Chicago Concert Preview
May 18-22, 2011
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2011, Volume 18, #5
Written by John Metzger
Wed May 18, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
5/18 - The Cars - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
For a long time, Ric Ocasek insisted that The Cars would never reunite. Frustrated by Ocasekís disinterest, his former bandmates joined with Todd Rundgren in 2006 to create The New Cars. In response, Ocasek promptly paid a visit to The Colbert Report to voice his displeasure, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Three years later, as Ocasek was preparing material for a new solo record, he began to realize how well his latest batch of songs fit with The Carsí legendary repertoire. Working with producer Jacknife Lee, the collective immediately rediscovered its unique chemistry. The resulting set Move Like This is a high-energy affair that frequently recalls The Carsí heyday. Selections from the endeavor will be featured prominently during the outfitís performance at the Riviera Theatre on May 18, though plenty of the bandís well-known hits will also surface throughout the evening.
5/19 - John Oates - Viper Alley - Lincolnshire - 8:15 p
On several occasions during the past decade, John Oates has attempted to embark upon a solo career. Not surprisingly, he has found it difficult to escape the gravitational pull of his work with Daryl Hall. On his latest set Mississippi Mile, Oates tried a different approach. Instead of deploying the same sorts of soul-pop arrangements that made him famous, he stepped further back in time to embrace his Americana roots. Supported by a stellar cast of session players ó including Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Dennis Crouch ó Oates not only tackled songs by Elvis Presley (All Shook Up) and Curtis Mayfield (Itís All Alright), but he also rewrote Doc Watsonís Deep River Blues. He is planning to lean heavily upon his solo career when he performs at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire on May 19. Nevertheless, Oates also has revamped several selections from Hall & Oatesí catalogue so that they will fit the tenor of the program.
5/21-22 - Lucinda Williams - Park West - Chicago - 8:00 p
Now that she is happily married, Lucinda Williams has little reason left to cry over her personal life. On her latest set Blessed, she drifts outward to examine the lives of others with far more clarity than she brought to her 2003 endeavor World without Tears. While making Blessed, Williams received support from an all-star cast that included Elvis Costello, Matthew Sweet, and Greg Leisz. Nevertheless, "support" is the operative word. Her collaborators augment the mood of her material, but they never steal the show. Producer Don Was wisely kept the arrangements crisp and clean so that the music frames, rather than obscures, her emotional vocals. Williams will be in town over the weekend for a pair of shows at Park West on May 21 and May 22. The first will benefit the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; the second is a standalone gig. Both concerts will provide an overview of Blessedís many charms.
5/22 - Bruce Cockburn - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p
Itís funny how some songwriters develop a devoted cadre of fans but never quite amass the critical or commercial success that they deserve. Throughout his career, Bruce Cockburn has flirted with both sides of the equation by sculpting small-scale singles (If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Waiting for a Miracle) and crafting major artistic statements (Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu). Cockburnís biggest problem is that he has been ridiculously inconsistent. Although he should be commended for refusing to remain in one place, he often spends large chunks of time searching for direction. In fact, eight years have passed since his last truly terrific effort (Youíve Never Seen Anything). These days, Cockburn arguably seems to be more satisfied making textured instrumentals than setting his poetic observations to music. With this in mind, his latest outing Small Source of Comfort will bring welcome relief to his fans. While it doesnít move him beyond the intimate story-songs that became his stock-in-trade during the 1990s, it is his best set of material in quite some time. Chicagoís Old Town School is the perfect location for Cockburn to perform these tunes, and heíll be there for a sold-out show on May 22.
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