Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee:
June 17-23, 2009
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2009, Volume 16, #6
Written by John Metzger
Wed June 17, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
6/17 - Eric Clapton / Steve Winwood - United Center - Chicago - 8:00 p
Blind Faith’s life span was ridiculously short. For all of the possibilities that the ensemble presented, it was only able to muster the strength to craft one album — an eponymous effort that was issued 40 years ago. Its subsequent tour fell apart before the group was truly able to get in synch. After collaborating at the Crossroads Music Festival in July 2007, however, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood began contemplating a full-fledged rekindling of their partnership. The culmination is hitting an array of oversized arenas this summer. Drummer Ginger Baker opted not to participate in the project, which has kept the duo from calling themselves Blind Faith. Nevertheless, the results largely are the same. Performing a healthy dose of material from Blind Faith’s self-titled debut as well as a number of tracks from their solo canons, Clapton and Winwood are making up for lost time. The project won’t last forever, of course, but Clapton and Winwood sound so rejuvenated that classic rock fans undoubtedly hope that this reunion will become something more than just a nostalgic exercise.
6/18-19 - O.A.R. - Charter One Pavilion - Chicago - 7:30 p
Over the years, O.A.R. has developed a split personality. In the studio, the band has gravitated toward slickly produced pop-rock fare. Unfortunately, the result of its efforts has been a steady stream of increasingly hit-and-miss collections filled with pleasantly inoffensive material. Last year, everything came to a head with the release of All Sides, an outing that alienated some of the group’s fans. In effect, O.A.R. ditched the last remaining vestiges of its distinctive personality as a means of launching itself into the nether reaches of the modern rock charts. The outfit has a penchant for expanding upon its ideas in concert, and with any luck, O.A.R. will poke and prod at its latest batch of songs, twisting them into the sorts of breezy, reggae-tinged grooves for which it has become known.
6/18-20 - X - Double Door - Chicago - 9:00 p
Punk band X decided to mark its 32nd anniversary in a rather democratic fashion. Earlier this year, the ensemble announced that, between April and July, it would perform a series of concerts around the country, and each was promised to be a little different from its predecessor. Here’s the hitch: The set lists for the shows will be determined by X’s fans. There are certain songs, of course, that will resurface nightly. Thus far, White Girl, The World’s a Mess, and the outfit’s quintessential anthem Los Angeles typically have ranked reasonably high in the polls. At the same time, rarities, such as The Unheard Music, have also surfaced. In other words, this is an intriguing way not only of maintaining the audience’s interest, but also of keeping the group on its toes. X has always thrived on the edge of chaos, and this approach seems designed to keep it there.
6/20 - The Church - House of Blues - Chicago - 6:00 p
6/23 - The Church - Shank Hall - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
It has been so long since The Church has put together a worthwhile endeavor that it’s doubtful that anyone expected the group to stage a major comeback. Yet, here it is, making the rounds behind its latest concoction Untitled #23. Despite the set’s unassuming moniker, Untitled #23 has been garnering the band’s best reviews in years. To pull off this trick, The Church not only updated its sound but also refocused its energy on melodic structures — all without losing sight of its adventurous spirit. There’s no doubt that the ensemble’s biggest hit Under the Milky Way will surface at some point during these shows, but for the first time, it seems as if The Church finally has found a way of embracing its strengths while also distancing itself from the past.
6/20-21 - Phish - Alpine Valley Music Theater - East Troy, WI - 7:00 p
Everyone knew that sooner or later Phish would find a way of reuniting. After all, the group’s members are stronger when they work as a team rather than when they try to function as individuals. Therefore, the only question that remained was whether the band would reconvene merely to rake in the voluminous amount of money that a collaborative tour would command or to reclaim the artistic integrity that was lost when it began to adhere to a series of increasingly scripted routines and gimmicks. By all accounts, it is the spirited rendition of Phish that has taken to the road this year. Even better, for the first time in a decade, Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell consistently look as if they actually are enjoying each other’s company. Having set aside their personal problems as well as their misgivings about the music, Phish’s cast of characters has been reinventing their songs while remaining true to their original ideas. Whether their passion will last is anyone’s guess, so Phish fans should enjoy it while they can.
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