Still riding the meteoric rise of their hit single "We Are Young," the band fun. sold out the Riviera well in advance of their recent show. They are touring in support of their album Some Nights, the band's second effort.
A new reissue of Shuggie Otis's 1974 classic, Inspiration Information, brings the soul recluse out of hiding. But the album doesn't include his best known song, "Strawberry Letter 23"—he's saving that one for Lincoln Hall, where he delivers a rare gig April 17. A bunch of bigger names also revealed 2013 tour dates this week: Reunited grunge warrior Soundgarden hits the Riv in late January, while February brings Passion Pit and Matt and Kim to the UIC Pavilion, which opens its doors to Sigur Rós in April. But all of those acts are lightweights compared to Taylor Swift, whose tour behind this year's best-selling album, Red, brings the pop-country megastar to Soldier Field in August with sappy support from Ed Sheeran. Find these and other newly announced concerts below or visit timeoutchicago.com/bookingahead for a more extensive list of upcoming shows.
The dBs occupy a rare and storied space: With members who have counted time playing with Alex Chilton, Television’s Richard Lloyd, R.E.M. and their own individual production projects, the band acts as a sort of living bond between post-punk’s growing pains at the turn of the ‘80s and the rise of college rock in the decade that followed. But that would be selling them too short: Their early run of albums effectively refashioned power-pop for the post-punk age, redefining what pop songwriting could accomplish for a generation raised on CBGBs. And though the assembly of fans packed tightly underneath the Hideout beerlight to see the reunited original lineup of the band certainly skewed older, the band’s classic energy and attitude remained intact.
Why Nas opened for Lauryn Hill is a mystery. He’s touring on impressive 2012 LP, Life is Good, a record that will undoubtedly make many “best of” lists later this year, while Hill has no significant new work to speak of since genius breakout, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Fans (this writer included) attended with hopes of at least a taste of the era when the empowered, eloquent ex Fugees front-woman went the solo route, inspiring throngs of devoted listeners by espousing themes of unity and equality with those killer pipes of hers.
But after waiting more than hour after Nas’ explosive performance—“technical issues” were cited, but “diva issues” seem more likely—the crowd grew visibly weary. Folks in the balcony napped and others booed and hissed until the cumulative volume reached a near riot.
After she finally took the stage around 11:30pm, Hill’s agitated demeanor and distracted delivery was not only disappointing but also confusing. One minute she played angry bandleader, flailing hand signals at the rhythm section while adjusting her ear monitor. The next she stood front and center, acting as an ineffective MC, delivering almost indecipherable gospel- and reggae-inflected renditions of “Forgive Them Father,” “Everything is Everything,” and “Killing Me Softly,” via a sort a sort of chirping that fell somewhere between spoken word and scat. “Sing Ms. Lauryn! Sing!” the woman next to me cried in agony as others began to trickle out of the packed house. The introduction of a new song, “Black Rage,” was, in a word, awkward. After speeding through the politically charged cut, which acts as an angry take on sugary standard “My Favorite Things,” Hill reiterated its frustration on a spoken-word soapbox, uttering the song’s lyrics with the tone and cadence of an annoyed grade-school teacher. It’s sad to see a beloved artist in decline, and this erratic appearance did nothing to soften the blow for fans still reveling in what increasingly appears to be her creative peak in the late ’90s.
Were it not for Nas, who not only entertained but also spoke candidly about the struggles of being a father and of the senseless violence overtaking our cities, particularly in Chicago, the night would have been a disaster. Though both cut their teeth in the ’90s, Nas has clearly matured and learned something of love, loss and reconciliation along the road, while Hill seems to regress further and further inside of herself.
Perpetually rambunctious dance rock duo Matt and Kim brought their high energy anthems to the Congress Theater last week. Touring behind their newest LP, Lightning, the pair plowed headfirst through a set that provided their typical blend of rock-star posturing and shout-along choruses in addition to the requisite amounts of confetti and balloons.
Demonstrating an undulating sound aptly visualized by the oscilloscope projections that accompanied their performance, Tame Impala's set at Metro found the Australian band wholeheartedly embracing their psychedelic tendencies. Greeted by glow sticks and a thick haze of pungent smoke, the five-piece group launched into the resolute rhythms of "Be Above It," ably replicating the densely layered arrangements that populate their recent release, Lonerism. Surrounded by an expansive array of effects pedals, frontman Kevin Parker blended his carefully constructed guitar tones and reverb-drenched vocals into the band's sonic palette. It was often difficult to separate Parker's whining riffs from his bandmates' synth accompaniment, an effect noticeably displayed on "Endors Toi," as the group's instruments coalesced into a multifaceted texture undercut by Jay Watson's pounding beats.
Supporting act The Amazing exhibited a similar ability to meld their various influences, resulting in songs that demonstrated an affinity for both folk and prog rock. The Swedish ensemble featured members of groups like Dungen and Granada, partaking in a set of sprawling tracks from their debut full-length, Gentle Stream. Contrasting with the relatively concise leanings of their tour mates, The Amazing's sweeping spread of intertwining guitars and harmonies proved to be a fitting preface to evening's main attraction.
Entering the latter half of its set, Tame Impala continued to dig through selections from its latest album as well as deep cuts from its catalog. The dutiful stomp of "Elephant" found Parker and his band reinterpreting classic rock tropes before losing themselves to the otherworldly ambiance of "Alter Ego." A single song encore of "Half Full Glass of Wine" stretched the track into an extended krautrock number, slowly building upon a minimalistic guitar line before reaching its conclusion. Soaked in surreal sounds and exuding an intense energy, the group distilled the studio wizardry of its recorded output and managed to translate it to the stage in an impressive fashion. With a handful of acclaimed records under its belt and a live performance that builds upon them, there's no questioning Tame Impala's ability to leave crowds dazed and amused.
Touring behind the recently released Unplugged on Strawberry Hill LP, Toots and the Mayhals presented an evening of acoustic reggae at SPACE in Evanston. Frontman Frederick Hibbert donned his trademark shades, leading his band through a variety of tracks dating back to the group's inception in the early '60s.
Pop-punk Texas troupe the Marked Men is guaranteed to rock the glitter ball right off the ceiling when it headlines NYE at the Empty Bottle, ringing in 2013 with high-octane hooks and no regrets. If that isn't your speed, the Bottle is also presenting a year-end bash at Logan Square Auditorium with marching punks Mucca Pazza and sibling garage duo White Mystery. Thug motivator Young Jeezy swings through the Congress Theater a couple weeks ahead of that, while prog concept-rockers Coheed and Cambria visit the venue in early February. Punk label Revelation Records closes out a marathon 25th anniversary celebration with three-nights of sweaty nostalgia at the House of Blues in early January, featuring NYC hardcore vet Gorilla Biscuits and onetime emo poster boys Texas Is the Reason. Find these and other newly announced shows below, or visit timeoutchicago.com/bookingahead for a more extensive list of upcoming shows.
Go to any open mic night at a coffee shop or bar and you're likely to find an abundance of singer-songwriters. All of them armed with acoustic guitars and singing deeply personal compositions about love and loss, there's often very little to differentiate them from one another. The ones who rise to the top demonstrate an ability to turn their idiosyncratic odes into something that connects with and captivates an audience. Wednesday night's bill at Metro featured two such artists, each with their own ways of winning over a crowd.
Longtime balladeer Damien Jurado was the first to ply his craft, delving into a short collection of songs delivered with nothing but an acoustic guitar and his unmistakable voice. "I'm almost 40, I look it and I'm not hot," he wryly remarked partway through his performance, one that was dominated by his relatively cheery latter-day output. The autobiographical lyricism of "Working Titles" and strained falsetto of "Museum of Flight" reverberated across a reverent crowd, maintaining their impact even without the aid of the backing band that fleshed out the singer's Maraqopa LP. Dipping into the melancholic "Ohio" as he reached the end of his set, Jurado fully inhabited his role as an experienced songwriter, tenderly delivering his heartfelt words without a trace of insincerity.
Returning to town for what seemed like the umpteenth time this year, Sharon Van Etten brought a three-piece band to provide the underpinnings to tracks from her 2012 release, Tramp. Backed by projections of tree limbs and city streets, her plaintive songs gained an almost cinematic scope, buoyed by the gentle confidence that Van Etten has developed in recent years. Joined by Heather Broderick on backing vocals, the singers' harmonies lent an incredible depth to songs like "Give Out" and "Warsaw," at times eclipsing the impact of their recorded versions. A solo rendition of "I Fold" was a reminder of the raw talent that Van Etten demonstrated on her debut release, Because I Was in Love, wrapping mournful lyricism around serene finger-picked chords. A cathartic blast of energy punctuated the main set, as the group launched into the assured rhythms of "Serpents" before giving way to a droning rendition of "I'm Wrong" that quickly descended into a cacophony of squealing guitars. Alone or with her band, the unassuming Van Etten seemed to find solace in her own words, simultaneously conveying a sense of sorrow, poise and beauty that permeated her performance.
One listen to Milo Greene's eponymous debut and it's not hard to understand why the group managed to pack Lincoln Hall with a sell-out crowd. Featuring harmonies with a density rivaling those of Fleet Foxes, and a pop sensibility not unlike that of Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac, the Californian quintet is adept at crafting memorable melodies and resounding refrains. Most recently, the group's folk-rock anthems landed them on a stage at Lollapalooza, exposing them to an audience that turned out in force on Friday night.
Toronto balladeer Afie Jurvanen opened the show, playing under the moniker of Bahamas and accompanied by a pair of back-up singers as well as a drummer. Demonstrating a playfully serious demeanor, his straight-forward songs brought to mind the country-tinged balladry of M. Ward.
Filling the stage, Milo Greene started breezing through their repertoire, briskly belting out renditions of notable tracks like "What's The Matter" and "Don't Give Up On Me." There was a striking lack of individuality inherent in the band's multifaceted approach, with voices that shifted into focus as often as instruments were traded among the group's four singers. Of all the band's members, Marlana Sheetz offered the most recognizable performance, delivering renditions of songs like "Perfectly Aligned" that were differentiated by her confident vocal presence.
Attempting to eke an hourlong set from their single, 35-minute album, the band turned to covers to flesh out the performance. A take on Sufjan Steven's "Chicago" seemed uniquely suited for the group, with its grandiose tone bolstered by their ample harmonies. Conversely, a cover of Wilco's "A Shot In The Arm" that kicked off the encore seemed overstuffed with extraneous instrumentation and vocal parts. By the end of the evening, the constant harmonizing grew thin, and once that loses its novelty, there's little to differentiate this group from any other well-meaning folk troupe.