Local Concert Preview for Chicago & Milwaukee:
April 15-21, 2009

First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2009, Volume 16, #4

Written by John Metzger

Wed April 15, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT

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4/16-17 - Jeff Beck - Park West - Chicago - 7:30 p
4/18 - Jeff Beck - Turner Hall Ballroom - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

Jeff Beck - Jeff

Seventeen years ago, Jeff Beck was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds. As wildly inconsistent as his solo outings have been, Beck’s work also has been highly influential in the realms of blues, heavy metal, and jazz-fusion. Consequently, it was only a matter of time until he was added to the institution’s roster on his own accord, which took place in a ceremony that was held less than two weeks ago. To celebrate, Beck is in the midst of a worldwide tour that includes a two-night engagement at Chicago’s Park West on April 16 and 17 as well as a stop at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on April 18. On his latest sojourn, Beck is being supported by a cast that includes an alumnus of Frank Zappa’s Band (drummer Vinnie Colaiuta), a jazz pianist (Jason Rebello), and an up-and-coming, 22-year-old bass-playing phenomenon (Tal Wilkenfeld). Together, the musicians are touching upon each era of Beck’s career, with songs that range from Beck’s Bolero to Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat to Blast from the East.

Branford Marsalis Quartet - Metamorphosen

4/17 - Branford Marsalis - Symphony Center - Chicago - 8:00 p

It isn’t easy to keep a jazz ensemble together for an extended period of time. Those outfits that do find a way to survive, through thick and thin, typically have trouble finding something new to say with their work. The Branford Marsalis Quartet is, then, a rare exception. Instead of drifting apart, the ensemble has grown closer over the years. Its latest album Metamorphosen is a fully collaborative affair that features compositions from each member of the group as well as a reconfigured rendition of Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-a-Ning. The collective — which in addition to its namesake also includes pianist Joey Calderazzo and the astoundingly solid rhythm section of bass player Eric Revis and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts — currently is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a tour that will stop at Chicago’s Symphony Center on April 17.

Chris Cornell - Carry On

4/17 - Chris Cornell - Pabst Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
4/19 - Chris Cornell - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p

It’s hard to believe that Chris Cornell once fronted ferocious outfits such as Soundgarden and Audioslave. Throughout his latest endeavor Scream, he continues to follow the perplexing, pop-oriented trajectory of his sophomore set Carry On. Produced by Timbaland, the new album ventures even farther afield as Cornell strives for dance-floor gold. Strangely enough, his gamble sometimes pays big dividends, though it also is likely to make his longtime fans run shrieking in agony. Cornell improbably will attempt to fuse his past with his present when he performs at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater on April 17 and at The Riviera in Chicago, two days later.

Frankie Valli - Romancing the 60s

4/18 - Frankie Valli - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

The Broadway musical Jersey Boys has been such an enormous success that it has given legendary performer Frankie Valli a much-needed boost. In a move that clearly was meant to capitalize upon his good fortune, Valli quickly unveiled Romancing the ’60s, his first recording in several decades. He has been touring the country ever since, too. Although his sojourns are taken at a more casual pace than they once were, he still thrills the fans who come to hear him. While nothing on his recent album truly rivals his older, time-tested songs, the effort has provided fresh fodder for his concerts, which also feature pristine reproductions of the seemingly endless stream of hits he scored between the late 1950s and mid-1970s. Valli has assembled a younger version of the Four Seasons for his latest trek, which will return to the Chicago Theatre on April 18.

Travis - Ode to J. Smith

4/18 - Travis - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

Travis once seemed poised for enormous success, but after the release of The Invisible Band in 2001, the group quickly lost its way. Challenged and eventually supplanted by the likes of Coldplay and Keane, Travis struggled to find its footing. As a result, it has become nothing more than a distant memory. Ode to J. Smith, which was issued last fall, is an attempt by the band not only to shake loose from its increasingly formulaic approach but also to reclaim the highs of its glorious past. Although Travis isn’t entirely successful in achieving its goals, it at least has managed to take a few steps in the right direction. The ensemble will perform a career-encapsulating set when it visits Chicago’s Vic Theatre on April 18.

Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara

4/21 - Great Lake Swimmers / Kate Maki - Schuba's - Chicago - 9:00 p

Canada once again has become a fertile hotbed for up-and-coming talent. Two of the latest artists to emerge from America’s northern neighbor — Great Lake Swimmers and Kate Maki — have joined forces for a nationwide trek that stops at Schuba’s in Chicago on April 21. Just a few weeks ago, Great Lake Swimmers issued Lost Channels, an album that continues to explore the intersection of folk-pop and indie-rock. Meanwhile, Maki is continuing to tour behind her latest endeavor On High. Maki’s work is far subtler than Great Lake Swimmers, but both of these rising stars make music that is as hypnotic as it is engaging.

4/21 - Ray LaMontagne - Riverside Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain

Ray LaMontagne was toiling away in a shoe factory when he decided to try his hand at writing and performing his own material. Considering how far he has come in a relatively short period of time, it’s clear that he is a quick study with a natural gift for pulling melodies from thin air. Unfortunately, his latest set Gossip in the Grain is something of a mixed bag, and the disparate ideas that run through the endeavor never quite pull together to form a cohesive statement. Nevertheless, there also are plenty of indications that LaMontagne’s setback may be temporary, if only he could find a way of meeting his label’s expectations while remaining true to himself. In the meantime, LaMontagne will bring his soul revue to Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater for a performance on April 21.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Watch for Chicago/Milwaukee: April 8-14, 2009

Local Concert Watch for Chicago/Milwaukee: April 1-7, 2009

Local Concert Watch for Chicago/Milwaukee: March 22-31, 2009

Local Concert Watch for Chicago: March 15-21, 2009

Local Concert Watch for Chicago: March 8-14, 2009

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