Chicago Concert Preview
December 20, 2010 - January 4, 2011
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2010, Volume 17, #12
Written by John Metzger
Mon December 20, 2010, 06:30 AM CST
12/29 - Justin Roberts - Field Museum - Chicago - 2:00 p
The holidays really are all about the kids. Yet, it can still seem, at times, like a daunting task to venture into the mass of people that flood downtown Chicago for family-oriented activities that range from the indoor playground at Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest to an array of special exhibits at the city’s many cultural institutions. As a former Montessori teacher, Justin Roberts likely is hoping that parents will choose the latter option instead of the former one. Armed with material from his latest outing Jungle Gym, Roberts will entertain children and their parents during a special, hour-long performance at the Field Museum on December 29. Roberts’ joyously indelible melodies provide the perfect way to beat the winter blues, and his lyrics glean insight into the inner workings of a child’s mind.
12/29 - Umphrey's McGee - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 7:00 p
12/30-31 - Umphrey's McGee - Riviera Theatre - Chicago - 8:00 p
Umphrey’s McGee may have opted to celebrate Halloween in St. Louis, but once again the band has chosen to spend the holidays at home. Instead of splitting time between two venues like it did in 2009, the outfit is settling into the Riviera Theatre for three nights of music and mayhem. Last year, Umphrey’s McGee introduced a handful of new cover tunes to its repertoire: The Beatles’ Lady Madonna, Bruce Springsteen’s 10th Avenue Freezeout, Steely Dan’s Reelin’ in the Years, and most surprisingly, Frankie Valli’s Can’t Keep My Eyes Off of You. Without a new album on the horizon, the band’s upcoming concerts have the potential to be even more eclectic than usual simply because there’s nothing to plug other than the good-spirited, fun-filled atmosphere that Umphrey’s McGee conjures on a regular basis.
12/31 - Robert Randolph / North Mississippi Allstars - House of Blues - Chicago - 9:00 p
It is doubtful that Chicago’s House of Blues could have secured a double-bill that was more appropriate for New Year’s Eve than Robert Randolph and the North Mississippi Allstars. Randolph began his career performing steel guitar in church, and the spiritual messages he continues to relay through his music dutifully capture the essence of the venue’s Sunday morning gospel brunches. Recorded in collaboration with producer T Bone Burnett, Randolph’s latest set We Walk this Road traipses through American tradition to get at the roots of rock ’n‘ roll. Lately, guitarist Luther Dickinson has spent more time revitalizing The Black Crowes than he has with the North Mississippi Allstars. With The Black Crowes on vacation, he should have an abundance of time available for re-establishing his band. In recent years, Dickinson’s outfit has lost its focus. Nevertheless, considering how he helped to uncover the blues-y textures of The Black Crowes’ output, Dickinson should have no trouble immersing himself in the hard-hitting, Southern sounds that have always supplied the North Mississippi Allstars with its visceral firepower.
12/31 - 1/1 - The Black Keys - Aragon - Chicago - 10:00 p
The Black Keys’ profile has been significantly elevated ever since the group joined the Nonesuch family. Produced by Danger Mouse, its 2008 affair Attack & Release not only featured an expanded sonic template but it also spawned the hit single I Got Mine. With its confidence bolstered and its vision widened, the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney continued to transform their outfit’s approach on its latest offering Brothers. Not all of the band’s experiments are successful, but the way that Auerbach and Carney surround their ancient blues grooves with modern textures is intriguing, to say the least. For their New Year’s run at Chicago’s Aragon on December 31 and January 1, The Black Keys likely will offer a mixture of old and new material that balances crowd-pleasing highlights from its canon with selections that will satisfy its longtime fans. The appearance of a few well-chosen cover tunes from the likes of Junior Kimbrough, The Stooges, and Captain Beefheart is within the realm of possibility, too.
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