roof off of a place and silences everyone in the room. That is, except for the thunderous round of applause and whistles when the performance is over. Once you hear Matt Andersen, you never forget him.
Matt returned to Chicago this time to headline a show at Schuba’s bar on the north side of town. I love this historic bar with its wonderful acoustics. It was the perfect place to showcase Matt’s powerful vocals and masterful guitar picking.
I showed up alone and settled in for an incredible performance in this super friendly and casual Lakeview bar. I had a really nice chat with Matt and some of his band members after the show. Top night! There is nothing like seeing a fantastic live show in a really intimate venue. Nothing.
Shemekia Copeland – City Winery, Chicago
If you have never seen Shemekia Copeland live in concert, you need to seek her out in 2017. I was turned onto her music a couple of years ago, thanks to another friend I made via our mutual love of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Music has such a powerful way of connecting people across the globe!
Shemekia’s recent show at City Winery occurred just days before she gave birth to her new baby boy. Her powerful, soulful voice filled the room in her usual, mesmerizing way. I have never met anyone who was not lifted up by Shemekia Copeland’s voice and stage presence. This show was a fun way to take the edge off of the Sunday night blues (no pun intended).
Hamilton – Private Bank Theatre, Chicago
Finally, I rounded off 2016 with the ticket “get” of all ticket “gets”… Hamilton!
Technically, Hamilton is not a concert but it is a full-blown musical production that runs approximately 2.5 hours, so I am including it in this post.
After a few hours of waiting in a telephone cue and failing to secure more than one ticket with seats together, I gave up that fight and I purchased just one ticket for myself. I would have loved to have seen this show with a friend but it was not in the cards, I guess. Hamilton is now added to the list of the few Broadway and off-Broadway shows I have attended by myself over the years.
How was it?
Was it worth the money?
Did it live up to all the hype?
Absolutely! The Private Bank Theatre here in Chicago is somewhat larger than the Richard Rodgers in New York but it is still intimate enough to capture the very unique storytelling in this one-of-a-kind, hip-hop musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda outdid himself with this work of pure genius. Bravo!!
Pro-Tip: If you are nervous or self-conscious about doing cultural things on your own, seeing a play is the perfect choice for your virgin outing. After all, you are expected to look straight ahead at the stage and keep quiet, once you take your seat and the lights go down. No chit-chat necessary or welcome at the theater! So, do not forgo seeing the next great play that comes along simply because circumstances did not provide a friend at the time.
I am so happy that I was able to attend so many great concerts this year and that seeing these concerts alone was never a lonely experience. I encourage you not to miss out on seeing your favorite bands or that new hot play, simply because there is no one to join you. You never know what fun awaits you or what cool people you may meet.
ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.