Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
Prior to the sold out show with Orville Peck at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago, you make note to cover the crowd and the Riviera marquee for a bit, knowing full well that the faithful will turn out in droves, all adorned up western style, and some going even further with the anonymous and sophisticated fringe masks similar to what Orville wears while performing.
To the faithful, it's a big deal to get all dolled up, Orville Peck style.
It's fascinating to watch and photograph, experiencing first hand the energy it brings to an event and performance on the scale of Orville Peck, and his meteoric rise witnessed firsthand over the past few years.
And here we are, with Orville and his band celebrating his latest release "Bronco", which came out back in early April, and now on the road supporting the release on his "Bronco Tour" of North America.
Orville starts the show off with "Daytona Sand", the first song and first released single off of "Bronco", bathed in various hues of blue. and even though in sophisticated cowboy fashion from head to toe, which you expect, down to his cowboy boots and ten gallon hat- had no idea of just how sophisticated his getup was until he ripped into the second song of the evening- the punchy and resentful "Turn to Hate", and the stage bathed now in white light.
Now you can see Orville's outfit in all of its glory- all turquoise, with a bit more added turquoise, and done up in true cowboy splendor.
I bring this up as a case in point separate from just talking about the songs from the setlist outright- there's a lot going on with Orville Peck and his desire to always put on a show (no matter the venue) that is unforgettable, and leave your worries behind at the door.
It's amazing to watch Peck's musical growth, as a singer / songwriter, and also as a confident performer, becoming more and more fearless, and even a bit more unruly, if you can believe that.
Even if you want to remain anonymous, hiding a bit behind your fringe masks, the haters will still come, one by one, to belittle you and let you know directly and indirectly some modicum of contempt.
A guy like Orville takes this to heart, brushing off some of the criticism, that being his vocal timbres and range, which uncovers a bit of Roy Orbison a bit of Morrissey, and blessed as well with a deep baritone that conveys a sense of loss and repression when the timing is just right.
He writes songs about pain and loss, because he's experienced firsthand multiple times his fair share of pain and loss.
And to top it off, with the wide spread acclaim he received from his first album, "Pony", back in 2019, which was embraced not just by true country fans, but also the indie and alternative crowd- Like most artists new to the game- how do you follow that up without the dreaded "Sophomore Slump" hanging over your head?
Well if you're a guy like Orville Peck, I believe you rest up a bit, take some deep breaths, and reconfigure anew, and take some risks with some wide ranging ideas, since you know full well that you have an awesome band that's been with you through thick and thin, and they have your back.
I mean I guess you have to answer a simple question: What makes you want to be a songwriter anyway? I believe every take on every album is going to be different, just from shared life experiences and simply living, and proving to yourself your worth and validation. That, and don't be fake, and try not to be hard on yourself.
I feel that Orville, with each and every passing turn through life, is asking these kind of questions.
Maybe the mask will come off somewhere down the road, maybe not.
But laying out the groundwork anonymously for a career in your chosen genre (and genres) of music- to allow you to flourish and shine with polished singing and songwriting should help to bear fruit for years to come.
The point to all of this is to convey just how much I get the impression that he truly cares, and takes all of this to heart, even with downtime during a pandemic.
So in regards to the making of "Bronco", and touring on the strength of these songs, you can tell from the outset that they are therapeutic to some extent, getting out of a depression, re- finding your voice, making sense of another bad relationship- kinda like keeping a diary of tragic mistakes and bad behavior, and how to correct past behavior. Songwriting to that extent, I'm sure truly helps you get out to the other side.
And what makes you whole again? Taking out these new songs for a spin on the road.
You've witnessed now the aforementioned "Daytona Sand", and you also get to hear "The Curse of the Blackened Eye", followed by "Lafayette", and also "C'mon Baby Cry", "Any Turn", along with "Kalahari Down", amongst others.
And it looks from my vantage point throughout the entire show, from the pit by the stage, to the back of the house, that Orville is enjoying himself immensely, even on a hot Wednesday night in the sauna known as the Riviera Theatre.
And that turquoise outfit ain't coming off until the end of the show.
You gotta love and admire a guy like Orville Peck, always approaching live performance with sincerity, and coming from an authentic place- haters be damned.
Having witnessed Orville so far come through Chicago- first at the intimate Lincoln Hall, then at Lollapalooza last year in the blazing sun, up to the present day on his Bronco Tour, he still proceeds on that plane, pouring his heart out to his faithful fans, approaching everything with deliberate honesty.
So refreshing to see and witness live with Orville yet again.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago