Local Concert Preview for Chicago:
July 12-21, 2009
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2009, Volume 16, #7
Written by John Metzger
Fri July 10, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
7/12 - The Duhks - Schuba's - Chicago - 8:00 p
Canada has a long history of producing bands that share a fondness for American roots music. The distinctive flair that The Duhks brings to the table, however, is to connect Appalachia to the world at large. The Celtic derivations through which the band typically moves inevitably serve as natural extensions of its bluegrass-centered base, while the Afro-Cuban grooves, Eastern flourishes, and French-Canadian wanderings utterly demolish the boundaries that confine other like-minded outfits. Unfortunately, over the course of its four albums, The Duhks has yet to find a way of taking advantage of the freedoms it has afforded itself. Several personnel changes likely hindered the forward progress that the group ought to have made with its newest set Fast Paced World. Still, The Duhks has soldiered onward, and by all accounts, its performances of late are stronger than ever.
7/13 - Green Day - United Center - Chicago - 8:00 p
For a while, it seemed as if Green Day wanted to grow up but couldnít quite figure out how to balance this feat with its crude, adolescent, punk-pop past. Along came American Idiot ó the album on which the outfit channeled its teen angst into a hyper-charged conceptual work about the State of the Union under President George W. Bush. Poised somewhere between The Who and The Clash, the effort gave Green Day a whole new lease on life. It was risky for the trio to dip back into the rock opera pool for its follow-up endeavor 21st Century Breakdown. Nevertheless, bolstered by a fully restored level of confidence, Green Day has raised the stakes significantly by showing that thereís room for the artistic cohesiveness of the classic rock era in an age that is dominated by incompatible singles heard through iPods. Concerts need not be disconnected streams of hit singles either, and fans can expect Green Day to be taking its theatrical message to the masses on its latest tour.
7/14 - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Metro - Chicago - 8:00 p
As the driving force behind Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst was able to dabble freely in a wide array of musical styles. By contrast, the Mystic Valley Band, his latest project, focuses primarily on roots-rock. For the first time in his career, too, Oberst is ceding a portion of the spotlight to his collaborators, allowing them to write and sing their own material. In other words, by stepping out on his own, he oddly enough has developed his first truly democratic outfit. Although their tunes pale in comparison to his, the result is still a fun-filled romp through a selection of songs that borrow from both Bob Dylan and Wilco. Two years after its formation, the Mystic Valley Band continues to work tracks by Paul Simon (Kodachrome) and John Prine (Crazy as a Loon) into its shows, leaving many with the hope that a few more surprises will also be forthcoming.
7/16 - Elton John / Billy Joel - Wrigley Field - Chicago - 7:00 p
7/21 - Elton John / Billy Joel - Wrigley Field - Chicago - 7:00 p
Elton John and Billy Joel have been touring together for years, and thereís no reason, at this late date, to annul their good marriage. On their own, both artists have had a tendency to fade in and out, sometimes sounding inspired and sometimes seeming to be bored beyond belief. Together, however, John and Joel have kept each other on their toes. While itís true that their set lists largely have been constructed around the same slate of songs for decades, their collaborations on stage frequently have resulted in some serious sparring. The result is a performance that is both engaging and highly energetic, and they have given their fans more than a few reasons to continue catching their concerts. Seeing them at a major-league ballpark like Wrigley Field ó as opposed to the United Center or the Allstate Arena ó is an added bonus. Itís only the third time that a major act has performed a full-length show at the home of the Chicago Cubs.
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