Local Concert Preview for Chicago & Milwaukee
February 25-March 3, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2010, Volume 17, #2

Written by John Metzger

Thu February 25, 2010, 06:30 AM CST

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Tinariwen - Imidiwan: Companions

2/27 - Tinariwen - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p & 10:00 p
2/28 - Tinariwen - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p

Instead of replicating the patterns that made its breakthrough endeavor Aman Iman so inviting, Tinariwen jettisoned producer Justin Adams and retreated to the wilderness with Jean-Paul Romann to record its latest effort Imidiwan: Companions. The resulting collection feels more intimate than its predecessor, even as Tinariwen retains the slowly evolving, hypnotic grooves that have become its bread-and-butter. The outfit will perform three shows at the Old Town School on February 27 and February 28 as part of Chicagoís Spring Festival of African Music. If anything, the restraint that Tinariwen demonstrated with the material from Imidiwan: Companions will further bolster the dynamic range of its concerts. Within the sonic perfection of the Old Town School, Tinariwen will be able to provide the soundtrack for an intense, spiritual journey.

Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies

2/27 - Justin Townes Earle / Joe Pug - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 10:00 p

Nine years ago, as Justin Townes Earle was at the onset of his career, his father Steve gave him a helping hand by asking him to open his concerts. To Justin, it was a welcome opportunity. To the rest of the world, however, it looked like an act of nepotism, at least until the younger Earle began to perform. Like his dad, Justin Townes Earle is a hardcore troubadour whose blood seems eerily connected to the spirit of the late, great Townes Van Zandt. Unfortunately, the three men also share a penchant for self-destructive behavior, the kind that eventually took Van Zandtís life and nearly destroyed both of the Earles. Justin Townes Earle recently cleaned up his act, and he fittingly joined his father to pay tribute to their hero on Townes. His economically potent new outing Midnight at the Movies is a stylistic fusion of bluegrass, honky-tonk, Western swing, and blues to which his cover of The Replacementsí Canít Hardly Wait is bent perfectly to fit into place. Joe Pug, whose full-length debut is due later this year, will join Earle for a co-headlining show at Chicagoís Lincoln Hall on February 27.

John Mayer - Battle Studies

3/1 - John Mayer / Michael Franti - Bradley Center - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

For a moment, it appeared as if John Mayer had finally found a way to balance his artistic credibility with his widespread popularity. On his latest set Battle Studies, however, Mayer once again has retreated to the safety of the lightweight fare that dominated his early albums. His lyrics are overwrought; his arrangements are uninspired and bland; his keen talent with a guitar has been toned down for the masses. Itís almost as if he became so big, so fast that heís afraid to do anything that might upset the status of his paycheck. From time to time, Mayer has shown that he is capable of accomplishing great things. In order to move forward, however, he needs to stop compartmentalizing his work and instead focus on finding ways of bringing all of his interests under a single roof. Meanwhile, Michael Franti has been making his own bid for mainstream acceptance of late. Thereís no doubt that All Rebel Rockers is an enticing outing. In fact, it is the most accessible endeavor that Franti has ever made. He will open for Mayer at the Bradley Center on March 1, and this inspired pairing should push both artists to put on a good show.

Grateful Dead - Furthur

3/2-3 - Furthur - Auditorium Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p

Over the past 15 years, numerous iterations of the Grateful Dead have taken to the road to perform in venues of all sizes. The ensembles have staged large outdoor festivals and settled comfortably into relatively intimate indoor auditoriums. All of the bands that have emerged in the wake of Jerry Garciaís death have done an admirable job of recreating the atmosphere that once surrounded the Grateful Dead. If anything, these groups have rekindled the spirit of adventure that seemed to wane during the Grateful Deadís final moments. Nevertheless, none of them have hung around long enough to fulfill their potential. Formed last year, Furthur is the latest outfit to reunite Phil Lesh with Bob Weir. The collective also features drummers Jay Lane and Joe Russo as well as keyboard player Jeff Chimenti and guitarist John Kadlecik. Last fall, Kadlecik announced that he was leaving Dark Star Orchestra to focus entirely upon Furthurís future, and with any luck, this is an indication that the current line-up isnít interested solely in nostalgia. Furthur will perform on two consecutive nights at Chicagoís Auditorium Theatre beginning on March 2.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: February 17-25, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: February 1-16, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: January 7-31, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: December 23, 2009-January 6, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: February 23-28, 2009

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