It was only the night before Paul Klein took center stage Saturday at the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom in Chicago that he announced he had to cancel his show in Detroit.
“Detroit, I am so sorry to say that tonight’s show unfortunately cannot take place,” he wrote. “I woke up this morning and my voice was gone.”
Fans didn’t doubt the sincerity behind Klein’s words, given it was the first show he had ever had to cancel, and he, too, was just as — or even more — devastated. He closed out by writing, “P.S. Chicago will see you tomorrow but I might need some help so get ready to bring it.”
Chicagoans and travelers alike were bonded together by their love and concern for Klein, as everyone appreciated his devotion to the gg bb xx tour and were obviously euphoric about seeing the Oklahoma native perform. Yet, no one could help but feel broken-hearted for him and his damaged voice.
The minute the lights dimmed and the set turned to an ambient bright pink, though, the uniting of voices was so astounding that there was no question of whether or not Chicago would be able to help LANY finish every line of its songs.
Klein emerged full force with “get away,” the first track on the band’s latest album, which dropped Sept. 3. Both perfect as an album and concert opener, “get away” jump-started the energy for the rest of the night, shifting between rich exuberance and pure vulnerability.
LANY continued with some of its more invigorating songs such as a classic, “Super Far,” that exhilarated the audience only two seconds into the distinguished starting beat. Expectedly, the crowd was thrilled to hear an oldie that generated buzz surrounding the band. What was not expected, though, was the sound equipment failing for Klein, guitarist Les Preis and drummer Jake Goss, right as Klein began vibing on the keyboard.
Klein made the most of the situation as he always does, thanking Chicago for being there with him tonight under the strenuous conditions he found himself in and also expressing his love for such a grandiose city. Chicagoans abound were compelled.
“Chicago: everything you love about New York and nothing you hate about New York,” Klein screamed.
He proceeded to ask the crowd if it wanted him to tell some jokes. The answer was an obvious “yes,” but before he could even begin, the sound returned, and to everyone’s surprise, he questioned if they should just play “Super Far” again. Once more, the crowd roared.
Klein began to dial it down with a fan favorite, “cowboy in LA.” He put his sparkly pink cowboy hat and guitar strap on, immersing himself in the venue and lyrics. With his arms spread wide, it was evident he was enticed by the energy.
Despite the vocal adversities he was facing, his range was still very much conspicuous to Chicago along with his eccentricity of brightly painted nails and beautiful bleached locks paired with his simplistic flannel and wife beater.
Other tracks such as “heart won’t let me,” “roll over, baby,” “ex i never had” and “13” Klein sang elegantly, his voice still recognizable, as he pushed through the pain and kept singing, dancing and utilized all of the space on stage possible. At one point, Klein even inserted himself into the crowd as everyone screamed and rushed to close in on him.
When it came time to sing “up to me,” it became aware to the audience how much Klein was struggling as his usual energetic, shirtless self never emerged, and Chicago didn’t hold that against him. If anything, it created a more intimate setting for Klein to sing about all of the love, confusion and pain he has endured that his listeners have undeniably felt, too, right in time for him to belt out “Hericane,” one of LANY’s more stripped ballads.
“Hericane” left listeners wrecked, and the emotion didn’t stop there. Subtly but without flaw, the track transitioned into a few verses of the honest “i still talk to jesus,” leaving the crowd wanting more of it but being left with the upbeat closing tracks that everyone knows and loves.
The band thanked Chicago once more, and the omitted noise was so overwhelming Klein became barely audible at this point. The crowd knew he’d be back for more, as he couldn’t leave without singing the band's biggest hit, “ILYSB.” To show Klein the appreciation the crowd had for him amid his damaged health, it chanted “Paul” numerous times before he appeared once again singing “you!” the wistful, heartfelt opening of mama’s boy.
Hands over hearts, heads thrown back and hands preaching, owing everything to love, human connection and LANY, the encore was impeccable and only grew to larger heights with the cue of “ILSYB.” Everyone sang, “Oh, my heart hurts so good / I love you, babe, so bad, so bad” loudly with Klein, expressing the affection felt for him as he began to sob.
It was clear getting up on stage and singing for thousands of people was anything but easy for Klein that night, as he repeatedly apologized in the closing lines of the last track, covering his face and falling to the ground.
He was dying to deliver Chicago an ethereal experience, and he did. Though his vocal strain was present, LANY fans wanted nothing more than for him to feel proud. As the band grabbed hands and took one final bow, tears streamed down not only Klein’s face but also the faces of the ones who love him most.