# Sunday, October 17, 2021

PatMethenySome musicians have extremely high technical proficiency; others bring a great deal of emotion to their performance. Pat Metheny is the rare one who has achieved both.

He proved it Friday evening at Pilsen's Thalia Hall. It was my first visit to Thalia Hall and my first time seeing Metheny, who I discovered decades ago during my college years.

Mr. Metheny switched between ballads and electric fusion and funk and straight-ahead jazz with the same effortlessness with which he switched guitars. His arsenal of guitars was impressive, and each brought a unique sound. He played acoustic guitar and electric guitars - both solid and hollow-bodied; but he also boasts some unusual instruments in the guitar family. His synthesizer guitar sounds more like a horn section than a stringed instrument; and he made beautiful melodies with his custom-made 42-string "Pikasso" guitar.

And for this music, the melody often takes center stage. Between the improvisations, there was always a beautiful tune to enjoy.

Accompanying Metheny on stage tonight were James Francies on keyboard and Joe Dyson on drums. Collectively, the trio calls themselves Side Eye and their synergy was great. Francies and Dyson are accomplished musicians in their own right and gave us some impressive solos; but their real strength was in backing the master guitarist.

It is hard to believe that Pat Metheny is now 67 years old and not just because he still retains a full head of his signature wild hair. His energy, enthusiasm, and dexterity are those of a much younger man.

Photos

Sunday, October 17, 2021 9:17:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 10, 2021

MelissaEtheridgeMelissa Etheridge has been writing, playing, singing, and recording music for over 30 years. Sunday night, she entertained a full house at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL.

Although she was backed by three other musicians, the focus remained on Etheridge the entire night. She wowed the audience with her guitar playing and her singing. Etheridge's signature coarse vocals remain strong after all these years and her playing is impressive.

Etheridge has become a favourite of the LGBT community since coming out as a lesbian in 1993. Recently, she released an album of songs written before that date, which she held back because she feared they might be too personal. She shared some of them with us on this night.

She saved most of her hit songs ("Bring Me Some Water", "I'm the Only One", "Come To My Window") for later in the show.

During her encore, she climbed behind the drummer and the two shared a duet on the same drum set - an impressive feat for the woman who is proficient at a number of instruments.

Etheridge's music continues to be a powerful force for all people. She gave her all Sunday night and the audience responded.


Photos

Sunday, October 10, 2021 7:59:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, October 9, 2021

POTR-1Lukas Nelson strode onto the Vic Theatre stage, smiled at the audience, and announced "Hi, I'm Lukas Nelson; and this is Promise of the Real!" He seemed genuinely excited to be there performing in front of a sold-out audience  September 30. The band quickly launched into the kinetic song "Start to Go", quickly followed by "Perennial Bloom" - a song from his new album which was released just a few months ago.

Nelson's enthusiasm did not wane throughout the evening. He raced from song to song, sometimes switching from rock to ballad, sometimes pausing briefly to swap guitars or switch to the piano, but always with an eye toward keeping the music flowing. He managed to engage the audience while doing so, focusing his attention outward to those on the main floor and balcony, rather than inward toward himself, his instrument, and his band.

The energy was not exclusive to the lead singer. Bassist Corey McCormick had a bounce in his step that he maintained as he kept a mean rhythm on the multiple bass guitars he played and as he sometimes danced with Lukas. Logan Metz kept busy moving between steel guitar, piano, electric keyboard, and harmonica; while drummer Anthony LoGerfo could be seen singing along to every song, despite the absence of a microphone.

POTR played a few more songs from their recent release, which contains an impressive collection of music. A classical piano solo led into "More Than We Can Handle" - another impressive new song; and "Leave 'em Behind" was an emotional song about a woman encouraged to escape an abusive relationship (a true story about his friend, according to Nelson.)

They also drew from the rest of their 7-album catalog released over the past 11 years. "Start to Go", "Perennial Bloom", "Fool Me Once", and "Carolina" were all crowd-pleasers.

POTR-2Nelson was sentimental in his delivery of "Just Outside of Austin" and "Forget About Georgia" - two songs of the opposite sides of a young person falling in love, but turned cynical with "Four Letter Word", told from the point of view of a husband growing tired of his wife two years into their marriage. Other highlights included "Start to Go", "Perennial Bloom", "Fool me Once", and "Carolina".

For the encore, bassist McCormick returned to the stage first for an impressive solo before the rest of the band joined him and played for another half hour.

Nelson has a long way to go to match the songwriting legacy of his father - legendary country star Willie Nelson. But he has a solid start with six studio albums and songwriting credit in the recent "A Star is Born" remake. He is a solid composer and brings enthusiasm and charm when he performs live. He and his band have also established a place in the music industry by recording and touring as Neil Young's backing band.

Lukas retains much of his father's charm and adds a charm that makes him a joy to watch perform.

Saturday, October 9, 2021 8:42:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, October 2, 2021

RaviColtraneRavi Coltrane is back in Chicago. He performed two sets a night for four nights at the Jazz Showcase in the South Loop.

I attended the late set Saturday evening, and I was not disappointed.

Coltrane is a man of few words. He did not speak to the audience until he introduced his band near the end of his set. Instead, he spoke to them through his music. He and his quintet (pianist Gadi Lehavi, guitarist David Gilmore, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, and drummer Elé Howell) brought great energy to the sold-out venue. Ravi is a naturally talented musician, as you would expect, given his lineage. Coltrane's father was the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, and his son has adopted his father's instrument and passion for jazz. While not the innovator that his father was, Ravi has great technical chops, which he showed off on this evening. He was also willing to step aside to showcase the talents of his band. Guitarist Gilmare stood out in particular, but every member of the group was outstanding. At times, they seemed to be racing frantically to keep up with one another.

I had the privelege to see Ravi in 2005 when he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his father's classic album "A Love Supreme" by performing the entire set live on stage. He has matured and developed his own style in the 16 years since that concert.

It was an excellent show and a tribute to the strength of the local community that this small neighborhood jazz club can continue to attract national talent like Coltrane.

Saturday, October 2, 2021 9:41:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 26, 2021

Joan Osborne in concertSometimes it only takes three people to fill a room.

Friday night at Evanston's SPACE club, Joan Osborne was joined by guitarist Jack Petruzelli, who switched between electric and acoustic guitar; and keyboardist Keith Cotton, who alternated between a baby grand piano and an electric keyboard. Combined with their musicianship and Osborne's strong vocals, it was enough.

I know Joan Osborne from her 1995 hit song "One of Us", but she has released ten albums since then and I prepared for this show by listening to them all. Osborne is known less as a songwriter than as an interpreter of the music of others. Her favourite songwriters are Eric Bazilian, with whom she collaborated for many of her early songs, and Bob Dylan. She also has covered many of the great R&B / soul songs of the 1960s and 70s; and many great blues songs over the years.

Friday, she focused on her early works, her newest album ("Trouble and Strife", released during last year's pandemic), Dylan covers, and the blues. It was on her blues numbers that she shined brightest. "She opened with the rousing "My Right Hand"; the opening guitar riff of "St. Theresa" was a dynamic precursor to a dynamic song that energized the sold-out audience; "Spider Web" - funky rocker describing a dream about the results of Ray Charles regaining his vision got us all clapping along.

Osborne changed the arrangements of some of her older songs. "One of Us" was transformed into a haunting ballad; and Cotton's jazzy piano solo in the middle of Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue" was a delight.

Oddly, there were no R&B or soul numbers, even though these comprise a significant part of her recorded catalog. It may have been because of the stripped-down band (most Motown numbers feature more than a guitar, a piano, and a singer); or she may have simply chosen to focus on other types of music. There was certainly time to add a few more songs, as she played for only about 80 minutes.

She closed with an excellent rendition of Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips", bringing extra enthusiasm to her vocals.

It was a short, but sweet show and the audience left with a smile.

Sunday, September 26, 2021 9:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 25, 2021

Asleep At The Wheel in concertThe fiddlers were already playing when they walked onto the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square Sunday evening. Behind them, strode guitarist and lead vocalist Ray Benson. At 6'7", the founder of Asleep at the Wheel is larger than life - both figuratively and literally.

The band opened with the Bob Wills tune "Cherokee Maiden" and, for the next two hours, they played what could have been a selection of my favourite AATW songs!

They performed more Bob Wills songs, including "New San Antonio Rose", "Faded Love", "Take Me Back to Tulsa", and "Big Balls in Cow Town". This is not surprising. For five decades, AATW has been carrying on the tradition of Western Swing music popularized by Wills and his Texas Playboys in the 1930s and 40s. They even played "Bob Wills Is Still the King", Waylon Jennings's tribute to Mr. Wills; and "Milk Cow Blues", a song recorded by Wills's younger brother Johnnie Lee Wills.

The band mixed in many classic tunes, such as "Route 66", "The House of Blue Lights", "Hot Rod Lincoln", and "Tiger Rag"- the latter of which featured frantic solos from each member of the band. Speaking of the band, every member was excellent. They brought energy and fun and projected both onto the crowd.

Of course, the group played some original songs ("Half a Hundred Years", "I Guess I'll Call it a Day Tonight") and "Miles and Miles of Texas", which is one of their best covers.

A highlight of the evening was a moving interpretation of Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues", a song I've always loved and did not know AATW had recorded.

They closed the encore set with an a cappella version of "Happy Trails" - a song made famous by the legendary cowboy duo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Asleep at the Wheel gave us an amazing performance. They reminded us how much fun music can be.

Saturday, September 25, 2021 9:23:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 18, 2021

RickySkaggsRicky Skaggs was a successful country musician when he decided to fully embrace bluegrass music in his recordings and performances. He formed Kentucky Thunder in the late 1990s and together they released some of the finest bluegrass recordings of the past 25 years.

Sunday evening, Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder brought their magic to The Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square.

Every single member of Kentucky Thunder is an outstanding musician. With a heavy influence on strings (3 guitars, fiddle, mandolin, and standup bass for most songs), the evening featured plenty of picking and these guys are master pickers! Some of them have been with the band for years and some joined this year, but their playing and harmonizing were tight throughout the evening.

Skaggs and co. delighted the audience with almost two hours of bluegrass music. He mixed originals, covers, and standards; he mixed instrumentals and vocals; he featured himself as well as members of the band. Three members sang songs they had recorded and released on their own albums. Highlights included "Highway 40 Blues", "Uncle Pen", and "Black Eyed Susan".

Lead Guitarist Jake Workman was especially impressive with his fingers flying across his instrument. Rhythm Guitarist Dennis Parker shared his heartfelt story of his ongoing recovery from alcoholism (He has been sober 5+ years) before leading the band in a wonderful rendition of John Prine's "Paradise".

Skaggs was charming and personal. He sang lead and played mandolin on most songs, occasionally switching to guitar. He did spend a lot of time tuning his mandolin between songs, but that is understandable considering the instrument is in its 99th year. Whatever he did, it was worth it.

For an encore, they performed a moving a Capella version of Doc Watson's classic "Down in the Valley to Pray".

I enjoyed this concert as much as I’ve enjoyed any show this year. Mr. Skaggs strikes me as the kind of person I would love spending time with, sharing a meal together or talking. I definitely enjoyed spending Sunday evening with him and his friends.

Saturday, September 18, 2021 9:16:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 12, 2021

It has been 26 years since Alanis Morissette released her classic album "Jagged Little Pill" - a disc that established Morissette as a star and produced multiple hit singles. The celebration of this album was supposed to happen last year, marking a quarter century since its release, but the COVID pandemic forced its postponement by a year.

So, here we all were, twelve months later in Tinley Park to hear Morissette sing music from her iconic album, as well as across her decades-spanning recording career.

While JLP showcased the singer's firestorm of emotions in her early twenties, Saturday night's performance featured a softer Alanis, one who seems very much at peace with herself. She smiled with satisfaction through most of her songs, which was appropriate for lighthearted tunes like "Hand in My Pocket” but lessened the anger of "You Oughta Know" - a song about a bitter ex-lover screaming at her former man and his current lover. The edge that defined her earlier work is gone.

But whatever the Canadian-born singer has lost in the emotions of her youth, she made up for with her voice. Her vocal range sounded even more technically proficient than it did when she first entered our consciousness. She has evolved her voice to a new level of maturity and beauty. I never thought of Alanis Morissette as a diva, but Saturday night, she had the voice of one.

A nearly full crowd felt so as well. And they provided enough emotion to keep the performer smiling. Alanis even introduced her husband ("The love of my life") during the fan favourite "Ironic".

A solid performance by Garbage enhanced the show. Garbage was formed in Wisconsin in the 1990s and is fronted by Scottish singer Shirley Manson, who played up the band's upper-Midwest roots to the delight of the crowd.

Overall, it was a pleasant if unspectacular show.

And I am happy for Alanis Morissette, who seems to be in a much better place emotionally than she was 25 years ago.

Sunday, September 12, 2021 6:53:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, September 7, 2021

NRBQWhen a band records for over 50 years, it is easy to miss some of their output. I've been a fan of NRBQ for decades and I've listened to many of their songs; but I still did not recognize most of the songs they performed Sunday night at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL.

The band treated the audience to a few cover songs, such as The Beach Boys' "Darlin'" and Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home", as well as a few familiar songs I recognized from their extensive catalog, including "Green Lights", "Ridin' in my Car", "Howard Johnson's Got His Ho-Jo Workin'", and "RC Cola and a Moon Pie". They played two sets, plus an encore that included two classics: "Captain Lou" - a tribute to the late Lou Albano, a retired professional wrestler who once served as the band's manager; and their excellent cover of the Johnny Cash-penned "Get Rhythm".

During the past five decades, NRBQ has suffered through deaths and major illnesses, and the departure of key members; but founding member Terry Adams has kept the group going by recruiting capable musicians to accompany him as he plays keyboards. Together they maintain the energy that made this quartet a favourite live performer for so many years, despite never having a single crack the Top 40. Adams's energetic keyboard playing was a focal point on stage, but bassist Casey McDonough, guitarist Scott Ligon, and drummer John Perrin were each excellent. They don't look like rock & roll stars, but they sound and perform like they are.

The only low point of the evening came when Adams decided to sing a goofy song about a jealous ex-wife. The lyrics were slightly misogynistic, and he had to read them from a paper. This could have and should have been skipped. But that was a brief speed bump in a rapid frenzy that was the evening's music.

Over two hours of rock & roll, blues, and rockabilly was enough to satisfy the crowd and bring some fun to Berwyn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 9:20:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 30, 2021

Episode 676

Carl Franklin on Music and Programming

Carl Franklin is a software developer, a musician, and an audio producer. We talk about why there is such a strong correlation between proficiency with music and with software development.

Links
https://carlfranklin.com
https://zencastr.com

Monday, August 30, 2021 9:14:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 14, 2021

Emmylou-43-X4Emmylou Harris is pure country music, uncorrupted by rock and roll. In addition to guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, her band includes mandolin, accordion, fiddle, and the twang of Emmylou's voice which still persists at the age of 74.

Thursday night, Emmylou performed an outdoor show between holes 1 and 2 of Evanston's Canal Shores Golf Course as part of the SPACE nightclub's "Out of Space" series. She was charming and talented and beautiful and she captivated her audience beneath a clear sky on a perfect night.

I heard so many of my favourite Emmylou songs: "Pancho and Lefty", "Orphan Girl", "The Wayfaring Stranger", and my personal favourite "Boulder to Birmingham", with which she closed her performance. I also heard some cover songs that I don't usually associate with Ms. Harris. Her version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" was a delight. But the most moving moment was when she sang "My Name is Emmitt Till" - the true story of a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago, who was murdered in Mississippi because he was seen talking with a white woman.

The years have done nothing to diminish Emmylou Harris's spirit and talent. She held the audience of thousands throughout the night.

LosLobos-22-X4The evening was made even more special by the appearance of Los Lobos as the warmup act, who built their show to a climax when they closed with their biggest hit - a cover of Ritchie Valens's "La Bamba", from the movie of the same name.

It has been 30 years since I saw Los Lobos in East Lansing, MI, and 22 years since first experiencing Emmylou Harris at the Grand Ole Opry and tonight's show was just as much a treat as when we were all young.

More Los Lobos photos

More Emmylou Harris photos

Saturday, August 14, 2021 8:12:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 8, 2021

Smithereens-22What does a band do when they lose their lead singer? The Smithereens faced this dilemma when founding member Pat DiNizio passed away in 2017. The remaining members decided to hire guest vocalists for their 2021 tour. Chicago was fortunate to host Marshall Crenshaw as the Smithereens' singer Saturday night at the City Winery. Crenshaw is most well-known for his 1982 Top-40 hit "Someday, Someway", but he has continued to perform all these years and his guitar work appears on some Smithereens records.

This was only the second stop in the band's first tour in a year and a half and they exhibited the pent-up energy of musicians who have missed performing live.

The Smithereens formed 40 years ago and released their first album in 1986. The three surviving founders (lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros, and drummer Dennis Diken are still with the band and Marshall joined them on rhythm guitar and lead vocals.

They played many of the songs that I've enjoyed for decades - "Behind a Wall of Sleep", "I’m Sorry But I Won’t", "Miles from Nowhere", "The House That We Used to Live in", and "Blood and Roses". They also enthusiastically covered songs written and recorded by others, including "No Matter What", "Bristol Stomp", and The El Dorados' 1955 high-energy R&B hit "At My Front Door". In introducing one cover song, Crenshaw quipped "For me, these are all covers", drawing a laugh from the audience. The 4-song encore set featured 3 cover songs: "Reason to Believe", "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?", and "Ramblin' Man".

The band was not quite as tight as they were when I last saw them in Cincinnati in 2001, but they made up for it by the passion they brought to the stage. What most impressed the crowd is how much fun the band was having, bantering with one another and with the audience. The musicians are aging, but they still possess the energy of a young garage band playing a gig at a local pub.

This fun and energy is what rock & roll is all about!

more photos

Sunday, August 8, 2021 9:39:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 7, 2021

Malo-11It has been 30 years since The Mavericks released their first album. When the band broke up in 2003, founder and lead singer Raul Malo launched a solo career. The Mavericks reunited ten years later, but Malo continues to tour on his own. Friday evening at Chicago's City Winery, Malo stood on stage alone and entertained a full house for over two hours, armed only with a guitar bearing the scratches of countless concerts. The piano behind him puzzled me because he only played two songs on it; but I enjoyed them as did the rest of the audience, so who am I to judge?

The Mavericks are also touring, which could tire some performers, but Malo showed no signs of wear. His beautiful tenor voice seamlessly switched keys and he never missed a note or an emotion.

He played a mixture of Mavericks songs and his own songs and even a few covers of others' songs. To demonstrate that songwriters are great thieves, he sang several bars of standards, such as "Blue Moon" and "You Send Me" without changing the guitar part of his own song. At one point, he began a rendition of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" before abandoning it in the middle after messing up the lyrics. "At least you know it's live," he quipped.

Many of his songs were sung in Spanish (Raul is a Cuban-American whose parents emigrated from Cuba), and many came from The Mavericks' recent "En Español" album.


It has been a long time since I've seen an entertainer who combines such a heavenly voice with such engaging charm between songs. He radiated excitement about being back on stage after the long isolation of the pandemic. The audience responded with their own joy.

I had tickets to see Raul 10 years ago in Michigan, but a business trip prevented me from attending that show. He was worth the wait.

more photos

Saturday, August 7, 2021 3:35:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I attended my first concert in 1977. It was at Olympia Stadium in Detroit, where the Red Wings played before moving to Joe Louis Arena and again to Little Caesar Arena. Four singers/songwriters/guitarists performed: John Denver, James Taylor, Harry Chapin, and Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot's hit song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" released the prior year was still getting significant airplay and I loved seeing him live. Chapin and Denver are gone, but Lightfoot is still touring at the ripe old age of 82.

His touring was interrupted 17 months ago, but he kicked off a new tour Sunday evening at the Copernicus Center in Chicago.

I watched contentedly from the fourth row, remembering a night long ago when a high school David experienced this for the first time.

Many of the songs were the same. Lightfoot's peak of popularity occurred in the 1970s when he established himself as arguably the greatest songwriter in Canadian history.

The years have weakened Gordon's once-rich voice, but he can still carry a tune and he can still put emotion into songs that he has been singing for decades. More importantly, he engaged the audience between songs, joking about everything from his age to almost meeting Elvis Presley years ago (the crowd exiting the arena slowed him so much that Elvis had left the building by the time Gordon finally arrived backstage.)

The sold-out theatre was filled with many gray and balding heads, but they responded enthusiastically to the music of their youth. Lightfoot sang all his hits, including "Carefree Highway", "Sundown", "Early Morning Rain", "Rainy Day People", the aforementioned "Edmund Fitzgerald", and my personal favourite - "If You Could Read My Mind". In between, he mixed in many lesser-known songs, each one enjoyable.

He performed for about two hours with a 15-minute intermission and returned to the stage for one encore.

It was an evening well spent.

At this rate, I will be 103 and Gordon will be 126 when we next meet.

More photos

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 11:38:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, July 9, 2021

The recent pandemic forced the Drive-By Truckers to cancel their tour and take a hiatus from touring that lasted more than a year. They are scheduled to resume their tour in August; but lead singer/co-founder Patterson Hood could not wait. So, he grabbed his guitar and hit the road in June. He opened his tour Wednesday evening at the City Winery in Chicago. I already had tickets to the Truckers' show in Evanston, IL September 3; but I also could not wait. So, I headed for the Winery to hear what Patterson had to offer.

He offered a lot. For 90+ minutes, he delighted a full room with just his voice and his guitar. Drive-By Truckers celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first recording session just a few days prior to this show and Hood drew liberally from the band's catalog of thirteen studio albums.

"I play in a band", he confided to the audience, although we already knew this.

Hood opened the show with the emotional "Sandwiches from the Road" off of DBT's debut album "Gangstabilly". "Nothing can hurt you but yourself", the singer advised from the chorus.

Many of his songs tell stories and Hood interspersed the songs with some stories of his own. "Road Cases" was an ode to the Atlanta Rhythm Section - a band that experienced a meteoric rise in the 1970s leading them to purchase a plethora of equipment and cases. Cases with the band's logo appeared in many secondhand stores after their popularity declined so that many Georgia bands ended up with cases stenciled with the ARS logo.

After playing for about 90 minutes, Patterson did not go through the traditional charade of leaving the stage and allowing the audience to call him back. Instead, he stood up, announced the set was over, and asked if we wanted to hear some encore tunes. Of course, we did and of course, he obliged, delighting us with three more songs.

It was clear listening to Patterson Hood that he enjoyed his time back on the stage and he managed to transfer that enjoyment to the audience.


more photos

Friday, July 9, 2021 4:36:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 9, 2021

KurtEllingThe City Winery was only about two-thirds full for the Friday afternoon performance - a small crowd, considering they removed at least half the seats to maintain social distancing. But jazz singer Kurt Elling and his band still brought full energy to their performance.

Elling, who has released 15 albums and won 2 Grammy Awards, performed for 90 minutes, showing off his vocal range for a small, but enthusiastic crowd.

It was the day before Mother's Day, and he talked about mothers, and he talked about the pandemic, and he talked about how this was his "first proper weekend" performing after a long layoff. But mostly he sang, and he sang well!

Elling is primarily an interpreter of the songs of others, but he brings an impressive ability to make each song his own. It may be the vocalizing on "I'm Satisfied" or the tonal range on "Come Fly with Me". Speaking of range, he and the band moved seamlessly between different styles of jazz from swing to ballads to improvisation.

His backing band consisted of piano, drums, and standup bass. They were talented and understated -impressing with their playing without drawing undue attention to themselves. After about an hour Elling - a Rockford, IL native - invited Chicagoan Lenard Simpson onto stage to accompany him on saxophone. This was a treat as I know Simpson's work after seeing him at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival last September.

It was a delightful evening that must have been a treat for the mothers in the audience.

Sunday, May 9, 2021 6:53:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 17, 2020

Episode 622

Jon Skeet on Programming an Electronic Drum Kit

Jon Skeet has a new electronic drum kit and has been writing code to automate its functionality.

He talks about various types of applications he has written (WPF, Console app, command-line, Blazor) and what he learne along the way.

http://vdrumexplorer.jonskeet.uk/

Monday, August 17, 2020 9:15:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, March 8, 2020

tmbg01 It has been 30 years since the release of "Flood" - the breakthrough album by iconic nerd-rock band They Might Be Giants.  To celebrate, the band is touring the United States, vowing to play every song from this album at each show.

Friday night, they played The Vic Theatre in Chicago to a sold-out audience that braved the cold weather and threats of coronavirus to cheer on the kings of the 2-minute song.

For almost 3 hours (including an intermission), TMBG rocked the Vic while the audience sang along to songs they grew up with.

Few bands have the kind of cult following enjoyed by TMBG. TMBG has never had a top-40 single and only a handful of their songs have cracked the alternative rock charts. But their audiences love them and flock to their concerts and memorize their lyrics.

tmbg03Technically, TMBG consists of only two members: John Flansburgh and John Linnell. But, for this tour they were joined by 3 others to fill out their songs. Linnell looks like a computer science student and Flansburgh looks like Linnell's dad. The point is that both project nerdiness - in their appearance and in their music, which consists of cerebral lyrics, catchy melodies, and experimental electronic sounds. And a trumpet.

In addition to performing every song from "Flood" (in no particular order), the band played numerous songs from their 22-album catalog.

Highlights included

  • an extended version of "Spy"
  • an acoustic guitar intro to "Istanbul"
  • high-energy performances of "Birdhouse in Your Soul", "Doctor Worm" and "The Mesopotamians".

tmbg04They even played one song ("Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love") backwards!

I've been listening to TMBG since their "Flood" days and this is the first time I've seen them in concert. I was lucky to get a ticket to this sold-out show from someone selling his last ticket outside the venue. I'm so glad I did.


Set list

Sunday, March 8, 2020 9:10:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 22, 2019

WilcoIt was their last concert of the year. And their last of the 2010's. And Wilco did not want it to end.

For almost 3 hours, the Chicago-based band performed in front of a sold-out audience Thursday night at the Chicago Theatre - the fourth night this week they did so.

With 16 studio albums, they have no problem finding music to fill a long set. And with styles ranging from alt-country to pop to indie rock to psychedelic, they had no trouble keeping the audience engaged and standing for such a long performance.

They chose mostly slower, softer songs, although they interspersed some heavy metal guitar and drums into the arrangements of some of these songs. For example, on the melancholy "Via Chicago", the singers continued to sing the chorus, ignoring the rythms set by the guitarist and drummer, who suddenly shifted into a death metal sound for a few seconds.

The band's lineup has remained consistent since some turnover around 20 years ago. The original driving force remains in lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy, who fronts the band and related to the audience on a personal level.

Marina Towers, featured on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot albumLate in the show, Tweedy announced that the band would "pretend to go over there and then come back", suggesting that they were about to play their encores without the usual charade of pretending the show was over. They played 2 more songs, then actually did say Good Night and leave the stage, participating in the ritual of waiting for the audience to call them back for more. The actual encore included "California Stars" (my favourite Wilco song - a Woody Guthrie composition originally recorded as a Wilco collaboration with Billy Bragg) and closed with a cover of John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)". For the latter song, they were joined by Sharon Van Etten, who warmed up the audience with a solo acoustic performance earlier in the evening.

It was after 11PM when the show ended, and the audience ventured out into the cold Chicago night and Wilco began their time off until next year. And it was clear they did not want it to end.

Sunday, December 22, 2019 9:32:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 2, 2019

Hiatt-16I love that John Hiatt seems to love performing.

Hiatt is not known for recording hit songs. Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and many other artists have reached the charts with covers of his songs.

But Wednesday night at the City Winery, he was on stage performing his own songs to a full house with a smile on his face.

Hiatt-21He didn't have a backing band; He didn't need one. Hiatt accompanied himself on guitar and (sometimes) keyboards and sounded as he sang. His voice still sounds good and still maintains that midwestern twang; and, if he struggles to hit high notes, he does so with passion.

The Indianapolis-born troubadour performed for about 100 minutes and seemed to gain strength and energy as the night went on.

With dozens of albums and hundreds of songs in his catalog, he had plenty to choose from and we heard some of his best, including "Thing Called Love", "Crossing Muddy Waters", "Have a Little Faith in Me" and "Lift Up Every Stone".

He returned to the stage to sing "Memphis in the Meantime" as an encore to a standing ovation.

His joy in playing came across to the audience. And hopefully our joy in listening came across to him.

Saturday, November 2, 2019 8:24:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, October 27, 2019

IMG_6295I wasn't familiar with Incognito, the acid jazz band formed in the early 80's in the UK; but my friend Thad was a big fan.  He called to suggest we see them at Park West Thursday evening, so I listened to a couple of their albums and I was sold.

Their live performance did not disappoint. Incognito founder Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick has assembled a talented group of musicians from all over the world (UK, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago, China, Italy, US) and they played and sang a set of tight arrangements that delighted a nearly full concert hall.

Bluey brought a long 4 singers. All were excellent, but the featured singer was Maysa Leak (aka "Maysa"), who has carved out a solo career for herself and impressed with both her range and her emotion.

IMG_6305Highlights of the night included a cover of Ronnie Laws's "Always There" (Thad's favourite song), "Deep Waters", which featured a medley of love songs, and a long jam on their penultimate song that featured an excellent solo by every member of the 9-piece band.

Incognito did not come back for an encore, but it felt like enough. Everyone felt the energy, and everyone left satisfied.

Sunday, October 27, 2019 8:44:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, October 26, 2019

Madonna never does anything halfway.

Monday night was her third of seven shows at the Chicago Theatre and she did not disappoint.

The show opened with a silhouetted typist loudly pounding out a James Baldwin passage on an old typewriter. A dancer jerked as each word appeared above the stage until he was shot dead. The quote was about art and artists and truth.

Then, the curtains drew, and Madonna appeared, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by dancers and a large American flag and a set consisting of multiple moving staircases.

The evening's show featured multiple costume and set changes and switched between tightly choreographed numbers and Madonna chatting casually with the audience. It lasted over two hours.

While Madonna did sing a few songs from the 1980s, when she regularly topped the charts ("Express Yourself", "Vogue", "Papa Don't Preach", "Like A Prayer"), most of the evening was devoted to her newer works. Madonna now makes her home in Lisbon and she brought guests to the stage, including a group of Portuguese singers performing energetic harmonies; and a guitar player performing an excellent solo, which launched into the lead singer's medley.

Dressed as the enigmatic one-eyed Madame X, she preached her political philosophy of independence, freedom, and tolerance throughout the show, mixing this with a bit of potty talk.

She closed with all the singers backing her up for "I Rise" as they marched into the audience and out the back of the theatre.

The show reminded me of a Broadway production more than a concert.

Saturday, October 26, 2019 6:30:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, October 22, 2019

IMG_6187Sometimes, I will hear a song and it will take me back to the time I first heard it - to the friends I was with and where we were and what we were doing and what I was feeling. A familiar song can bring happy memories and sad memories flooding back.

When I listen to the progressive rock band Kansas's "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return” albums, I'm transported to my high school days. I bought these 2 albums within months of each other and they were among the first of couple dozen albums of the thousands I eventually ended up buying.

Saturday night at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL, I felt I was surrounded by kindred spirits. The heads covered in gray hair (or lacking hair) suggested a crowd that also lived their youth in the 1970s. And the fact that so many gave a standing ovation after every song suggested that the memories invoked by the song were as important as the current performance of the song.

After 5 decades, only 2 founding members of Kansas remain - guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Erhart. But the current members still respect the old songs and performed them very well. Original lead vocalist Steve Walsh is gone, but Chicago native and former truck driver Ronnie Platt sounded a heck of a lot like him; and David Ragsdale played an excellent electric violin, reminiscent of original violinist Robby Steinhardt, who gave Kansas its distinctive sound during their late 70s peak.

IMG_6191At Genesee, they played over half of "Leftoverture", including "Miracles Out of Nowhere" (my personal favourite) and "Carry on Wayward Son" (the evening's encore).

But the main draw of the performance was their "Point of Know Return", which the band played in its entirety. Hearing the tracks in order was like sitting in my parents’ basement with the stereo turned up loud while I pored over the lyrics, liner notes, and cover art. I was transported.

As were all the old folks around me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 9:12:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 20, 2019

WillieNile"I love quality" announced Willie Nile from the stage to the audience at SPACE in Evanston Friday night. And quality is what he delivered. From his 90-minute set to his excellent band (I was impressed by his new lead guitarist Jimmy Bones) to his charming demeanor to the warmup band (Georgia singer/songwriter Brad Ray, accompanied by his father).

If you don't know Willie Nile, you are not alone. He has carved out a successful career, recording a dozen studio albums that satisfied his fan base; but he has never cracked the top 40.

His music is old school rock and roll with cerebral lyrics. Think of Lou Reed crossed with Bruce Springsteen, crossed with the Clash.

WillieNile_DavidWith decades of material on which to draw, Nile had many quality choices. And he delighted the crowd with rockers like "House of a Thousand Guitars" and "All Dressed Up and No Place to Go", along with thoughtful slow songs like "The Innocent Ones", which he dedicated to the Kurds fighting for their lives in the middle east. For "The Streets of New York", he set aside is guitar and sat at the piano.

The band closed with a rousing rendition of "One Guitar" in which they were joined by Brad Ray and his dad).

Willie Nile stands about 5-foot-nothing and has sported a Cosmo Kramer haircut since years before there was a Cosmo Kramer. But Friday night in Evanston, he cranked out house rocking music a hundred feet tall.

And everything he did was filled with quality.

Photos

Sunday, October 20, 2019 4:09:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, October 1, 2019

CobhamBrecker (2)Maybe it was the rain. Or the fact that it was a Sunday. Or because they performed 2 shows on  the same day.

But the City Winery was barely half full for the legendary drummer Billy Cobham and his Crosswinds Project, which featured his longtime collaborator trumpeter Randy Brecker.

CobhamBrecker (3)Cobham and Brecker have a long history together. They co-founded the jazz-rock fusion band Dreams in the late 1960s before launching successful careers as solo artists and collaborating with many of the jazz greats. Brecker found great success pairing with his brother Michael as The Brecker Brothers, while Cobham co-founded the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin.

Sunday they were together again, along with 4 other musicians (guitar, bass, keyboard, and bassoon) at the City Winery. I caught the second of two shows and the band was tight and energetic.

Named for his classic 1974 album, the Crosswinds Project played the full Spanish Moss Suite from that LP, leading in with a beautifully rendered solo keyboard version of "Savannah the Serene".

CobhamBrecker (1)It was Cobham's band and he led the way, but each of his band took turns with outstanding solo and ensemble performances. I was particularly impressed with keyboardist Osam Elelwy, who brought both energy and emotion to the evening's performance.

At 75 years young, Billy Cobham is celebrating his legacy and still sharing continuing to pour himself into his music. It will be tough to match the influence he has had on musicians in the past, but he is still inspiring audiences.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 9:32:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, September 3, 2019

IMG_5744Glenn Tilbrook celebrated his birthday with us in Chicago.

Tilford - along with Chris Difford - are the driving force behind the band Squeeze. Squeeze began as a New Wave band in the late 1970s, but progressed to become one of the most creative bands of the early 1980s - producing some very inventive melodies, rhythms, and arrangements. Difford and Tilbrook were the founders, songwriters, and leaders of the band and they are the only two original members to remain with the group today.

Saturday night at the Chicago Theatre, they were joined by a very good backing ensemble, especially a drummer, filled with kinetic energy and a masterful keyboard player.

From the moment they walked on stage, they were focused on the music. The band played four songs before they paused to greet the audience.

Mixed in with some lesser-known album cuts, the band played many of their hits, including "Annie Get Your Gun", "Cool for Cats" (a rare Difford vocal), "Goodbye Girl", and "Up the Junction". Highlights of the evening included an acoustic version of "Tempted" and a rousing version of "Black Coffee in Bed" to close the night.

The seats at the Chicago Theatre were a little too close to allow any pogo dancing; but the audience got on their feet when they recognized a song.

IMG_5748During their heyday, Squeeze was moderately popular on American radio stations, while they enjoyed much greater success in their native UK and on my college dorm room stereo.

At the end of the show, Difford wished his friend a Happy Birthday, showed a video from back home, and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday".

We all celebrated.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 9:34:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 24, 2019

Weinberg-10A jukebox (for those too young to remember) was a machine filled with black vinyl discs - each containing a different song. They could be found in a lot of bars and diners and patrons could insert one or more coins and select the songs they wanted to hear.

Max Weinberg's Jukebox works on the same principle. A screen next to the stage continuously scrolled a list of almost 200 songs and Max periodically went into the audience to ask what people wanted to hear. And then he and his band played those requests.

Weinberg (for those too young to remember) rose to fame as the drummer of Bruce Springsteen's legendary E Street Band; and later led Conan O'Brien's house band for both the Late Show and the Tonight Show.

Max Weinberg opened his City Winery show Friday evening with Cream's "White Room" and Tom Petty's "American Girl" before soliciting requests from the audience. Anything on the scrolling list was fair game and the list was packed with classic rock favourites from The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, Springsteen (of course), and a host of others. Max played the drums and was accompanied by 2 guitarists and a bass player - each of which took turns singing lead.

In 2+ hours, I counted 26 songs performed by the band, including "Lola", "Drift Away", and "Me and Julio" - each delivered with tight playing, high-quality musicianship and great enthusiasm.

It was like listening to a really good bar cover band with one famous guy in it.

Weinberg-22They closed the night with a trio of high-energy Springsteen songs: "Pink Cadillac", "Dancing in the Dark", and "Glory Days". For the final song, Max invited audience members to join the band onstage.

A great concert (for those too young to remember) happens when both the audience and the performers enjoy themselves. This was one of those evenings.


More photos

Saturday, August 24, 2019 7:01:42 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Santana-41Santana and the Doobie Brothers were two of my favourite bands as I was growing up in suburban Detroit. Sadly, I never had the chance to see either of them in concert. Until this week.

Both bands were on stage Sunday night at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.

DoobieBrothers-62The Doobie Brothers opened the show with an energetic performance - their trademark funky mix of rock, blues, country, and soul.

Michael McDonald is not part of the current Doobie lineup (a stand-in sang "Takin' It to the Streets"), but the last 1970s core of Tom Johnson, Patrick Simmons, and John McFee were there and this was the version of the band I first fell in love with. This was the first time I've ever seen a warmup act come out for an encore, but the audience loved it when they returned to play "Listen to the Music" and "Black Water" (my personal favourite).

DoobieBrothers-37After a brief intermission, the sun set, the lights dimmed, and Santana opened their set with "Soul Sacrifice", their percussion-heavy instrumental from their 1969 debut album.

The centerpiece of this band is and has always been Carlos Santana, from whom the band takes its name. But Carlos has always surrounded himself with excellent musicians and they proved their prowess tonight. Instrumentals alternated with vocal songs; hits alternated with deep cuts; ballads alternated with songs of high-energy and the band was great throughout. It was particularly special when Carlos took over with a guitar solo. At 72, he remains one of the world's great guitarists. He can showcase his technical prowess and bring emotion to his music.

Santana-76 Santana has been able to stay relevant through five decades by reinventing themselves - not only artistically, but also commercially.

He played to the audience between songs, mentioning the influence of Chicago Blues legend Otis Rush on the arrangement of "Black Magic Woman".

Santana-26 After an encore that included the 1999 mega-hit "Smooth", the band finally left the stage - over 4 hours after the show began.

This was my first visit to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, my first time seeing the Doobie Brothers, and my first time seeing Santana. It was a night to remember.


More Santana photos

More Doobie Brothers photos

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 7:14:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Frampton (6)A father and son sharing a passion is a wonderful thing.

Sunday night in Chicago, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin experience opened for Peter Frampton, where Jason played tribute to his father. Jason is the son of the late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and he has assembled a group that sounds exactly like his father's band - down to the musical arrangements and a voice replica of Robert Plante.

Bonham's band would have been a great concert on its own, but the main attraction was Peter Frampton, the 69-year-old singer / guitarist, who recorded his first hit at the age of 18 with Humble Pie.

The thing I love about Peter Frampton is that he continued to evolve, without rejecting his past.

Frampton enjoyed his greatest commercial success in the 1970s, culminating with the recording and release of "Frampton Comes Alive" - Rolling Stone Magazine's 1976 album of the year.

Frampton (9)Sunday night in Chicago, Frampton drew extensively from his hits of that era - "Baby, I Love Your Way", "Do You Feel Like We Do", "Show Me the Way", ...), even opening with "Something's Happening", the song that opened his legendary live album; but he also exposed us to much of the new material on which he has been working the past 4 decades. He played from his cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" from his Grammy-winning 2006 album "Fingerprints" and several tracks from his recent "All Blues" album.

Between songs, he charmed us with stories of his career and the musicians with whom he has interacted.

His 3-song encore consisted of songs from "Humble Pie", the band he co-founded at the age of 18.

No artist has become more associated with the Talk Box than Peter Frampton and he used it in this show - but sparingly enough that it remained fresh and not just a gimmick to prop up his songs.

DGAndTimThis was Frampton's final tour. He is retiring due to a diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disorder that will ultimately impair his ability to play guitar. But there was no evidence of any health problems at this show. His energy was high, and his playing was flawless. He and his band were on stage for nearly 2 hours.

I was excited to finally see Peter Frampton in concert - decades after originally discovering his music. And more excited that I shared the experience with my 25-year-old son, who seemed by far the youngest attendee.

A father and son sharing a passion is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 2:36:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 30, 2019

MickJaggerFrom a distance, you would swear he was half his 75 years. You would never guess he underwent heart surgery two months ago. Only the cracks in his face revealed Mick Jagger's age. Not his body, which gyrated and strutted and danced for 2 hours as the legendary Rolling Stones performed before an overflowing Soldier Field in Chicago Tuesday night.

Most viewers saw him from a distance in the cavernous stadium. But the energy was high, and the audience sang and danced along with the band. Mick, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts have been recording and touring together for decades. People may think of them as the new member's, but Darryl Jones (of south Chicago), who joined the band when bassist Bill Wyman retired in 1993; and Chuck Leavell, former Allman Brothers keyboardist, who has been with the band since 1982 also have a tenure longer than most bands exist. Yet, they are newbies when compared with thier septuagenarian teammates.

This was my first time seeing the Stones and it may be their last visit to Chicago. Now in their 50th year, this year's "No Filter" tour will take them to 13 cities in the U.S. And they chose to open in Chicago, after Jagger's illness forced them to reshuffle the tour schedule.

To the delight of the crowd, they heard many references to Chicago. Mick noted the band had played the city nearly 40 times. And he introduced the new Chicago mayor and governor, who were in attendance, noting that Governor Pritzker had signed legislation that day legalizing cannabis in January. "Some of you may have jumped the gun," he quipped.

Of course, the Rolling Stones drew heavily from their catalog of hit songs - from opening with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" to their encores: "Gimme Shelter" and "Satisfaction". But they included a few deeper album tracks, like "Bitch" and "Slipping Away".

It was mostly an evening of high energy rock and roll and blues; but a highlight of the night was when Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie brought their instruments (including a small drum kit) to a platform that extended 30 yards out into the audience to play two acoustic numbers: "Play with Fire" and "Sweet Virginia".

When the evening ended, it felt like they had given all they had and all we needed.

After 50 years, the band knew every note by heart, but still brought energy and made us feel they were having a good time after all this time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019 9:45:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, June 4, 2019

GeorgeClinton-1It's a good thing The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago's Uptown has such a large stage. They needed all of it to hold about 20 singers and dancers and rappers and guitarists and horns and drummers that make up George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic.

But even with its large size, the Aragon stage could not contain the entire band for the entire concert Friday night.   At least three musicians jumped over the front into the orchestra pit and ran out into the audience during the performance.

Many years ago, Parliament and Funkadelic were two separate bands (although with largely the same members), but today Clinton has combined them into a single entity - Parliament Funkadelic.

GeorgeClinton-2Clinton conducted... no, that's not the right word... Directed...? No... He more or less presided over the band's performance, stepping forward occasionally to acknowledge a performer, deliver a few lyrics, or lead the audience in handclapping. In fact, the 77-year old spent much of the concert sitting on a chair in front of the drum set.

The show started slowly, not helped by failing sound systems and the poor acoustics of the Aragon; but Clinton gained energy as the night went on.

The crowd expressed most delight when the band broke into their old songs - "Give Up the Funk", "Flashlight", "One Nation Under Groove", ...)

GeorgeClinton-3With no seats on the ground floor, the audience could not help but dance, clap, and wave their hands through much of the show. It wasn't perfect, but the crowded stage delivered enough to delight those who made it out for the night.

His health is failing, and his energy is waning, and this will likely be his last tour. But he gave what he could to the crowded ballroom audience, who waited through three warmup acts to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 9:31:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, May 11, 2019

AlGreenA pile of roses sat on a table far at stage left.

The band entered the stage and played a few minutes of a funky groove before Al Green walked out and picked up a handful of flowers and handed or tossed them to ladies in the audience. He repeated this gesture multiple times during his  performance.

This was an appropriate beginning to Green's performance. He did not as much perform for the audience as he charmed them. And, for the most part, they were delighted to be charmed.

It was Green's first tour in seven years and his stop in Chicago Tuesday night was a popular one.

The audience sang along to songs that were never pop hits. But, when he played some of his most popular songs ("Let's Stay Together", "Here I Am", "Tired of Being Alone", "I'm Still In Love With You"), everyone rose to their feet in appreciation.

I remember these songs as soulful melodies, delivered at a slowburn pace. But Green's band (9 instrumentalists + 3 backing vocalists) increased the tempo, delivering each one a little funkier than the original.

Green played mostly R&B and soul, but mixed in a bit of Gospel music. Al Green is an ordained minister with his own church in Memphis and he moved us with his rendition of "Amazing Grace". A medley of songs by the Temptations ("My Girl"), the Four Tops ("Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch"), and Otis Redding ("Dock of the Bay") pleased the audience.

The band closed with a rousing rendition of "Love and Happiness".

At 73, Rev. Green is a few years older, a little thicker in the waist, and lacks some of the energy he possessed during his popularity of the 1970s and 1980s. His performance lasted only about an hour and did not include an encore; but he still can hit the high notes that made him famous; and he still projects joy while singing the songs that brought joy to so many of us during our youth.

Saturday, May 11, 2019 9:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, April 5, 2019

Yeah, it's a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll!
As your name gets hot so your heart grows cold!
And you gotta stay young man, you can never be old!
All the way from Memphis!

-Mott the Hoople

MottTheHoople (1)In 1974, Mott the Hoople recorded and released a live album, probably without realizing it would be their last. Ian Hunter's decision to pursue a solo career led to the band's breakup a few months after the album's release.

In 2019, the surviving members - guitarist/vocalist Hunter, keyboardist Morgan Fisher, and guitarist Ariel Bender - reunited to tour North America. Wednesday night, that tour landed at the Chicago Theatre and a legion of gray-haired and graying haired fans came to pay tribute.

The opening act was The Suburbs - a pretty good band from Minneapolis, whose music sounded like the synth-heavy, horns-enhanced music of 1990s MTV. The singer joked "As you can tell, we are very young", even though gray hair sat atop the heads of most of the band members. They filled a pleasant 40 minutes.

Around 9PM, the stage darkened, and the recorded music of Gustav Holst filled the theatre as Mott the Hoople marched onstage. The spotlight shone on Hunter and Fisher, who performed an acoustic version of the opening of Don McLean's "American Pie". After the line about "the day the music died", Hunter asked: "Or did it?" and the rest of the band launched into an energetic version of "The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll". They had begun the concert exactly as they had begun the 1974 tour!

For almost 2 hours, this trio and the five others in the band entertained a theatre full of aging rock fans. The band consisted of keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, and one virtuoso, who kept switching instruments.

MottTheHoople (2)Through power rock and rockabilly and ballads, the band kept the audience on their feet, singing along and cheering on the heroes of their youth. Mott the Hoople was known for great originals, like "All the Way from Memphis" and covers like Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and they played plenty of both on this night. Other highlights of the night were "I Wish I Was Your Mother", "Roll Away the Stone", and "Walking with a Mountain", which featured a blistering guitar solo by Bender. For local color, they sang the chorus of Hunter's hit "Cleveland Rocks", replacing the iconic line with "Chicago Rocks" to the pleasure of the locals. On the rock numbers, the band sometimes featured 4 guitar players - not counting the bass guitar.

Of course, they finished the night with David Bowie's "All the Young Dudes" - Mott the Hoople's biggest hit.

It was amazing how much the band sounds the same, despite 45 years apart and vocal chords and fingers that are in their seventh decade. More impressive was how much fun they seemed to be having and how that fun energy transmitted itself to an audience. Band members and audience members connected with one another and for a couple hours, it was as if all the years had not passed and we were all still young fans and rock gods.

Friday, April 5, 2019 12:30:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, March 5, 2019

HamiltonCombine a history lesson with great music, great dancing, and a very talented cast and you begin to understand "Hamilton". The extremely popular Broadway musical has been playing continuously at Chicago's CIBC Theater for over two years, and I finally saw a performance Sunday afternoon.

This hype for this show was considerable, but Sunday's performance was up to matching it.

The show's story focuses on the friendship and rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Both were major figures in early American history. Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, who built the U.S. financial system. Burr was a Senator, a state Attorney General, a Vice President and (spoiler alert) the man who killed Hamilton in a duel.

Some actors got the day off for this matinee performance - most notably, JJ Jeter for Miguel Cervantes as Hamilton and Keith Webb for Akron Watson, but I would not have known I was seeing understudies without looking at the program. Jeter and Webb captured the spirit of their characters - Hamilton's idealism and Burr's ambition - perfectly.

A high point of the interpretation was the character of Thomas Jefferson, who was portrayed as a cocky Prince clone, returning from Paris to set the new country afire.

One of the most interesting aspect of the Hamilton musical is that nearly every major part is played by a person of color - African-American or Latinx. George III was the only speaking role is played by a Caucasian. Of course, the leaders of 18th century United States were almost all white. But this change works well and fits the music, features a lot of R&B and Hip-Hop influences.

I bought tickets to treat myself to a birthday present and I invited my son to join me. We both enjoyed it immensely. I would not be surprised to see this show run for another 2 years in Chicago.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 9:45:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Joey DeFrancesco TrioJazz musicians are famous for playing the notes around the melody, adding their own interpretation of a tune. But the tremolo of Joey DeFrancesco's organ does much of that for him.

the Joey DeFrancesco Trio brought played a delightful set Sunday night at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago's South Loop. Most songs began with a mellow feel, then increased in energy until each was swinging and/or rocking.

Like most great band leaders, DeFrancesco knows to find and showcase great musicians. In this trio, it was saxophonist Victor North, whose solos captivated the audience. Drummer Khary Shahee was solid throughout and seemed determined to play every solo with his eyes closed.

David and JoeyThe Trio played a mix of originals ("Blues in Three", "Trip Mode") and arrangements of other composers tunes, including an extended version of Cole Porter's classic "Night and Day".  One highlight was the beautiful melody of "Easy to Remember" and the final song of the night – an up-tempo, frenzied piece in which each member of the band tried to outperform one another in turn.

It wasn't a long set - maybe 75 minutes - and the second set was canceled due to low ticket sales; but those who came out saw an excellent performance.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 9:28:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, September 16, 2018
Altan2018-45 Altan2018-50
Altan2018-52       Altan2018-55

People filled every seat and stood in the back on the 4th floor of the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago. Some were fans, some musicians, and some were just curious to see and hear Altan.

For over 30 years, Altan has been performing and recording traditional Celtic music and Thursday evening the quartet performed a free concert as part of the World Music Festival.

For over 2 hours, they delighted the audience with music and stories; originals and traditional folk songs; reels, jigs, and ballads.

Each of the musicians - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (lead vocals and fiddle), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki), Dáithí Sproule (guitar and vocals), and Martin Tourish (accordion) - were masterful in their own right. But it was Ni Mhaonaigh who stole the show with her fiery fiddle playing and angelic voice.

The audience clapped along and some danced up the center aisle, Riverdance-style. By the end, we were all smiling. Those who did not know Altan and those who did not know this type of music and those who did not understand the Gaelic lyrics had been won over. And so had I. It may have been the Guinness served in the back of the room, but more likely it was the excellence of the musicians.

More photos

Sunday, September 16, 2018 9:23:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 15, 2018

IMG_2199Stereophonics are Kelly Jones, Richard Jones, Adam Zindani, and Jamie Morrison. But mostly Kelly Jones. Jones is the lead singer, front man, plays many guitar solos, and writes most of the band's music. This is not to say the rest of the band doesn't contribute. They provided excellent musicianship when the band took the stage at Chicago's Vic Theatre Tuesday night.

IMG_2237Tuesday night, thanks to my friend David, I got my first experience at the Vic and my first experience seeing Stereophonics.

Ramona's Flowers opened with a brief set, playing some solid melodies reminiscent of late 80s alternative rock.

IMG_2250But the theatre was full, and they came to see Stereophonics. The crowd did not just listen. They sang along to almost every song, making their voices heard above the amplification. From my vantage point near the stage, it sounded like Jones had brought a choral along to accompany him.  Stereophonics has a much larger following in the UK than in the US and I heard many British accents in the crowd.

The concert did not disappoint. From their high-energy opening "C'est La Vie" through their 6 encores, the crowd was on its feet most of the night.

IMG_2268They played original songs all night until the very end, when they closed with a rousing rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago", delighting the locals and immigrants in the audience alike.

It was a good experience for me and for the thousands of British expats who packed the theater.

Saturday, September 15, 2018 9:21:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 19, 2018

ELOticketIt has been a long time.

Electric Light Orchestra had not played a concert in Detroit in 37 years. And it has been about the same amount of time since an ELO single cracked the US top 40. 

But despite peaking in the studio in the 1970s, enough 50-something rock fans remembered them with enough fondness to pack Little Caesars Arena Thursday night in Detroit.

Only Jeff Lynne remains from the ELO of their heyday; but Lynne was always the face of the band, as the lead singer, songwriter, and producer of most of their songs and albums. At age 70, Lynne looks the same as he did decades ago, his aging face hiding behind long brown curls, a beard, and dark glasses, just as it did during the band's heyday. His voice is still strong, although he delegated some of the lead vocals to another singer.

I made the trek to Detroit from Chicago in large part to reunite with some old high school friends and enjoy a night of memories.

Mr. Lynne did not disappoint. Known for pop melodies over complex arrangements, he brought with him a string section and 4 keyboardists to accompany his rock band and backing vocalists.

ELOinconcertThe set list was strong on the hits of the late 70s. For about 90 minutes, he played songs like "Evil Woman", "Do Ya", "Rockaria", and "Sweet Talkin' Woman" took me back to my high school and junior high school days. The acoustics were surprisingly good for a hockey arena and the sellout crowd responded to each memory the band played. He even played "Handle With Care" from his days with the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, delighting the audience with videos of him recording with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan. ELO closed the set with some of their biggest hits: "Don't Bring Me Down", "Turn to Stone", and "Mr. Blue Sky". They were gone from the stage for barely a minute before returning to play an extended version of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven".

For me, it was a chance to reconnect with my past. Old memories, old friends, old songs, and my old home town made Thursday night a special memory.

Sunday, August 19, 2018 11:34:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 13, 2018

Freddy Cole at the Jazz ShowcaseFreddy Cole looked every bit of his 83 years as he was helped onto the stage last night at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago's Printer's Row.

Until he sat at the piano. At that point he was transformed. For an hour and a half, he showed a strength and grace that belied his 8 decades. His command of piano and vocals was a strong as a man half his age.

He launched from one song to the next, never taking a break to chat with the audience until the final few minutes.

Although Cole can claim 3 Grammy nominations, he will always be remembered as the younger brother of legendary singer Nat "King" Cole. But he does not shun that comparison, as his set included three of Nat's songs (Paper Moon, L-O-V-E, and A Blossom Fell) and he recently released an album of songs made famous by his brother. Close your eyes and the richness of Freddy's voice is reminiscent of his late brother's talents.

Cole stuck mostly to ballads, but pleased the local crowd near the end of his set with a rendition of Ray Price's swinging "On the South Side of Chicago", which brought an ovation from his hometown.

His piano and vocals were accompanied by drums, upright bass, and guitar. Of course, the attention was mostly on Cole, but his talented Adam Moezinia took many solos. Bassist Elias Bailey stayed in the background until the last few songs when he became more and more bold with his solos and complex playing.

Freddy and DavidIn the end, Freddy Cole closed the set with a song called "Goodbye", accepted a standing ovation, and was helped from the stage, again transformed into a fragile old man. Until the night's second set.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 2:49:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 16, 2018

AWBThe Average White Band are anything but average.

45 years ago, a group friends in Dundee, Scotland got together to play funky music, then moved to America to launch a recording career.

Saturday night at the Promontory in Hyde Park, two of those original Scottish band members - Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre - joined with 5 newer band members to prove they still have the magic that launched an international career decades ago.

AWB-83 I attended the second of their two sets, where they played a few ballads mixed in with their signature funk. Vocalist Brent Carter, formerly of Tower of Power, showed impressive range for the band and tenor saxophonist Fred Vigdor led the 2-person horn section. They were helped along by alto saxophonist Cliff Lyons, drummer Rocky Bryant, and keyboardist Rob Aries. But it was Gorrie who led the way with excellent bass playing, backing vocals, and a charming persona for the audience.

They played many of their hits, such as "Cut the Cake", "Work to Do", and "Oh Maceo". The room was full and the level of energy rose as as the show went on. The band returned to the stage for a single encore - their only US #1 single "Pick Up the Pieces".

By the end of the evening, most of the audience was on their feet, including yours truly. It was a show I wish could have continued for longer into the night. Despite their name, Average White Band was exceptional. I find myself playing AWB and other funk bands as I write this on Sunday evening.


More photos

Monday, April 16, 2018 1:41:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, March 11, 2018

20180310_211841Although he was born and raised in Port Arthur, TX and raised on his father's Louisiana music, CJ Chenier has strong connections to Chicago. He recorded 3 albums for Chicago-based Alligator Records and he is a frequent performer at Fitzgerald's Night Club in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn.

It was in Berwyn that I saw CJ last night. The tickets were a birthday gift and one of the best I've received in a long time. Chenier played for hours, bringing the high energy I had come to know from his recordings, but had never seen in concert.

He was accompanied by drums, bass, an excellent guitarist, and someone playing the vest frottoir - a tin washboard that hangs from the chest, that was invented by CJ's legendary father Clifton and his uncle Cleveland.

The frottoir added some texture to the music; but it added more to the visuals of the concert, given its wearer's high energy dancing and playing.

CJ, of course, sang and played his signature accordion. His music kept the packed club bouncing all night. The high point came when he and 3 members of his band unplugged and wound their way through the crowd for an extended jam.

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CJ photobombs DG's selfie!

He continues the Zydeco tradition of his father's band (Clifton passed away in 1987), but CJ adds a funky sound all his own. The result kept the audience energized throughout the show.

If you are reading this and wondering what to get me on my birthday next year, check the local concert calendar around March 1. Be warned: It will have to be pretty darn good to top this one.

Sunday, March 11, 2018 9:35:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, February 16, 2018

Steve Earle has been writing and recording songs for over 4 decades. On Monday night, he brought those songs to the City Winery in Chicago's Fulton River district.

This was my second night in a row at the City Winery as I saw JD Souther the night before. Earle and Souther share a Texas upbringing and a talent for writing great music.

Steve Earle is as much a storyteller as he is a songwriter. Listening to his music you can hear the influences of his old friends Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Between songs, Earle would talk about his life and his music and his romantic streak and his many failed marriages. He expressed a strong wit - in both his lyrics and his banter.

Every song was a joy to listen to as he moved effortlessly from blues to country to Irish folk songs. It was just him and his guitar or mandolin (and sometimes harmonica) but that was enough. A packed theater appreciated all he brought.

Now in his 60s, Earle continues to make music and to tour constantly.

And to make audiences happy.

Friday, February 16, 2018 7:07:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, February 15, 2018

JD Souther wrote the soundtrack to my youth. His songs were recorded by many of my favourite artists, including Bonnie Raitt, the Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt.

Sunday night at the City Winery I had a chance to return to those days when legendary songwriter performed. For over 2 hours, Souther sang songs he wrote and (mostly) others made famous. His tenor voice still sounds great and was accompanied only by himself playing acoustic guitar or baby grand piano.

He is mostly known for the songs he wrote and co-wrote for the Eagles and he played many of these, such as "Sad Café", "New Kid in Town", and "Best of My Love". He also played his composition "White Rhythm and Blues", one of my favourite Linda Ronstadt songs and "You're Only Lonely", the only top-40 hit recorded by Souther.

Souther spent most of the evening playing ballads, but changed it up for the encore, getting the audience clapping along to the catchy "Heartache Tonight."

The place was not full on a cold and snowy Sunday night. But Souther is a big baseball fan and announced before his last song that he planned to return to Chicago in the spring and take in a Cubs game. So you will have another chance to see him. And you should take it.

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Me and JD after the show.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 4:22:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, December 22, 2017

Me and Roy Roy Ayers is 77 years old and stutters when he talks. But not when he sings. And definitely not when he plays the vibraphone. And play he did last night in front of a packed house at The Promontory in Hyde Park.

Ayers mixed a few ballads with the jazz-funk that he helped define. Backed by a band consisting of bass, drums, keyboard, and another vocalist, Ayers played for about 90 minutes, drawing on his 99 albums with such songs as "Red, Black & Green", "Don't Stop the Feeling", and his interpretation of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me".

The keyboardist was the best of the bunch, coaxing a variety of sounds from his instrument during his many solos. I wondered why the stage setup hid so much of him from the audience's view.

And then there was Roy and his vibraphone. Ayers still sounds great when he does his thing with his vibes.

Also Me and RoyI bought a ticket at the door and had to stand in the back with some folks who decided it was ok to engage in loud conversation at the concert. But I had a chance to shake the hand of Mr. Ayers after the show and tell him how much I enjoyed his music.

And to wish him luck on his next 99 albums.

Friday, December 22, 2017 10:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, October 7, 2017

TheChurch02This week, I went to The Church on Friday night.

In this context, The Church is the Australian rock band and they were performing at Park West in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

It turns out that The Church has had a long career beyond their 1988 "Starfish" album - the CD my brother gave me decades ago that I played repeatedly in the 80s and 90s. "Starfish" was their most popular album, but they were almost a dozen songs into their set before playing the first song from this album - "North South East & West".

TheChurch01They filled the night with music from the early 1980s (lead singer Steve Kilbey joked that he was 2 years old when he wrote one of the songs) and from their latest album ("Man Woman Life Death Infinity", which was released today). In almost 4 decades, the band has released dozens of albums and they drew on many of them tonight They alternated between straight-ahead post-punk rockers and the ethereal music for which they are most well-known.

TheChurch03For me, the high point was hearing "Under the Milky Way". It was like a visit from an old friend and the emotion of the harmonies and acoustic guitar still speak to me after all these years.

My first visit to Park West was an enjoyable one. It was a good night to visit The Church. ie


Saturday, October 7, 2017 6:56:20 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 21, 2017

BennyGolson Last week, I took my son to his first jazz club. We saw Benny Golson at the Jazz Showcase in the South Loop. He liked it.

Golson has been performing tenor saxophone publicly for decades and has accumulated a number of stories of his interactions with many of the all-time greats - from Dizzy Gillespie to Eric Burdon. He spent much of this evening telling of his days with other musicians, preceding each song with the tale of how that song came to be. For example, he spoke of writing "I remember Clifford" after learning of the death of his friend Clifford Brown; and he talked about playing "Whisper Not" for Dizzy Gillespie and trying to remain cool after Gillespie asked if he could record the song.

At 85, Golson is showing his age. He no longer has the stamina to maintain the long slow notes that many of his melodies demand.  But on this night in Chicago's South Loop, he surrounded himself with some excellent musicians (piano, upright bass, and drums), who made up for that with their solos.

And Golson is best known for his songwriting prowess and nearly every song he performed was his own composition. And his melodies are still lovely.

And my son enjoyed his first jazz concert.

Monday, August 21, 2017 12:04:29 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, August 16, 2017

YoussouNDour0130 years ago, I received as a gift the album "Nelson Mandela" by Youssou N'Dour. I was hooked. N'Dour exposed to me an engaging style that combined traditional rhythms of his native Senegal with western instruments.

Thursday night at Millennium Park, I finally had the chance to see N'Dour in concert. He did not disappoint.

Throughout the show, everyone smiled and danced to the music. The audience enjoyed themselves, Youssou enjoyed himself, and the band enjoyed themselves. Except for the rhythm guitar player, who remained stoically stone-faced throughout the performance, despite being surrounded by smiling musicians and fans.

YoussouNDour02N'Dour shared the stage with about a dozen other musicians, including two keyboardists, 3 guitarists, 4(!) drummers, and 1 dancer.

They played danceable Afro-pop for over 90 minutes and came back for an encore to the delight of the crowd.

The show was a treat for those of us who love African music. Next to the stage, I saw people dressed in African garb dancing to the music. A few rows back, I saw middle-aged white Americans tapping their feet. Even though none of the songs were sung in English, Youssou and his band made a connection with an audience far from his homeland.

By the end of the show, even the rhythm guitarist had to smile.


More photos

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 7:07:21 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I was in college when I discovered Jean Luc Ponty. My friend Tom had a copy of Enigmatic Ocean and he played it for me and I loved Ponty's style of jazz-rock fusion.

Shortly thereafter, I headed to the local used record store to add Enigmatic Ocean, Cosmic Messenger, and Imaginary Voyage to my vinyl collection.

I spent many hours replaying these albums and others over the years; but I never had the chance to see Jean Luc in concert.

Until last night.

Jean Luc Ponty and his band played 2 sold out shows at Chicago's City Winery Monday and Tuesday night. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Monday night show.

Ponty is focusing this tour on "The Atlantic Years" - performing the songs he recorded in the 1970s and 1980s - exactly the time that I discovered him.

Ponty, now 74 years old, brings the energy of a much younger man to his performance. He played 2 sets and 1 encore over more than 2 hours, drawing music from the 1970s and 80s.

As one would expect from a craftsman like Ponty, he surrounded himself with top-notch musicians for this tour: Jamie Glaser on guitar; Wally Minko on keyboards; Baron Browne on bass; and Rayford Griffin on drums. The group was talented and tight and matched Ponty's energy.

Jean Luc did not speak much between songs, which allowed him to focus on the music; but it was good to hear he retained his accent from his youth in France.

He closed his second set with an amazing version of Enigmatic Ocean, which began slowly and ethereally before building to a rocking frenzy.

Local violinist Edgar Gabriel joined the band on stage for an encore to match Ponty's and the band's intensity for one extended song.

Jean Luc Ponty changed the way we view the violin in jazz music and he continues to turn heads today. I was happy to finally catch his energy in concert.

Links:

Jean Luc Ponty homepage

My photos

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 11:27:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, March 26, 2017

AlStewart2017I was 16 years old when I got my first real job. The day I received my first real paycheck, I drove from work to the bank to local record store and bought Al Stewart's Year of the Cat LP. I took it home and played it repeatedly, memorizing every word of every song on both sides.

Nearly 4 decades later, I finally had a chance to see Al Stewart live - Thursday evening at the City Winery. And here's the kicker: He played the entire Year of the Cat album! Every song, in the same order as on the album. It was like getting a visit from an old friend. The concert transported me back to my teen years, listening to my LP on my parent's Wi-Fi at top volume in the family basement.

In between each song, Stewart explained something about the song's meaning or told a story of its origin. He was surprised that a song about the Rhodesian civil war (On the Border) would become a top 40 hit; All airplane metaphors in Flying Sorcery are about the ending of a relationship; Broadway Hotel often inspires each audience member to attempt to seduce the attractive stranger next to him or her.

Stewart was backed by the local Chicago band Empty Pockets, which also opened the show with a short set of their own. They were joined by Marc Macisso on flute, harmonica and saxophone - most notably saxophone which he wielded with power and passion.

AlStwesart and Me The band played a few songs before and after the complete Year of the Cat set, including his other hit Time Passages. But it was the re-playing of the album that we all came to hear. And that we all enjoyed.


More photos of this concert

Sunday, March 26, 2017 5:14:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, March 25, 2017

KrisKristoffersonI took a chance. The show had been sold out for over a month. But I drove to the City Winery in the West Loop anyway. And I was rewarded with a ticket close to the stage. And I was not disappointed.

Kristofferson played for 2 hours with a very brief (maybe 10 minutes?) intermission. He played

He didn't bring a band. Just himself and his guitar and harmonica. It was enough.

At 80 years old, Kris Kristofferson still carries an impressive stage presence. There were a few missed notes on his guitar, and a few missed high or low notes in his vocal range, but his wit and charm more than made up for any shortcomings brought on by his age.

For Kristofferson, it has never been about his singing or his playing. It was always about his music and his storytelling. And he captivated a packed house Wednesday night on stage. He sang love songs and drinking songs and ballads and each one struck the audience as if the story were written and sang only for each of us.

My only complaint is that he apologized too much for any lapses in his musical technique. The audience didn't care. They wanted to hear him sing his stories.

And he did.

And I'm glad I was there to see and hear it.


Photos of the concert

Saturday, March 25, 2017 4:52:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, March 12, 2017

DelbertMcClintonDelbert McClinton has recorded dozens of albums over the past 45 years, but it was always his live shows that brought him the most praise.

Friday night, McClinton brought that live performance to S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston. For over 2 hours, he entertained a packed room with a mix of originals and cover songs.

McClinton has a devoted audience and all night long this crowd shouted requests and sang along to lyrics they had memorized.

Now, in his 70s, McClinton still has the powerful, gritty voice that made him the ultimate Texas roadhouse singer. What he has lost in range he makes up for with emotion.

For this show, Delbert's only instruments were his voice and his harmonicas. But he was backed by an outstanding 7-piece band, highlighted by Bob Britt on guitar, Kevin McKendree on keyboards, Dana Robbins on saxophone, and Quentin Ware on trumpet. This was a group of top-notch musicians who complemented one another very well. Instead of an intermission, Delbert stepped off the stage for 10-15 minutes in the middle of the show and allowed his band to play a trio of songs without him.

Delbert McClinton is often cited as the definitive Texas roadhouse musician. And Friday, he showed us why. Powerful vocals, a tight band, and a connection with the audience in an intimate venue made me glad I finally saw him live after listening to his recordings for years.

Sunday, March 12, 2017 7:55:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 9, 2017

MarciaBallBandMarcia Ball rocks. Her songs rock. Her band rocks.

And Tuesday night in Chicago, she and her quintet rocked the City Winery in Chicago's West Loop. For over 2 hours, she played her Texas mix of stride piano, boogie-woogie, rockabilly, and the blues. Lots of blues

Ball showed off a powerful voice that could not possibly come out of his tall, slender woman. But even more impressive were her keyboard skills. When she sits at a piano, she owns it. Her band wasn't far behind, led by excellent guitarist Mike Schermer and outstanding saxophonist Eric Bernhardt. Each stepped to the front frequently for skillful solos.

MarciaAndDavid Ball sang mostly originals from throughout her long career and from her latest album – The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man; but she mixed in a few cover songs, such as Randy Newman's Louisiana 1927 and Frankie Ford's Sea Cruise.

This was the last night of a long tour before she and her band head home; but they brought energy that night and the crowd fed off it.

If you get a chance, go see Marcia Bell. You will not regret it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017 5:40:57 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, March 7, 2017

20170304_214526In the 1960s Booker T and the MGs pioneered the Memphis Soul sound, recording numerous hit records. In the decades since, Booker T. Jones has recorded and produced countless records with the likes of Neil Young, Drive-By Truckers, Ray Charles, and Albert King.

Today, Booker T is in his 70s and still going strong.

I had the pleasure of seeing his current band at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston. Although not a long show (about 80 minutes total), he delighted the crowd with a top-notch performance by him and his band.

Of course, they played the hits of the MGs, such as Hip-Hug-Her, Hang ‘em High, Soul Limbo, and their first and biggest hit Green Onions; And they played music he is associated with, such as Born Under a Bad Sign, which he co-wrote for Albert King, and Grandma's Hands, which he produced for Bill Withers; but they also performed a number of cover songs, spanning genres from Outkast's hip-hop hit Hey Ya to Muddy Waters's blues classic Mannish Boy.

I was surprised to see Jones step out from behind his signature organ and play some songs on guitar and perform lead vocals on some.

Jones's band - a quartet of drums, guitar, bass, and organ - is highlighted by his son Ted on guitar. Ted has an engaging stage presence and is a solid musician like his father. Booker and Ted performed a moving rendition of Prince's Purple Rain together as the other 2 band members left the stage.

Booker T Jones has received numerous honors throughout his career. He has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And Saturday night in Evanston, I finally got to see him perform live.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 10:25:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, February 16, 2017

LMB01Last week, Ladysmith Black Mambazo brought a bit of South Africa to Chicago. The vocal group performed at The Old Town School of Folk Music Saturday February 11.

LBM was formed by Joseph Shabalala in Ladysmith, South Africa in 1964. Shabalala did not make this trip, but a number of his sons still perform with the 8-man group. Westerners learned of their talents in the 1980s when they recorded the classic "Graceland" album with Paul Simon; but they have been touring and recording on their own for decades. Their tight harmonies and blend of African and western music make them appealing to audiences all over the world.

LBM delighted the audience in a too-short (about 80 minutes) performance before a sold-out theater. They blended harmonies and melodies and humor and Zulu dancing to entertain us. There were no instruments because there was no need for instruments.

LMB02They sang some songs in English and some in the Zulu language. "Homeless" and "Diamonds on the Souls of her Shoes" from "Graceland" were crowd pleasers; but most of the night consisted of traditional African songs and their own compositions. For most songs, a different member of the band would step to the front of the stage to sing lead, while the remaining 7 harmonized behind him. Some songs were accompanied by coordinated Zulu dances.

The night concluded with a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace".

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has long been on my list of bands to see live. Now I can cross them off the Bucket List. Until the next time they come to town.

Photos

Thursday, February 16, 2017 7:03:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 22, 2017

After all these years, Webb Wilder still knows how to rock.

Last night, during my first visit to Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL, I had my first experience seeing Webb live. The small club was packed, but I was lucky to find a seat with 2 friends who had an extra chair at their table. When the show started, I gave up my seat to an elderly woman and moved up to watch the show next to the stage.

For over 2 hours, Webb and his band - The Beatniks - showed off some amazing guitar work. They moved effortlessly between the rockabilly of “Ju Ju Man” to the psychedelic "Voodoo Witch" to the hard rocking "Sitting Pretty".

The band was an excellent collection of musicians. Just 2 guitars, a bass guitar, and drums filled the place like a much larger band. The lead guitarist (I cannot find his name online) manipulated a control panel at his feet to make it sound as if he were playing dozens of different guitars.

Now in his 60s, Webb Wilder still brings the energy of his shows at small clubs like Fitzgerald's. If you are a fan of roots rock, I recommend seeing him live.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017 7:32:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 13, 2016

StanleyClarke (7)This is not the Stanley Clarke I remember. I remember Stanley Clarke in the 1970s and 1980s recording Jazz-Rock fusion and collaborating with the giants of the day, such as Chick Corea, Al Dimeola, and George Duke. He was all that was new and modern with his electric bass and his giant afro and his talking guitar.  The albums he recorded with Return to Forever are among the best of the genre.

Friday night at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston, IL, Clarke began as the electric jazz hero. Now in his mid-60s, he no longer sports the afro, but he retains the energy of his early days.

StanleyClarke (32)Clarke began the show, electric bass in hand, playing songs reminiscent of his fusion heyday. But halfway through his set, he swapped the electric bass guitar for an upright bass. One song later, his keyboardist slid from an electric keyboard set to a baby grand and suddenly the jazz was more straight ahead. And more sweet. The music ranged from fusion to funk to bee bop, including a few bars of Coltrane's classic "A Love Supreme".

His quartet consisted of 2 keyboardists, a drummer, and Stanley himself. The 3 others were between a third and a half Clarke's age, but they blended really well and Clarke still brings the energy of his own youth.

Clarke ended with an frenetic encore that included a call and response with the crowd.

His drummer - Mike Mitchell, aka "Blaque Dynamite" - was especially impressive.

Based on the energy and enthusiasm I saw Friday night, I expect Stanley Clarke will be entertaining audiences for a long time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 10:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I was in high school the first time someone asked me to name my favourite band. and I had to think about it for a while before I decided it was Steely Dan. They set themselves apart from others making good music because I enjoyed all of their songs and because they played a variety of music and because their style of combining jazz arrangements over pop melodies was so different from what other artists of the last 1970s were doing. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen established themselves as one of the great songwriting pairs in pop music history and always surrounded themselves with top-notch studio musicians.

Decades later, Steely Dan remains one of my favourites; but, remarkably, I've never seen them perform live. That changed last night when I caught their performance at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion in Chicago. They did not disappoint.

Steve Winwood warmed up - another artist I've always enjoyed, but never saw perform live. Winwood had a successful solo career in the 1980s and he performed the popular "Higher Love" from this era; but most of the performance was taken from his earlier bands, such as Traffic and Blind Faith. He closed with a rocking performance of "Gimme Some Lovin’", a song he wrote and recorded for the Spencer Davis Group in 1966 at the age of 18. 

Steely Dan hit the stage on a muggy night as the sun set and a breeze thankfully blew off nearby Lake Michigan. Steely Dan's core remains singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker.

Fagen was the leader on stage, introducing most songs and singing lead. Becker is a great songwriter, but had little stage presence (although he did sing lead on "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More". But these limitations are easily ignored when one surrounds oneself with an excellent set of musicians.

And Becker and Fagen brought with them an excellent band which they referred to as "The Steely Dan Orchestra". The two highlights of this orchestra were drummer Keith Carlock and lead guitarist Jon Herington, both of whom have traveled with Becker and Fagen for over a decade.

The 3 female backing vocalist provided depth to most songs and sang lead on "Dirty Work", a song originally sung by David Palmer before Fagen took over all lead vocals.

I loved the live arrangements of their songs. Most did not stray far from the excellent studio arrangements that made Steely Dan famous in the first place, but they toyed with some songs, including a slow jam version of "Josie".

Seeing Steely Dan after all these decades of listening to their music was like meeting an old friend after a long absence - Familiar yet somehow new.

I fell in love with them at My Old School and now they had me reeling in my years.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016 2:08:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gary Numan was everything I did not expect.

GaryNuman (5) He came to Chicago for 3 nights  at Metro night club in Wrigleyville. Each night he promised to perform a different album from early in his career -  "Replicas" on Sunday; "The Pleasure Principle" Monday and "Telekon" on Tuesday. I chose to attend Sunday because his 1979 album "Replicas" has always been my favourite of his. This was an album I embraced in high school a year before the rest of America learned of Gary Numan with the release of "The Pleasure Principle" and its wildly popular "Cars".

For me, Replicas was always the definitive Gary Numan album. Its layers of electronic melodies and its lyrics about a dystopian future spoke to the adolescent me and the album still holds up decades later.

GaryNuman (2) Numan performed every song from the "Replicas" album and I was impressed by his enthusiasm for songs that he released 3 decades ago.

I don't recall ever attending a concert in which I knew in advance the songs the artist would play. But he surprised us - first by mixing the order of the original album and (more significantly) updating the arrangements.

The electronic music that made him famous is still impressive. "Down in the Park" and "I Nearly Married a Human" featured impressive keyboards and unusual sounds. But, he transformed "Me! I Disconnect From You" from a hypnotic synth-pop tune into a rock song that any post-punk garage band would be proud of. The guitar bass drums came to the fore on a number of his songs, making them more rocking and less ethereal.

Replicas I expected a stiff, robotic, stoic Gary Numan - similar to the mannequin pose on the Replicas album cover. Instead, the audience was treated to an energetic performer dancing to his songs and bringing a renewed passion to his old music.

The only downside was the venue. The fact that Metro only accepts cash was a disappointing surprise, but its General Admission format made it difficult for most attendees to see the stage. There are a limited number of tables one can reserve at more than double the GA price and I'm debating doing this when Echo & the Bunnymen play there in the Fall.

GaryNuman (3) But I found a bit of floor space to enjoy the show and enjoy it I did - from the music to the strobe lights. Thanks to Numan's energy this concert exceeded my expectations.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 3:56:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)