Chicago Concert Preview
February 15-28, 2011

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2011, Volume 18, #2

Written by John Metzger

Tue February 15, 2011, 06:30 AM CST

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Old 97's - Grand Theatre, Volume 1

2/19 - Old 97's - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 8:30p

Arguably, Old 97ís has had a hit-and-miss career. Front man Rhett Millerís solo sojourns have been even spottier. Nevertheless, whenever the group finds its groove, it is hard to beat. For the record, its latest set (The Grand Theater, Volume 1) is a somewhat uneven affair. Regardless, its deficiencies never accumulate to the point where they undermine the endeavor. In fact, Old 97ís sounds feistier than ever as it bashes through its country-tinged tunes with the fury of a down-and-dirty, rock ínĎ roll outfit, regaining its cow-punk origins along the way. Champaign, Illinois might have started as a rewritten rendition of Bob Dylanís Desolation Row, but Old 97ís snarling attack keeps it relevant. The ensemble is planning to issue The Grand Theater, Volume 2 later this year, so thereís an abundance of new material for it to mix with its classic tracks when it performs at Chicagoís Vic Theatre on February 19.

Kodo - Mondo Head

2/21 - Kodo - Symphony Center - Chicago - 7:00 p

Mickey Hart has long been a proponent of world music projects, so it was hardly surprising when he leant his time and energy to supporting Kodo in 2001. By producing Mondo Head, he helped the Japanese drum-and-dance ensemble to reach a wider audience in the Western world. As good as the effort was, though, Kodo is a band that is meant to be seen rather than simply heard. Its concert appearances are theatrical events that explore time-honored Japanese customs through the performance of traditional and contemporary compositions. Thereís a certain sense of stagecraft to the movement of the outfitís members, and the music that they make, while banging away with precision on their percussion instruments, is nothing short of spellbinding. Currently in the midst of a two-month trek across North America in celebration of its 30th anniversary, Kodo will return to Chicagoís Symphony Center on February 21.

Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots

2/25-26 - Drive-By Truckers - Vic Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p

One of the biggest reasons that Drive-By Truckers has been able to weather the loss of Jason Isbell, who left the group four years ago to start a solo career, is because the outfit still has a pair of seriously good songwriters left in its midst. Patterson Hood has always provided the band with its vision, and his prolific nature has helped Drive-By Truckers to maintain its focus throughout each of its studio endeavors. Meanwhile, Mike Cooley consistently has produced the perfect countermeasures to Hoodís compositions. With Isbell out of the picture, Cooley has considerably more room to roam. These days, with their tales about the hardships faced by Americaís working class, Hood and Cooley are the yin and yang that keep Drive-By Truckers afloat. As magnificent as its studio albums have been, however, the collective has thrived in concert. Its two-night engagement at Chicagoís Vic Theatre on February 25-26 is meant to celebrate the success of last yearís effort The Big To-Do as well as the release of its latest set Go-Go Boots.

Randy Newman - The Best of Randy Newman

2/26 - Randy Newman - Park West - Chicago - 8:00 p

Randy Newman just keeps churning out songs and scoring soundtracks that inevitably are nominated for Grammys and Oscars. Often, he wins, too. Recently, his work on Toy Story 3 and The Princess and the Frog was recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that runs the Grammy Awards. As Newman has explained repeatedly over the years, these projects help him to pay the bills, even if they donít always highlight his full talent as a songwriter. With this in mind, it certainly was a treat for his longtime fans when, in 2008, he returned with Harps and Angels, his first non-film studio album in nine years. With his customary blend of wit and melody, Newman took aim at Americaís declining status in the world as well as several hot-button political issues. These days, his concert appearances are rare, which is why his upcoming appearance at Chicagoís Park West on February 26 will be so special. Fans can expect Newman to run through every aspect of his canon ó from his recent collaboration with Dr. John (Down in New Orleans) to Louisiana 1927ís revitalized tale of devastation.

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Of Further Interest...

Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: February 1-14, 2011

Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: January 18-31, 2011

Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: January 5-17, 2011

Concert Preview for Chicago: December 20, 2010 - January 4, 2011

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: February 17-25, 2010

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