Chicago / Milwaukee Concert Preview
July 18-24, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2010, Volume 17, #7

Written by John Metzger

Fri July 16, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT

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Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep

7/22 - Natalie Merchant - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
7/23 - Natalie Merchant - Riverside Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

It took Natalie Merchant a long time to find her voice as a solo artist. Although her success with 10,000 Maniacs gave her courage and confidence, it also established boundaries and expectations that ultimately proved to be difficult to break. With Tigerlily, Ophelia, and Motherland, Merchant attempted to broaden her palette by introducing a variety of nuances and textures into her arrangements. Yet, the public and media alike repeatedly latched onto the songs that followed closely in the footsteps of her output with 10,000 Maniacs. Independently issued in 2003, The House Carpenter’s Daughter provided Merchant with an opportunity to reinvent herself via a sequence of selections that ranged from traditional folk tunes to a cover of Fairport Convention’s Crazy Man Michael. Seven years later, Merchant sounds fully liberated. On her latest endeavor Leave Your Sleep, Merchant adorns poems by e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edward Lear with an array of musical costumes. She’ll provide an in-depth examination of the outing when she performs at the Chicago Theatre on July 22 and at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater on July 23.

James Cotton - Deep in the Blues

7/23 - James Cotton - Beverly Arts Center - Chicago - 8:00 p

Since 1950, James Cotton has amassed an astounding set of credentials. Not only did Sonny Boy Williamson served as his mentor, but Cotton also was an integral member of Muddy Waters’ band, first on stage and then in the studio. He also expanded his audience by making high-profile concert appearances with the likes of Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Santana. Nevertheless, Cotton continues to fly under the radar of most Americans. Although his voice hasn’t been the same since he received treatment for throat cancer in the early 1990s, Cotton’s talents as a bandleader and harmonica player continue to shine brightly. His gruff, fiery presence dominated his Grammy-winning endeavor Deep in the Blues and fueled his country- and bluegrass-influenced forays on Baby, Don’t You Tear My Clothes. Cotton will celebrate his longevity with a performance at Chicago’s Beverly Arts Center on July 23.

Hall and Oates - Do What You Want, Be What You Are

7/23 - Daryl Hall & John Oates - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

Popularity has a tendency to temper artistic creativity. The more commercial success that Daryl Hall and John Oates enjoyed, the more that the duo dulled the edges of their work in order to fit within the constructs of Billboard’s pop music charts. By the time that their collaborative star began to fade in the 1990s, their output had become a joke in some circles. In hindsight, though, there’s no denying the power, beauty, and consistency of Hall & Oates’ canon, particularly its 1973 endeavor Abandoned Luncheonette as well as its self-titled affair from 1975. Last year’s expansive boxed set Do What You Want, Be What You Are as well as The Bird and The Bee’s Interpreting the Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates were designed specifically to reestablish the duo’s credentials. For the most part, they succeed in showcasing Hall & Oates’ artistic merits. Hall & Oates will cull material from the full range of their career when they perform at the Chicago Theatre on July 23, though undeniably they’ll fare best whenever they delve into the most soulful selections from their repertoire.

Jack Johnson - To the Sea

7/24 - Jack Johnson / G. Love / ALO - Alpine Valley Music Theatre - East Troy - 7:00 p

Jack Johnson has been working in venues that are the size of East Troy, Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley for a while. He didn’t get there, though, by throwing lots of curveballs at his fans. Rather, Johnson has parlayed his affable personality into a quietly refined collection of albums that feature gently strummed melodies and soothingly warm vocals. On his latest set To the Sea, Johnson once again doesn’t stray off the beaten path that he has chosen to walk. At the same time, though, he also has learned to vary his stylistic approach and tighten the narrative focus of his endeavors. To the Sea is a homage to Johnson’s father, who passed away last summer. Therefore, Johnson’s tour to support the outing, which will stop at Alpine Valley Music Theatre on July 24, might boast some of the most emotionally raw performances of his career. Both G. Love and Special Sauce as well as ALO are tagging along to provide him with some substantial support.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: July 8-17, 2010

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

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: July 22-31, 2009

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