Local Concert Preview for Chicago
April 1-7, 2010
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2010, Volume 17, #3
Written by John Metzger
Wed March 31, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
4/2 - Steve Poltz - Schuba's - Chicago - 7:30 p
It might have seemed like an innocuous move when Steve Poltz opted to tackle Waterfalls — the ubiquitous hit single from TLC — on his 2003 set Chinese Vacation, but it attracted its share of controversy. Some embraced it as a playful exercise, along the lines of Travis’ frequent concert performances of Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time. Others viewed it as a grave mistake, one that undermined the growth that Poltz had shown on the endeavor. He earned a modicum of attention for the song and the album, though he also quickly slipped back into a life of relative anonymity. Two years ago, Poltz quietly resurfaced with a pair of recordings (Traveling and Unraveling) that demonstrated just how engaging his quirky songs can be. In early February, Poltz issued his latest outing Dreamhouse, and in the midst of a lengthy tour to support the endeavor, he will perform at Schuba’s in Chicago on April 2.
4/3 - Robert Cray - House of Blues - Chicago - 8:30 p
Robert Cray seems to have two different personalities: In the studio, he is a smooth, soulful crooner, while in concert, he is a feisty bluesman. If he ever manages to put these divergent pieces together, he might become the dominant force that many expected him to be by now. On his latest set This Time, Cray takes a few small steps in the right direction. The outing is filled with its share of moving guitar passages. Yet, it also retains the R&B flavors that he loves to evoke. Unfortunately, Cray leans too heavily upon his influences, thereby failing to make the music his own. He’ll try to rectify matters when he visits Chicago’s House of Blues on April 3. Hopefully, though, he won’t travel to the other extreme by stretching the songs beyond their limits with overly lengthy — and utterly professional — instrumental excursions.
4/3 - Alejandro Escovedo - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p & 10:00 p
Alejandro Escovedo’s bout with hepatitis C could not have come at a worse time. During the early part of the 2000s, after years of drifting under the radar, Escovedo’s career had finally gained some serious traction, thanks in no small part to back-to-back studio gems (Bourbonitis Blues and A Man under the Influence) as well as a major publicity push by his then-new label (Bloodshot Records). Everything seemed to be clicking for him when decades of hard-living began to take their toll on his health. Escovedo was forced to retreat from the road, and he soon found himself on the brink of death. Yet, he managed to survive. His recovery has been a long, slow process, but his touring schedule once again has grown quite hectic. Escovedo used his experiences to fuel the most recent additions to his canon (The Boxing Mirror and Real Animal), and songs from throughout his career will line his set list when he performs two shows at the Old Town School in Chicago on April 3.
4/6 - Julian Casablancas - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p
Usually, the person to jump from a ship first is a group’s front man and primary songwriter. In the case of The Strokes, however, nearly everyone else beat the band’s de facto leader to the punch. The Strokes’ 2006 endeavor First Impressions of Earth did not have an easy birth, and rather than force a fourth effort into existence, the five-piece ensemble took a much-needed hiatus so its members could pursue outside interests, all of which have ventured to places that The Strokes had been struggling to reach on its own. Last year, Julian Casablancas unearthed Phrazes for the Young. Slathered in ’80s-style, synth-driven rock and space-age electronic dust, the collection essentially was a refinement of the vision that had guided The Strokes’ last studio set. It is possible that the musicians have now gotten their wayward experiments out of the systems, though it’s more likely that they simply have laid the groundwork for their future. The Strokes reconvened in February to continue working on material for a new album, which is slated for release later this year. In the meantime, Casablancas is taking one last trek across the country in support of Phrazes for the Young. He will perform at Chicago’s Vic Theatre on April 6.
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