Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee
June 17-23, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2010, Volume 17, #6

Written by John Metzger

Thu June 17, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT

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The Autumn Defense - self-titled

6/17 - The Autumn Defense - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 9:00 p

In terms of side projects, The Autumn Defense is as good as they come. For the most part, the outfit’s potential for growth largely has been limited by its inherent inability to follow the patterns of a normal band. Formed by John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, The Autumn Defense exists only in those spaces when Wilco is in the midst of a break. Nevertheless, the indoctrination of Sansone into the Wilco family certainly has made it easier for him and Stirratt to work on new material. Now that the buzz behind Wilco (The Album) has run its course, The Autumn Defense is ready to rise again. Its latest tour, which will stop at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on June 17, is meant to preview material from the group’s forthcoming endeavor. Based upon the songs that the ensemble posted on its Facebook page in late April, The Autumn Defense hasn’t deviated from its initial plan, which still stands as a pledge of devotion to the AM-pop sounds of the 1960s and early 1970s.

MGMT - Congratulations

6/18 - MGMT - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 7:30 p
6/20 - MGMT - Riverside Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

MGMT has huge ambitions, and the band certainly made them quite clear on its 2008 debut Oracular Spectacular. MGMT asked producer David Fridmann — best known for his collaborations with The Flaming Lips — to help shape its space-age songs about rock-star excess. High-profile gigs with Radiohead, Beck, and Paul McCartney as well as a guest appearance on The Flaming Lips' Embryonic seemed to prime the outfit for explosive growth. The question that remains, however, is whether MGMT — like its albums — will burn out before it can reach the apex of its potential. MGMT’s sophomore set Congratulations mostly sidesteps the answer. Wisely, the group refused to take a formulaic approach to the endeavor. Unfortunately, there are moments when its melodic focus is subverted by its increasingly schizophrenic tendencies. In concert, MGMT frequently seemed bored with the material on Oracular Spectacular. Therefore, when the collective performs at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre on June 18 and Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater on June 20, fans can only hope that, by broadening its sonic palette, MGMT can maintain enough interest in its work to provide a quality experience.

Eagles - Long Road Out of Eden

6/19 - Eagles / Dixie Chicks / Keith Urban - Soldier Field - Chicago - 8:00 p

These days, both Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban qualify as country artists. If either of them had arisen in the early 1970s, however, they would have fit squarely into the radio-friendly, country-rock framework that was forged by the Eagles. With this in mind, an arena tour featuring all three of these acts — such as the one that will stop at Chicago’s Soldier Field on June 19 — has been long overdue. Having issued only one album of new material in more than three decades (Long Road Out of Eden), the Eagles continues to tread dangerously close to joining the nostalgia circuit. The Dixie Chicks, too, has been relatively quiet since Natalie Maines sparked a firestorm of political fury. Taking the Long Way, the trio’s most recent endeavor, was a musical and lyrical response to the brouhaha, and it pushed the band even further into the pop-rock realm. The effort now is nearly four years old. If selections from the side project Court Yard Hounds don’t find their way into the Dixie Chicks’ repertoire, then Keith Urban is the performer at this event who is packing the most contemporary resume. He has been making the rounds in support of Defying Gravity since last spring.

Harry Connick Jr. - Your Songs

6/22-23 - Harry Connick, Jr. - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

Every few years, Harry Connick, Jr. delivers a straightforward album of popular standards. Created with help from legendary producer Clive Davis, his latest set (Your Songs) features a unique twist: In addition to tunes culled from the Great American Songbook, Connick also interpreted an array of contemporary selections. It’s difficult to take issue with his choices, too. Throughout Your Songs, Connick effortlessly juxtaposes compositions by Billy Joel (Just the Way You Are) and The Beatles (And I Love Her) with classics popularized by Nat King Cole (Mona Lisa) and, of course, Frank Sinatra (All the Way). When Connick settles into the Chicago Theatre for a two-night engagement on June 22 and 23, he will be backed by an outfit that is part-orchestra and part-big-band. This format not only will allow him to recreate the lush atmospheres of Your Songs, but also to mix-and-match material from across the full scope of his career.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: June 10-16, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: June 1-9, 2010

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

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

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: June 17-23, 2009

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