Chicago Concert Preview
November 16-22, 2010
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2010, Volume 17, #11
Written by John Metzger
Mon November 15, 2010, 06:30 AM CST
11/18 - Donavon Frankenreiter - Double Door - Chicago - 8:00 p
Despite guest appearances from Ben Harper and G. Love, Donavon Frankenreiter’s Pass It Around largely was greeted by a chorus of critical disappointment. He responded to the reaction by relocating to Hawaii where he crafted the aptly titled set Revisited. Throughout the collection, Frankenreiter reinterpreted his self-titled debut by adorning his soulful folk songs with Hawaiian instrumentation and building arrangements that reflected the ambience of his new surroundings. Satisfied with the outcome, his palate cleansed, Frankenreiter returned to familiar ground with his latest outing Glow. For certain, his mellow textures and highly refined, R&B-inflected grooves remain intact. At the same time, though, the final product also has been goosed with layers of echo-laden guitars, ornamental strings, and swirling organ. In many ways Glow feels like the type of outing that Pass It Around was supposed to be. Frankenreiter likely will lean heavily upon his most recent batch of material when he performs at the Double Door in Chicago on November 18.
11/18 - Mike Gordon - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 8:00 p
For a long time, the side projects that were developed by the members of Phish merely magnified how fractious the quartet had become. Now that the group has rediscovered the wondrousness of performing as a cohesive unit, however — a concept that was outlined quite wonderfully on last year’s descriptively titled effort Joy — these diversions feel as they should: like comfortable outgrowths of the main act. Instead of competing with each other for attention, the individual musicians have defined their own identities and are now bringing fresh ideas back to Phish. Many of the songs featured on Moss, the latest endeavor from Mike Gordon, emerged from the sessions that spawned his 2008 outing The Green Sparrow. Nevertheless, where the latter album grew from a desire by Gordon to refine his approach to writing material, Moss seems intent on enveloping his compositions in colors and textures. When he performs at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on November 18, Gordon will be returning with the same outfit that has supported him for the past several years, which bodes well for his ability to capture the hallucinogenic properties of the collection.
11/19 - Joseph Arthur - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p
It is a strange time for pop culture. The consolidation of media companies has made an abundance of cross-promotional opportunities available to artists, further blurring the line between fiction and reality. Witness the never-ending stream of songs that are incorporated into the soundtracks for television programs, not because they establish a mood, but rather because they were recently released. The end result is that these occurrences are nothing more than commercials couched as entertainment, and one should hope that the public will soon start to see through these shenanigans. Until then, however, the trend is going to get worse. In fact, it already has. During an episode of Parenthood that aired in late September, Fistful of Mercy — a side-project for Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, and Dhani Harrison — was given prominent placement in a central storyline that sprang from nowhere and didn’t make any sense. Arthur recently completed a short tour with the group, but he’ll be back on his own when he performs a solo show at Chicago’s Old Town School on November 19. Arthur, Harper, and Harrison are all talented enough earn audiences on their own merits. One can only hope they’ll think twice before pulling a stunt like this again. It cheapens their accomplishments as much as it weakened the program on which they bought advertising.
11/21 - KT Tunstall - Park West - Chicago - 7:30 p
During interviews while promoting her debut Eye to the Telescope, KT Tunstall often cited David Bowie’s Hunky Dory as one of her favorite albums. Six years later, while crafting her third outing Tiger Suit, she retreated to Hansa, the studio in Berlin where Bowie and Brian Eno recorded Heroes. This connection isn’t a coincidence. Despite its glossy overtones, Tunstall’s sophomore set Drastic Fantastic didn’t expand her audience quite as much as she and her label had hoped. Tiger Suit, then, is meant to reinstate her artistic drive, and its blend of glam-y rock and sonic exploration proves that she hasn’t lost her ambition. Tunstall will mix material from the effort with her previous hits — Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Suddenly I See, and Hold On — when she performs at Park West in Chicago on November 21.
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