Local Concert Preview for Chicago & Milwaukee:
May 15-24, 2009
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2009, Volume 16, #5
Written by John Metzger
Thu May 14, 2009, 04:30 AM CDT
5/15 - Keith Urban - Allstate Arena - Rosemont - 7:30 p
Keith Urban knows how to play the game, and he does it as well as anyone in the music business. Not surprisingly, he took significant steps to elevate his profile in the months prior to the release of his latest effort Defying Gravity. For example, this year alone, he performed in front of a crowd of 250,000 people to open the Daytona 500, and he appeared at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, where he not only joined Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and John Mayer to honor the legacy of Bo Diddley, but he also contributed a picture-perfect guitar solo to Al Green and Justin Timberlake’s duet on Let’s Stay Together. Although his recordings typically have leaned toward the bland, pop-oriented side of country, his publicity stunts have showcased just how varied his influences are. If Urban could ever restrain himself enough to focus on his art rather than his popularity, he just might become a huge creative force. Then again, he might have to settle for playing venues smaller (and less lucrative) than the Allstate Arena.
5/16 - Keane / Mat Kearney - Aragon Ballroom - Chicago - 6:30 p
Keane hasn’t received as much attention on this side of the Atlantic as it has in Britain. This, perhaps, provides an explanation for the change in direction that the band exhibited on its third album Perfect Symmetry. Since unveiling its debut Hopes and Fears in 2004, Keane has lived in the very long shadow of Coldplay. Although this position can provide a reliable stream of income, the endless comparisons were bound not only to get old but also to prevent the young outfit from forging its own identity. Perfect Symmetry was supposed to be the antidote to Keane’s personal crisis, but all that the group really managed to accomplish with the set was to lead another revival of ’80s pop. Mat Kearney, who will open for Keane when the ensemble performs at the Aragon Ballroom on May 16, offers a further distillation of Coldplay’s style, which is to say that the unique qualities of U2 and Radiohead — the inspired acts who started all of this — are noticeably absent from his work.
5/23-24 - Young Dubliners - Gaelic Park Irish Festival - Chicago
Despite its name, the Young Dubliners was formed in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the band’s brash and bold brand of Celtic rock legitimately lies somewhere between The Pogues and The Waterboys. The group received a modicum of attention for its debut Breathe, but it never really managed to parlay its initial success into anything of substance. The Young Dubliners will perform material from its seventh, full-length album Saints and Sinners when it makes a pair of appearances on consecutive days at the Gaelic Park Irish Festival, which will be held over Memorial Day weekend. Irish reggae outfit Black 47 and singer/songwriter Michael McDermott are also slated to perform original material at the event, while American English and Elevation will pay tribute to The Beatles and U2, respectively.
5/24 - Gomez - Pabst Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
With a trio of vocalists and a bevy of songwriters, all of whom approach their craft from distinctively different perspectives, there is no denying the fact that Gomez has an abundance of talent. Nevertheless, it has yet to figure out how to fuse its disparate ideas together to form a cohesive whole. This, however, hasn’t stopped the outfit from fostering a cult-like following that avidly will defend every misstep it has made. A New Tide, Gomez’s latest foray, doesn’t break new ground for the band. Instead, it is meant to revitalize its floundering career. Unfortunately, although the effort has its moments, it is, once again, only partially successful, leaving casual observers with even less hope that the ensemble will ever fulfill its potential. In the end, though, this matters little because Gomez has a tendency in concert to reduce the dimensionality of its studio work until it is nothing more than a batch of exuberantly delivered rock ’n‘ roll tunes that quickly grow wearisome.
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