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Live Review and Photo Gallery: The Fixx at House of Blues • Chicago

| September 11, 2022

The Fixx

House of Blues, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Live Review and photos by Jeff Elbel

The Fixx visited Chicago’s House of Blues on Tuesday, bringing songs from the band’s first new album in ten years. The British alternative rockers’ eleventh album Every Five Seconds succeeds 2012’s critically praised album Beautiful Friction. Both sets of songs have found the band’s ideas in the 21st century measuring up to radio and MTV hits like “One Thing Leads to Another” from the quintet’s ‘80s heyday.

The show began with a call to action in “A Life Survived.” Singer Cy Curnin’s lyric lamented the wasted potential represented by “weeping by the grave of a life survived, but never lived.” Jamie West-Oram’s chiming and echoed guitar intertwined with Rupert Greenall’s inventive keyboard textures, which ranged from a reedy melodica lead to layers of retro-futuristic synthesizer tones. The claustrophobic “Closer” struck a warning tone against fundamental breakdown in a society combining apathy and nationalism with a refusal to consider different viewpoints. 

West-Oram’s guitar rang through the eco-warrior anthem “Driven Out.” It was the night’s first opportunity to witness his spectacular soloing sensibilities, suggesting a fusion of the sounds of Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Nile Rodgers, and Gang of Four’s Andy Gill. The crystalline funk of “Chase the Fire” followed, sparked by the harmonics of dapper, top-hatted bassist Dan K. Brown. The theatrical Curnin mimed a goose step in a protest against fascism during the song’s middle verse. 

“There comes a point when you say I’ve had [expletive deleted] enough,” said Curnin when introducing “How Much is Enough.” With an anthemic chorus vocal, “Take What You Want” responded to an atmosphere of selfishness with selflessness, offering a mile to those who would take an inch. 

At several points during the evening, Curnin contrasted unrest in the outside world with the oasis of joy found at the band’s shows. “Out on the road, we see happy faces,” he said. “When I turn on the TV, I see miserable faces.” The moody “Less Cities, More Moving People” followed as a gift to faithful Fixxtures, featuring Brown’s taut bassline, drummer Adam Woods’ hypnotic shuffle, and Greenall’s cinematic synthesizers. Curnin ad-libbed during a breakdown, singing, “We’re all refugees of one kind or another. I’ve been a refugee since leaving the womb of my mother.”

The tragic “Cold” described the dead embers of a once-passionate relationship. After lamenting a bitter end, Curnin’s lyric concluded with a sense of wisdom gained, renewed purpose and poise, and hope for better things. “The mother of invention meant for this heart to fly,” he sang stirringly.

Deftly shifting from the delicate and intricate “Beautiful Friction” with West-Oram’s glistening guitar, Woods’ hard-hitting beat propelled the angular existentialism of “Are We Ourselves?” The audience sang along loudly to the song’s familiar chorus.

An energetic performance of “Deeper and Deeper” was the concert’s centerpiece. The song showed the Fixx’s unique sound at its synergistic best, pulling essential character from each player and demonstrating how the band originally leaned on rock and funk during the New Wave era. The song’s nervous tension was underscored by Curnin’s spoken asides. “I used to have a simple life,” he said. “I used to have a peaceful life. What happened to my simple, peaceful life?” West-Oram stepped to the front of the stage for a thrilling solo, thrashing his guitar and coaxing notes that bent and wailed with fury. Curnin emerged afterward in a devilish black mask. “They sweep over you, these dark moods,” he added later, removing the symbolic prop.

A watery spy-movie guitar riff announced “Wake Up,” a timely exhortation for people to shake off complacency and question what they’re told by those in power. “Loosen the grip they have on you,” Curnin had urged moments earlier. “Why do the young ask, while we’re told,” he sang, echoing another familiarly Fixxy sentiment about learning from a new generation as elders prepare to hand over the world.

Following another energetic singalong to “One Thing Leads to Another,” the main set concluded with Cold War classics “Stand or Fall” and “Red Skies.” The 40-year-old songs sounded perhaps a bit too relevant in the current climate of renewed tension between nuclear superpowers. Curnin avoided comments and let these particular songs speak for themselves.

The encore saw the welcome return of “Lonely as a Lighthouse,” a decades-old fan favorite live track that was finally reclaimed for inclusion on Every Five Seconds. Woods’ steady pulse suggested the strength of a steadfast protector, as West-Oram’s slashing guitar and Curnin’s clarion vocal evoked the isolated figure’s intense emotions and desperate longing. Next came the Zen funk of “Saved by Zero,” featuring another titanic West-Oram guitar solo. The show concluded with an ode to eternal soulmates, “Secret Separation.” “Maybe there’s a lot wrong outside, but there’s a lot right in here tonight,” said Curnin in his parting words, urging the crowd to carry goodwill from the room with them as they left.


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