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Our Memories of the Chicago Theatre

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 26, 2011 7:30PM

The Chicago Theatre in the early 1960s. Image Credit: Art Shay

Here at Chicagoist we've been discussing our favorite memories of the Chicago Theatre over the years. Here are some of them for you on the theater's birthday.

Tankboy: I have two. Tom Waits played there during the *Get Behind the Mule* tour and it was actually the second time I'd seen him in a year, so I went in knowing it'd be fantastic but thinking nothing could beat my initial encounter with Waits in a live setting down in Austin during SXSW. I was mistaken. He was at least as, if not more, mesmerizing and I walked out feeling as if I'd actually seen real life magic, pulled from another dimension, channeled through his figure and performed onstage.

When Beck played there The Flaming Lips opened the show and performed as Beck's backing band. The Lips were just starting their (second) ascent and while their own set was far too short it carried a particularly powerful version of "Lightning Strikes the Postman" that literally brought me to tears. That emotion passed and during Beck's set I was greatly entertained by the push and pull between The Lips' Wayne Coyne and Beck as both men did their best to remain the focal point of the crowd's attention. It was only later I learned that Coyne had developed a great distaste for Beck based on the blonde waifish one's diva-ish work habits when it came to practicing before the tour.

Tony Peregrin: I finally saw Diana Ross in concert at the Chicago Theatre in May 2010. At 66 years old, she still looked sexy and curvy for days, and her voice was in excellent form. I remember at one point, after she finished singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” she told the crowd, in that soft, raspy whisper of a voice, “I mean that. If you need me, call me.” The crowd lost it and, of course, I melted into a puddle on the floor. Up side down, you turn me, Miss Ross.

Roger Kamholz: When Late Night with Conan O'Brien came to Chicago for week in 2006, the shows were filmed at the Chicago Theatre. I scored tickets for the Friday taping, which had been touted to include a special, mystery guest. The guest turned out to be then U.S. Senator Barack Obama, who absolutely delighted the packed house with his humor and charm. Already well known as a captivating speaker, Obama made some pretty memorable jokes, including one about how he addresses his family at the dinner table ("My fellow Obamas..."). I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member to walk out of the Chicago Theatre a fan.

Rob Christopher I saw a really cool Laurie Anderson show there, of which I, alas, remember very little, but the two neatest concerts I attended at the Chicago Theatre were both Philip Glass-related. There was the special screening of Koyaanisqatsi, with the Philip Glass Ensemble performing the score live. And then there was Monsters of Grace, a stunning 3-D animated film conceived by Robert Wilson and also featuring the Ensemble. I've always thought the theater has pretty comfy seating as well as pleasant acoustics.

Michelle Meywes: I haven't been to many shows at the Chicago Theatre, but they've all been memorable just for the special location. The one that sticks out in my mind is the Conan O'Brien Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television show. How could we not go?! This was a once of it's kind type event considering the Tonight Show situation, there's no "oh I'll see him next time he comes through town." And the show delivered the funny.

Prescott Carlson: I've only been to the Chicago Theatre twice - once to see "Cats" (oh the things guys will do to get in a girl's pants), the other for a live taping of "Talk Soup" back when it seemed like John Henson was going to have a big career (I'm imagining a Joel McHale voodoo doll is somewhere in his possession).

Samantha Abernethy: I've never been to a show there. But I remember vividly the day someone pointed out and explained the "hidden Y" in the sign symbolizing Wolf Point.

Feel free to share your favorite memories in the comments.