Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee:
September 8-13, 2009
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2009, Volume 16, #9
Written by John Metzger
Fri September 4, 2009, 06:10 AM CDT
9/8 - Psychedelic Furs / Happy Mondays - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
9/9 - Psychedelic Furs / Happy Mondays - Pabst Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
In the mid-1980s, Psychedelic Furs enjoyed immense success in the U.S., particularly on university campuses. Once its single Love My Way reached the top of the college chart, there was no turning back. Three of its outings — Forever Now, Mirror Moves, and Midnight to Midnight — were certified gold by the RIAA, and the band’s 1981 song Pretty in Pink served as the inspiration for the John Hughes film that bears its name. Front man Richard Butler has been dropping hints of late that a new Psychedelic Furs album is in the works. With the announcement of a full-fledged tour, it would seem that collective’s resurgence is imminent. The Happy Mondays formed in 1980, the same year that Psychedelic Furs issued its debut, but the outfit is still searching for an audience in America. Over the years, the Manchester scene, of which it was an integral part, has been memorialized in an array of films and documentaries, including 24 Hour Party People. The Happy Mondays is hoping to translate its iconic status in the U.K. into a bigger following on this side of the Atlantic.
9/11 - The Mars Volta - Congress Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
In February, The Mars Volta picked up a Grammy Award for Wax Simulacra, a song from its 2008 outing The Bedlam in Goliath. Although the category in which it won — Best Hard Rock Performance — is an apt description of the tune, it hardly defines the music that pours forth from the band with striking regularity. Its latest set Octahedron is The Mars Volta’s fifth outing in six years, which is akin, these days, to working at the speed of light. Given its penchant for crafting album-long narratives and lengthy instrumental passages, the outfit typically is called a progressive rock group, but Octahedron is an attempt, at least in part, by The Mars Volta to head down a different path. While the ensemble doesn’t completely avoid the tricky time signatures, weird segues, and guitar-driven whiplash that marked its previous endeavors, Octahedron is a tighter affair that is designed to show off The Mars Volta’s melodic chops. Taken in small doses, its new songs should provide some much needed contrast to the collective’s experimental and edgy stage persona.
9/12 - Regina Spektor - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
Jeff Lynne produced only a few of the tracks on Regina Spektor’s latest outing Far, but his presence speaks volumes about the direction in which the New York-based songwriter is heading. Long ago, Spektor outgrew the anti-folk scene from which she emerged. Over the course of five albums, she has stumbled a few times as she reworked her old songs while trying simultaneously to broaden and refine her approach. Her material is still quirky, and she continues to drop everything without a moment’s notice in order to follow her impulsive Muse. There’s no question that Spektor is still grappling to find the best ways of reigning herself in without losing sight of her distinctive flair. Yet, much like its predecessor Begin to Hope, Far demonstrates how much she is willing to do to accomplish her goals. Spektor already has outlasted Nellie McKay, whose career has been in a tailspin ever since she lost a battle with her label over creative control of her work. Spektor isn’t inclined to make the same mistake. For all of her foibles, Spektor seems destined to be around for decades.
9/12-13 - U2 - Soldier Field - Chicago - 7:00 p
Only a few bands truly are able to thrive within the confines of a massive outdoor sporting arena like Soldier Field. U2 is one of them. The bigger the audience, the harder the group has to work, of course. For U2, though, its trials and tribulations always seem to lead to a gigantic payoff. After years of scaling back its shows in order to emphasize its music, the outfit felt it was time to craft another spectacular production on the scale of its Popmart tour. In essence, U2 needed to embrace its past in order to plunge into the future. Beneath a giant, spaceship-like apparatus, the ensemble has accomplished this, with its usual intensity, on its latest sojourn.
Shrugging off the notion that it was going to become a nostalgia-based act, U2 has been opening with a barrage of material from its new album No Line on the Horizon, though plenty of fan favorites also are tucked into its sets. By design, the staging of its concerts is too complex to allow much variation in the material that the band tackles from one night to the next, though, as usual, this hasn’t stopped Bono from tossing lyrics from a smattering of cover songs into the mix. Thus far, he has leaned heavily on the works of The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and The Clash. One thing is certain: Given how expensive its setup was to create, U2 will be back in town in the not too distant future. By that point, its presentation will be even more refined.
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