Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee:
November 10-16, 2009

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2009, Volume 16, #11

Written by John Metzger

Tue November 10, 2009, 06:30 AM CST

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Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain

11/12 - Ray LaMontagne - Auditorium Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p

Ray LaMontagne’s latest set Gossip in the Grain may have been a disappointment to music commentators everywhere. Nevertheless, spurred by the success of its horn-kissed single You Are the Best Thing, the collection achieved critical mass from a commercial perspective. As a result, LaMontagne has made the leap from performing in small clubs to appearing in mid-size theaters. Over the course of the past year, he has been working through his repertoire on the road with the help of a modest backing band. At times, he also has been supported by a variety of symphony orchestras. For his latest trek, however, LaMontagne is getting back to basics. With no one to lean on, he’ll have to dig deeper inside himself to find the emotional gravity necessary for effectively conveying his soulful folk songs. In other words, this solo acoustic excursion ought to go a long way toward fixing everything that ails him.

Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

11/12-13 - Devo - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

Devo hasn’t exactly been dormant since its 1990 endeavor Smooth Noodle Maps flopped. Over the past 19 years, the group has retained a steady if low-profile presence by contributing music to a variety of film soundtracks. In early 2006, it debuted Devo 2.0, a bizarre collaboration with Disney in which child actors mimed along to re-recorded renditions of the band’s best-known songs. Shortly thereafter, the outfit began trying to stage a comeback.

The recording of Devo’s ninth album, however, has been a long, arduous process. As a result, the release of the set has been postponed on several occasions. Tentatively titled Fresh, it now is slated to hit store shelves sometime next year, though whether this truly comes to pass may hinge entirely upon the success of the group’s fall tour. It’s truly hard to imagine, then, that the decision to reissue Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice was designed to do anything other than resuscitate the outfit’s flagging career. To this end, Devo is currently embroiled in a series of two-night engagements to support the new, expanded collections. The band will devote its show on November 12 at Chicago’s Vic Theatre to a full-length performance of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, while Freedom of Choice will be tackled on the following night.

Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg

11/13 - Wolfmother - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p

After the release of its self-titled debut in 2005, Wolfmother hit the ground running. The band turned up everywhere as it crisscrossed the globe for an array of television, radio, and concert appearances. Wolfmother’s hard work paid off, too. Its popularity soared, and its single Woman won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Maintaining such a vigorous schedule, though, is not an easy feat. After spending so much time in close proximity to each another, the trio of Andrew Stockdale, Chris Ross, and Myles Heskett crumbled under the weight of their creative differences. Stockdale inherited the group’s name, and he immediately assembled a new line-up in a bid to take advantage of the goodwill that Wolfmother had mustered during its brief reign. Issued last month, the ensemble’s sophomore set Cosmic Egg largely follows the template of its predecessor. It also likely will be the focus of Wolfmother’s show at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago on November 13.

Todd Snider - Excitement Plan

11/13 - Todd Snider - Park West - Chicago - 8:30 p
11/14 - Todd Snider / Great American Taxi - Shank Hall - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

Todd Snider has been accumulating fans, one by one, for the better part of the past 15 years. Yet, the lone, common grievance with his work that they all seem to share lies with his arrangements. To put it plainly, Snider sometimes has a tendency to overdo it in the studio, replacing the rough-edged grittiness of his live performances with a sheen that is glossier and friendlier. In the end, it doesn’t matter, though. His gift for telling a tale is enough to make his output relevant. In this sense, his latest outing The Excitement Plan is another winning endeavor. Once again, Snider peered beneath the hood of America and found a bunch of stories to tell — from the legend of former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis to a soldier at war to his own brief incarceration last year — that are as humorous as they are strangely insightful. Known for stringing his songs together to form a loosely knit narrative — with plenty of diversions along the way — Snider truly excels in concert. His appearances at Chicago’s Park West on November 13 and Milwaukee’s Shank Hall on November 14 surely won’t disappoint newcomers or longtime fans.

Great American Taxi will join Snider at the show in Milwaukee. Two years ago, the collective, which is fronted by Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon fame, issued its debut Streets of Gold. More recently, Herman revamped the ensemble before leading it through the recording sessions that produced its sophomore set Reckless Habits. Herman hardly is in Snider’s camp, but Great American Taxi should serve a solidly satisfying opening act.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: November 2-9, 2009

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: October 25-November 1, 2009

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: October 17-24, 2009

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: October 9-16, 2009

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: October 1-8, 2009

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