Chicago Concert Preview
December 10-19, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2010, Volume 17, #12

Written by John Metzger

Fri December 10, 2010, 06:30 AM CST

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Badly Drawn Boy - It's What I'm Thinking: Photographing Snowflakes

12/10 - Badly Drawn Boy - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 9:00 p

Winning awards is bound to throw a monkey wrench into an artist’s creative process. After all, not only are the resulting expectations of fans and critics impossible to meet, but they also force a performer’s mind to work overtime in an attempt to repeat the accomplishment. The curiously unsettled career of Badly Drawn Boy provides a fitting example. In 2000, Damon Gough, who records under this moniker, was honored with the Mercury Music Prize for his debut The Hour of Bewilderbeast. Although the achievement earned him an international following, it also sparked a frustratingly uneven era that produced a stellar film soundtrack (About a Boy), a partially successful attempt to right the ship (One Plus One Is One), and too many disappointments to count. Reacting to his fate, Gough hunkered down and developed enough material to fill three new albums. The first of these (It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1: Photographing Snowflakes) serves as the impetus for his current tour, which stops at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on December 10.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

12/15-17 - Andrew Bird - Fourth Presbyterian Church - Chicago - 8:00 p

After a commercially successful year, most artists return to their hometown and celebrate with an enormous concert that highlights everything they have accomplished in their careers. Although these shows typically are triumphant affairs, they also frequently cross the line and become spectacles. A year ago, Andrew Bird took a different route. Shrugging off his growing popularity — the result of his mainstream breakthrough Noble Beast — he lined up four nights at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. Working not only with a stripped-down stage setting but also without his backing band, Bird invited fans to witness his creative process. Each evening, he mixed a few familiar songs with a myriad of works-in-progress, some of which seemed to have been developed on the spot. The spiritual intimacy that Bird was able to conjure was so moving that he is returning to the venue for another round of shows on December 15, 16, and 17.

Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down

12/17 - Relient K - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 7:00 p

Rebounding from the disappointment that greeted Five Score and Seven Years Ago, Matt Thiessen, the principal songwriter for Relient K, rediscovered his knack for merging infectious melodies with alt-rock arrangements that were drawn from the ’90s. The result was last year’s Forget and Not Slow Down, the sixth full-length album of his band’s relatively young career. Spurred by the devastating demise of a relationship, Forget and Not Slow Down proved to be cathartic for Thiessen. Despite the heartbreaking experience about which he wrote, Thiessen’s music largely provided an air of optimism to the endeavor. As it begins to ponder its next move, Relient K has assembled a three-week acoustic tour, which culminates with a Christmas concert at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on December 17. The show is expected to feature material from Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer, a compilation of holiday-oriented material that Relient K assembled a few years ago.

Waco Brothers - Freedom and Weep

12/18 - Waco Brothers - Schuba's - Chicago - 10:00 p
12/19 - Waco Brothers - Schuba's - Chicago - 8:00 p

Although the Waco Brothers performs quite a few concerts throughout the greater Chicago area each year, nearly all of its fans eagerly anticipate the collective’s annual holiday blowout at Schuba’s. Billed as Waco Weekend 2010, the group will hold court at the intimate venue on Chicago’s North side a little earlier than usual, performing two pre-Christmas shows on December 18 and 19. Schuba’s recently celebrated its 21st birthday, and naturally, such a momentous occasion is suited quite well to The Waco Brothers’ brand of crash-and-burn, alcohol-fueled mayhem. While the outfit is long overdue to release a new album — it’s most recent studio set Freedom and Weep first surfaced in 2005 — it is quite possible that these performances will feature a handful of selections from Jon Langford’s latest solo outing Old Devils. In making the endeavor, Langford contemplated the growing divide between rich and poor. Consequently, the Waco Brothers simultaneously will be trying to drown their sorrows and spark a revolution.

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Of Further Interest...

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

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: November 23-30, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: November 16-22, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: November 9-15, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: November 2-8, 2010

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