Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee
May 21-31, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2010, Volume 17, #5

Written by John Metzger

Fri May 21, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT

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Dengue Fever - Venus on Earth

5/21 - Dengue Fever / I Kong Kult / Aleks and the Drummer - Empty Bottle - Chicago - 10:00 p

The 1960s music scene undeniably was dominated by bands from America and Britain. The power and allure of the Western world allowed their recordings to spread around the globe, where they quietly infiltrated the cultures of many different civilizations. Only with recent technological advancements, however, has it become clear how widespread this influence was. Southern California’s surf-rock movement combined with the heavy usage of Farfisa organs, for example, to play a role in the development of Peruvian Chicha as well as Cambodian pop. While traveling across Southeast Asia, Ethan Holtzman was struck by the sounds that were blaring from tape recorders as he moved along city streets. After returning home to Los Angeles, Holtzman began searching for a vocalist who could help him recreate the songs he had heard. Nine years later, Dengue Fever — an outfit that includes Holtzman, his brother Zac, and singer Chhom Nimol — seems to be poised on the verge of a major breakthrough. The outfit’s latest endeavor Venus on Earth might be uneven, but there are moments when the collection approaches the captivating energy of Dengue Fever’s live performances. On May 21, the ensemble will perform at Chicago’s Empty Bottle, where it will be joined by I Kong Kult and Aleks and the Drummer.

James Taylor / Carole King - Live at the Troubadour

5/24 - James Taylor / Carole King - Allstate Arena - Rosemont - 7:30 p

Within the span of just a few months, Carole King and James Taylor watched their hopes and dreams become reality. Their first joint appearance at Los Angeles’ Troubadour — the club for emerging talent — occurred in late 1970 when they both were relatively unknown artists. In the wake of Taylor’s blockbuster hit single Fire & Rain as well as King’s career-defining album Tapestry, the duo returned to the intimate club in 1971 as superstars. Both Taylor and King have seen their popularity rise and fall over the years, though they each also have developed a well-established corps of fans. In 2007, King and Taylor returned to the Troubadour to pay homage to the venue’s 50th anniversary. Earlier this month, their collaborative performance was preserved on the two-CD, one-DVD collection Live at the Troubadour. It is highly doubtful that King and Taylor will make any major modifications to their show prior to their stop at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena on May 24. Hopefully, they won’t have refined their presentation too much, as some level of spontaneity will be necessary for them to overcome the vacuousness of the arena. A multiple-night engagement at the much-smaller Rosemont Theatre certainly would have been preferable, but the allure of seeing these legendary songwriters as they unite once again is too great to pass up.

Toots and the Maytals - Flip and Twist

5/26 - Toots and the Maytals - Turner Hall Ballroom - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
5/27-28 - Toots and the Maytals / Steel Pulse - House of Blues - Chicago - 8:00 p

Bob Marley became the face of reggae, but there are many other artists whose output was equally vital to the development of the genre. Six years ago, Toots Hibbert’s profile was given a serious boost by the release of True Love. Throughout the star-studded set, Hibbert revisited a number of his classic compositions, and although the new versions didn’t achieve the same magical aura of the originals, their presentation was both effective and accessible. Capitalizing upon the outcome, Hibbert has been touring the U.S. with remarkable regularity ever since. On his latest set Flip and Twist, he continues to explore reggae’s roots in American R&B. Some tracks sound like lost moments from the Motown-era, while others push closer to the modern age of hip-hop. Hibbert will emphasize material from Flip and Twist throughout his upcoming tour, and, of course, he always has an extraordinary canon on which he can fall back. Hibbert will bring his soulful, transcendent style to Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on May 26. He also will perform on May 27 and May 28 at Chicago’s House of Blues, where he will be joined by the long-running British act Steel Pulse.

Broken Bells - Broken Bells / self-titled

5/31 - Broken Bells - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p

By bringing together The Shins’ James Mercer and famed producer Danger Mouse, Broken Bells has a distinct advantage in the indie-pop scene. Considering the talent and name-recognition of its participants, the group had no difficulty finding a label or generating a buzz. Even so, the amount of hype that preceded the release of Broken Bells’ self-titled debut was so ridiculously over-the-top that the collection likely was a letdown to many prospective fans. Viewed without the absurdly high expectations that were placed upon it, the eponymous endeavor is proven to be a solidly engineered exploration of cinematic ’60s pop. When it performed at South by Southwest in March, Broken Bells stumbled because it adhered too closely to the script it had concocted in the studio. Although this strategy might work for its first tour, which stops at Chicago’s Vic Theatre on May 31. To succeed over the long haul, however, Broken Bells must jettison its polished approach in favor of taking greater risks.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: May 16-20, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: May 7-15, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: April 29-May 6, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: April 23-28, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: May 25-31, 2009

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