Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee
July 1-7, 2010

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

Written by John Metzger

Tue June 29, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT


Levon Helm - Electric Dirt

7/1 - Levon Helm / John Hiatt - Ravinia - Highland Park - 7:00 p
7/3 - John Hiatt - Summerfest - Milwaukee - 10:00 p

Although his fight against cancer was successful, Levon Helm has continued to be dogged by health problems, which have threatened to rob him of his voice. Fortunately, he steadfastly has refused to be silenced. After undergoing surgery to have a lesion removed from his vocal chords, Helm has returned to the road this summer for a series of concerts throughout North America, including a show at Ravinia in Highland Park on July 1. The venue isn’t nearly as intimate as the old barn in Woodstock, New York that Helm converted into a performance space and recording studio. Nevertheless, as he traverses the rustic material on Dirt Farmer and its heartier companion set Electric Dirt, his easy-going style almost certainly will make the place feel significantly smaller than it is. John Hiatt, whose own output bears a striking resemblance to Helm’s solo work, will join the festivities at Ravinia before he heads to Milwaukee for an appearance on the Briggs & Stratton Stage at Summerfest on July 3. The Open Road, Hiatt’s latest set, is the 18th studio album of his career. Throughout the endeavor, Hiatt uses a rock-oriented framework to highlight the angst that flows through his songs, which frequently pit a quest for connection against a need to escape.

The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever

7/1 - The Hold Steady - Summerfest - Milwaukee - 10:00 p

The Hold Steady’s early work was abrasive enough to appeal to the indie-rock crowd. At the same time, though, the melodies with which it anchored its songs were so irresistible that they easily converted music fans whose tastes required some semblance of focus. The truly transfixing element of The Hold Steady’s output, however, has always been its lyrics. As it moved from Almost Killed Me to Separation Sunday to Boys and Girls in America, The Hold Steady created a mythical world that realistically reflected a teenage wasteland filled with fear and uncertainty. On its fourth endeavor Stay Positive, however, front man Craig Finn jettisoned the characters that he painstakingly had developed in order to pursue an outlook that was more mature and reflective. The Hold Steady’s latest set Heaven is Whenever follows a similar trajectory. Throughout the collection, its subjects struggle to maintain a connection to their youth. At the same time, they realize that the self-destructive path on which they once had trod didn’t necessarily hold all of the answers they had been seeking. In concert, The Hold Steady tends to weave together songs from its canon, mirroring the grand statements that it makes on its albums. With Green Day now supplying music to Broadway, fans ought to ponder whether the tunes that The Hold Steady delivers during its performance on July 1 at the U.S. Cellular Stage of Milwaukee’s Summerfest will someday form a musical soundtrack of their own.

Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

7/3-4 - Dave Matthews Band - Alpine Valley - East Troy - 7:00 p

The Dave Matthews Band was built for hosting mammoth concerts in outdoor arenas. Not surprisingly, then, it quickly adopted the habit of assembling lengthy summer tours that have consistently stopped at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin. High levels of anticipation and excitement always seem to surround the outfit’s appearances at the venue, too. Because this year’s two-night engagement happens to coincide with Independence Day, there certainly will be an extra special air of celebration surrounding the event. The Dave Matthews Band lost saxophonist LeRoi Moore in an ATV accident in 2008, and its latest set Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King was designed, at least in part, to honor Moore’s legacy with the outfit. In the wake of Moore’s untimely death, Jeff Coffin joined the group, and his jam-heavy upbringing — which includes stints with the Flecktones as well as with his own jazz ensembles — has allowed the Dave Matthews Band to continue its high-wire act, which merges frenzied rhythms with wide-ranging improvisational flourishes.

Rush - Moving Pictures

7/3 - Rush - Summerfest - Milwaukee - 7:30 p
7/5 - Rush - Charter One Pavilion - Chicago - 7:30 p
7/7 - Rush - Charter One Pavilion - Chicago - 7:30 p

Rush’s 2007 endeavor Snakes & Arrows generated so much excitement among fans that the outfit reenlisted producer Nick Raskulinecz for help in concocting its 20th studio outing. The song cycle remains a work in progress, and consequently, it hasn’t yet been scheduled for release. Nevertheless, the group is planning to debut a few of its new tunes during its lengthy summer tour, which will stop at Milwaukee’s Marcus Amphitheater on July 3 and Chicago’s Charter One Pavilion on July 5 and July 7. As always, Rush will tackle many of the classic tracks from its esteemed back catalogue. The biggest news surrounding the ensemble’s latest sojourn, however, is that it will perform Moving Pictures, its blockbuster album from 1981, in its entirety at every show.


Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: June 24-30, 2010

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

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: July 1-11, 2009


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