Chicago / Milwaukee Concert Preview
August 1-13, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2010, Volume 17, #8

Written by John Metzger

Mon August 2, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT


8/6-8 - Lollapalooza - Grant Park - Chicago

Lollapalooza Logo

This is the sixth year in which Lollapalooza has taken up residence in Chicago’s Grant Park. Music fans can only hope that the event will be around for many years to come. Once again, Lollapalooza has succeeded in positioning itself between Southern California’s Coachella Festival and Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Where the former show has gravitated toward increasingly high-profile acts and the latter concert experience has clung to its mission of showcasing relatively obscure indie outfits, Lollapalooza has produced an annual stream of genre-defying lineups that surround a handful of key collectives with an onslaught of the latest buzz bands. True to form, the 2010 edition of Lollapalooza pairs headlining acts — Green Day, Soundgarden, The Strokes, Lady Gaga, Phoenix, and Arcade Fire — with hot-ticket ensembles, such as The National, MGMT, Grizzly Bear, The Black Keys, and Dirty Projectors. With music spread across eight stages, it’s impossible to see every performance at Lollapalooza. There simply are too many conflicting time slots. Nevertheless, with Jimmy Cliff, Mavis Staples, Devo, and Blues Traveler also on the docket, it’s safe to say that there’s something for everyone at this year’s event.

8/7 - BoDeans / Big Head Todd & the Monsters - Ravinia - Highland Park - 7:00 p

Big Head Todd & the Monsters - Rocksteady

A veteran of the H.O.R.D.E. festival as well as its associated circuit of off-season venues, Big Head Todd & the Monsters watched its star gradually fade away once the traveling road show called it quits in 1998. The group has managed to persevere, though it largely has spent its time performing before the same base of fans that it attracted in 1993 with its breakthrough outing Sister Sweetly. In essence, Big Head Todd & the Monsters had little to lose when it opted to mail half a million copies of All the Love You Need to prospective fans in 2007. With its ninth studio endeavor Rocksteady, which was issued on July 20, the group will determine whether or not its gamble was successful. In creating the effort, Big Head Todd & the Monsters narrowed its focus in order to emphasize the soulful side of its persona.

BoDeans - Mr. Sad Clown

Like Big Head Todd & the Monsters, BoDeans has maintained a steady presence, despite the highs and lows of its career. Lately, the outfit seems to have settled for taking the safest passage through the storm, often to the detriment of its endeavors. An air of reflection permeates its latest outing Mr. Sad Clown, and, for the most part, the group lets its melancholy mood chip away at its generally engaging melodies. Whenever Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas harmonize, their vocals succeed in pushing away the clouds that shroud much of the affair. Unfortunately, Mr. Sad Clown too often sounds like an album that was made when the duo was miles apart. Hopefully, when Big Head Todd & the Monsters and BoDeans unite for a performance at Ravinia in Highland Park on August 7, the outfits will finds ways of emphasizing their strengths and downplaying their weaknesses.

Primus - Antipop

8/7 - Primus - The Rave - Milwaukee - 8:30 p

Although Primus decided to take a break in 2001, the last nine years have been anything but dormant for the band. There has been a seemingly endless stream of side projects, live albums, and concert tours to fill the time. This year, however, Les Claypool has sent his followers into a jubilant tizzy. Not only is the group returning to the road for the first time in four years, but also its former drummer Jay Lane left his longstanding gigs with Ratdog and Furthur to rejoin the outfit. In addition, Claypool has indicated that Primus is preparing to release its first full-length studio set since 1999's Antipop. It’s doubtful that the outing will see the light of day until 2011, but this might not stop a few new tunes from leaking into Primus’ set list when the band performs at The Rave in Milwaukee on August 7. Chicagoans will either have to make the journey north or wait patiently until Primus returns to the region for a show at Chicago’s Congress Theatre on October 2.

Melissa Etheridge - Fearless Love

8/7 - Melissa Etheridge - Chicago Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
8/11 - Melissa Etheridge - Riverside Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p

Given her popularity, it isn’t surprising that Melissa Etheridge doesn’t introduce any new angles into her work on Fearless Love, the tenth album of her career. Nevertheless, she has sculpted a back-to-basics affair that ought to please her fans and persuade any who might have strayed over the years to return to the fold. Its themes are familiar; so is the way in which she bends social commentary around her personal experiences as she addresses everything from gay marriage to the 2008 Presidential election to her bout with cancer. The difference between Fearless Love and some of her other recent outings, then, resides with the way in which Etheridge makes the music pulse with angst-filled energy, particularly during the set’s opening half. Each song sounds like a stadium-worthy anthem, which bodes well for her appearances at the Chicago Theatre on August 7 and at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater four days later.

Rufus Wainwright - All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu

8/10 - Rufus Wainwright / Martha Wainwright - Pabst Theater - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
8/13 - Rufus Wainwright / Martha Wainwright - Bank of America Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

When they appear at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater on August 10 and Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre on August 13, Martha and Rufus Wainwright will be in the midst of a month-long tour designed to promote — or, at least, draw attention to — their latest offerings: His is the intricate piano-and-voice affair All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, while hers is Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris, a tribute to vocalist Edith Piaf. Although this is neither the first nor the last time that the Wainwright siblings will collaborate in concert, these performances likely will be among the most emotional shows of their careers. Earlier this year, their mother Kate McGarrigle passed away after battling cancer. Consequently, the music performed by Rufus and Martha Wainwright over the course of the evening likely will be bound together by a narrative thread about the triumphs and failures of life, love, and family.


Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: July 25-31, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: July 18-24, 2010

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: August 1-5, 2009

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: August 6-10, 2009


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