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September 2010 Archives

Weezer sets Chicago 'Blue Album,' 'Pinkerton' shows

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Weezer is bringing its Memories Tour to Chicago in the new year. Following other previously announced residencies in other cities (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Boston), the modern rock band has scheduled a two-night stand Jan. 7-8 at the Aragon Ballroom.

The first night they'll perform the entirety of the band's classic, self-titled debut disc (a k a "The Blue Album"), followed by a greatest hits set. On the second night, it's the cult-following sophomore outing, "Pinkerton" (set for a spiffy reissue Nov. 2), plus the greatest hits.

Which one will sell out first?

Tickets are $45, on sale at 10 a.m. Oct. 9, through Ticketmaster (800-745-3000,

Eels complete album trilogy on a -- huh? -- happy note

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eels.jpgUsed to be kind of bitter
Always had a baby-sitter
But I'm feeling much fitter
Now I'm pretty sweet.
-- The Eels, "Looking Up"

In late June, singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett -- he usually goes by just E -- was sitting on a bench in London's Hyde Park, enjoying a cigar. Those are the relevant details. The irrelevant ones, however, caused the fuss, which came next.

"It's the weirdest thing that ever happened to me, which is saying something," Everett said during a midsummer interview before starting a 50-city tour with his band, the Eels. "I was doing a week of international press in London at a hotel. It was the first day. I did interviews, I needed a break. I went to Hyde Park to walk around. I smoked a cigar, sat on a bench. As I was leaving the park, a bunch of police came up -- and they had guns, which is unusual for London. Someone had called the police and given my description as a suspicious character. The description definitely had to be me."

A description of Everett: normal-size, wiry guy, frequently in shades -- and these days he has very short hair and a very long, bushy beard. And let's make it more interesting: There was an embassy nearby.

"I was only described as standing in front of an embassy looking suspicious," he said. "I didn't know there was an embassy around. Why would I? At first, I laughed. Then I saw how serious they were. ... It was a very snooty part of London. Some old English biddy didn't know what to make of the way I looked. I have a long beard like some Muslim men have. That's the extent of it. It was weird to feel victimized, to be judged by my book's cover."

Did Anyone Hear This?: Deathray, 'Deathray'

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One week this summer, we dug out our old Cake CDs. Can't remember what set that off -- it was eerily just before the band's last hit, "Short Skirt / Long Jacket," showed up in a recent iPod commercial, and before news broke about the band recording again -- but it was fun (at first, anyway) to plumb that particular vein of the '90s. John McCrea's snarky deadpan sounds a bit dated now, but the free-wheeling swagger of those first two records, "Motorcade of Generosity" ("Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle") and "Fashion Nugget" ("The Distance"), still holds up musically. Somewhere back then I remember chatting with guitarist Greg Brown about his deep Western swing influences, all the way back to Bob Wills.

deathray.jpgWhich made it even more surprising when Brown and bassist Victor Damiani ditched Cake at the end of the '90s to play in Deathray, an unabashedly New Wave-inspired project in the Northwest. The rollicking, honky-tonk guitar he applied to Cake disappeared; instead, Brown peeled tight, fuzzy riffs straight out of the Cars, Gary Numan and Nazz playbooks, making Deathray's self-titled debut in 2000 a gem of the New Wave revival before it really began.

Britney Spears was only a dream on episode of 'Glee'

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Hit TV series "Glee," Fox's weekly jukebox musical, trotted out its hyped Britney Spears episode tonight. Like last season's Madonna episode, the second episode of season two featured the show's high school show choir kids performing Britney Spears songs tied together with a loose narrative about self-empowerment and loosening up.

What did you think of the episode?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today announced its next slate of nominees for its enshrinement. It's another list that swings wildly between the obvious and the real head-scratchers.

And the nominees are ...

M.I.A. + Kanye = Two artists who feel very misunderstood

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US-GRAMMY-MIA.jpgHip-hop provocateur M.I.A., a k a Maya Arulpragasam, has been stirring things up all year long, from a polarized reaction to her ultra-violent video for the song "Born Free" (from her third studio outing, "Maya," released mid-July) to last spring's feud with a New York Times journalist that culminated in her tweeting the writer's personal cell phone number. This summer, you've probably read more headlines about M.I.A. than heard songs by her.

She ruffles feathers the same way Kanye West does, acting before thinking. So it's no surprise she and West have connected and begun working together; M.I.A. just contributed some music and vocals to West's upcoming album, "Dark Twisted Fantasy."

London-born, Sri Lankan-raised M.I.A. first came to the attention of the mainstream when her 2008 single "Paper Planes" wound up on two hit movie soundtracks, reaching two largely different audiences, "Pineapple Express" and "Slumdog Millionaire." West sampled that track for his own "Swagga Like Us" with T.I., Jay-Z and Lil Wayne; he then convinced her to join them on stage to perform it at the 2009 Grammys. M.I.A. was nine-months pregnant at the time.

Maroon 5, "Hands All Over" (A&M-Octone) 1<br />
John Legend & the Roots, "Wake Up!" (Good-Columbia) 2<br />

maroon5hands.jpgEven bad sex with another human being is better than good sex with a machine. For its third full-length outing, Maroon 5 turned over its sometimes sexy, usually soulful pop sound to hard rock producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange (Def Leppard, AC/DC). The result is the glossy, carefully tooled set "Hands All Over," the title of which is about the only indication that this music was produced by human hands.

Hiring Lange was an interesting left turn. Would the band crank up the backbeat and rock the power chords? No, Lange's chief result seems to be merely coating Maroon 5's potent albeit lite-R&B with musical polyurethane. Singer Adam Levine once convinced us how hard it was to breathe around a certain woman. Here, he sounds short of breath in a claustrophobic, computer-compressed production that squeezes dry much of the passion that made this band rise above its middle-of-the-road, power-pop roots.

Rock and roll reunions are, alas, inevitable. The Eagles, God save us, returned to Soldier Field this year. Pavement has played Chicago twice this summer. The original Naked Raygun lineup is together again in a couple of weeks. Echo & the Bunnymen have been together for the second time longer than they were the first. The Beatles released two songs with John Lennon years after he died. Nothing, not even death, can stop them.

Then again, that remains to be seen for a few select bands -- bands who refuse to succumb to that always pathetic second act. We'll probably never see the Smiths back on stage, and their legacy remains beautifully intact thus far because of it. Another band drenched in about as much bad blood likewise probably won't share a stage again: the Kinks. Lead singer Ray Davies has hinted before that the original lineup -- Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory -- would take the big check and record a new song again. But the acrimony between them is too thick. It's a bad bet.

Geoff Edgers, however, a reporter for the Boston Globe, is a betting man. A couple of years ago he made it his personal quest to reunite the Kinks. At least, he made a documentary in which he talks and talks and talks about what a great idea that would be, without -- no surprise, really -- accomplishing his objective. The film, "Do It Again: One Man's Quest to Reunite the Kinks," screens at 7:30 tonight at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, as part of the monthly series from the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Tickets are just $10 here.

Music Janelle Monae.jpg

Much can be made of Janelle Monae's fantastic soul music -- its Afrofuturist revival, its wacky narratives, the timing of its critical success during the administration of America's first black president -- and something will be made of it right here in this column. But the most important thing to understand about this exciting rising star is this: Don't deconstruct it, just dance.

3 Makes a Trend: Plethora of Pink Floyd histories

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Excited by Roger Waters' presentation of "The Wall" in concert, putting on four shows this week in Chicago? Here are three new opportunities to dive into the history behind that show and the band's nearly iconic original singer ...

1. If you need to go back to the film of "The Wall" -- or especially if you want to see it for the first time -- don't dial up the occasional rerun on VH1 Classic. Like your first "Rocky Horror" experience: You need a big screen, and you need guidance. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, hosts of NPR's weekly pop music talk show "Sound Opinions," will introduce and comment on the film before screening "The Wall" at another Sound Opinions at the Movies event, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets are $9 in advance, $10 at the door.

Roger Waters rebuilds 'The Wall' in concert for 2010

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Roger Waters performs "The Wall" Monday night at Chicago's United Center. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

The touring production of "The Wall," a musical by Roger Waters, will be in Chicago all week, with performances at the United Center on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

If that sentence makes this sound like a theater review, it is. This revival of Waters' magnum opus for the band Pink Floyd is a carefully tweaked evolution of the 1980 stage shows the band performed in four cities, themselves a dramatic visualization of the heady concept album the year before. This time out, "The Wall" is spruced up with contemporary cultural references and recent war footage in an attempt to apply the narrative's twitchy, paranoid outlook to modern affairs. The result is still a jumble of themes and ideas, but the overall effect is surprisingly fresh and remarkably relevant.

Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tickets on sale Saturday

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Music superstar and self-made "don't ask, don't tell" activist Lady Gaga will return to Chicago, following her hyped and hyperactive performance last month at Lollapalooza, which abbreviated the tour's Broadway-ish storyline about kids trying to get the Monster Ball. The Monster Ball Tour roars into the United Center on Feb. 28, 2011.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. this Saturday through (Own a Citi credit card? You get a pre-sale starting tomorrow; look here.)

Dave Matthews Band blows hot and cold at Wrigley Field

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dave091710.jpgPerennial tour titan Dave Matthews announced earlier this year, with noticeable relief, that his eponymous band would be taking next year off. It'll be the first summer in 20 years without a Dave Matthews Band show at your local shed. Judging by Friday night's Chicago show -- the first in a two-night stand at Wrigley Field -- Dave could use the break.

He certainly deserves the vacation, but Friday's hot-and-cold performance validated Matthews' own explanation about needing to recharge some "creative juices." Two decades have delivered some impressive commercial feats and occasional sharp music, enough to make this leading jam band as esteemed as the ivy on Wrigley's outfield wall. But more recently personal tragedies, internal bickering and creative coasting have left this once-mighty group musically stalled and out of gas.

Girl Talk made concert documentary out of Chicago NYE show

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Were you at the Girl Talk show at the Congress Theater last New Year's Eve? The show with the actual house built on stage? The whole event was filmed, of course -- drywalling the house, stocking it with china, putting LCD stars in the sky -- and a DVD of the concert will be released Tuesday ...

Jenny and Johnny, 'I'm Having Fun Now'

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(Warner Bros.) 2<br />
and a half stars

jennyjohnny.jpgEvan Dando and Juliana Hatfield always seemed so toxic to each other. How many great, sweet rock songs could have been made if their '90s alt-rock romance hadn't proved to be so volatile? The answer to that what-if party game comes in the overdue collaboration between this contemporary alt-rock couple, Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and singer-songwriter Jonathan Rice. The two have been working together occasionally for nearly six years -- they pitched in on each other's solo debuts, they toured together, they both contributed to Elvis Costello's "Momofuku" -- but this year they finally sat down in the studio and quickly knocked out 11 songs to call their own.

Save the date: Tomorrow Never Knows, Jan. 12-16

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As the summer festival season winds down, take heart knowing you live in a city where the multi-day, multi-venue music experience trudges on even in the dead of winter. The annual Tomorrow Never Knows festival has announced dates for its seventh go-round: Jan. 12-16 at Schubas, Lincoln Hall and, this year, the Metro. No lineup yet, but five-day passes go on sale at noon Friday here.

Robert Plant, 'Band of Joy'

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(Rounder) 3<br />

plantjoy.jpgSome rock icons make the inevitable covers record as a means to show either how diverse and inclusive they are or, by their selection of songs, how cool and hip they are. Robert Plant has nothing to prove, of course, when he digs into the record bin for inspiration. His choices are instructive as to where his foggy ol' head is at these days, which is thankfully still rooted in his beloved American roots music but (just as thankfully) he's also knocked the sand out of his ears from his last album, that muddy but somehow universally acclaimed outing with newgrass queen Alison Krauss.

"Band of Joy" is a title taken from the name of Plant's pre-Led Zeppelin band, but it really has nothing to do with that band. No one's been reunited here. What's been reconnected, perhaps, is the joy Plant experienced as a teen, chasing his newfound passions for music down strange and exciting rabbit holes. While not quite exuberant, "Band of Joy" is a mostly thrilling record of discovery, even a little of the old conquest.


Sunday night's tame and professional 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards were about all the non-musical things they're always about: celebrity and spectacle. What was Lady Gaga wearing? (A bejeweled, earth-tone Maid Marian dress by Alexander McQueen to start.) Which woman had the filthiest mouth? (Katy Perry made a boner joke, but comedian host Chelsea Handler managed to get bleeped a couple of times.) Are Drake and Nicki Minaj really married now? (No, his trending-topic tweet was a goof.)

But this year's show was even short on the spectacle.

Weezer, 'Hurley'

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(Epitaph) 2 and a half stars

weezerhurley.jpgThis summer, Weezer teased its eighth studio album with the single "Memories," another boring rehash of bandleader Rivers Cuomo's nostalgia. Like "Heart Songs" or "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" or any number of other pop culture-dropping, scrapbook tracks from the band's increasingly indistinguishable catalog, "Memories" dredges up cheap retrospective flashes, this time about the band's '90s heyday ("playing hackey sack back when Audioslave was still Rage") and wishing he could "go back there." It's a personal wish, not necessarily an artistic one, and thankfully it's fleeting. "I gotta get my groove on because I'm freakin' bored," he sings near the end, and -- whew! -- to some extent, on the rest of the disc, he does.

Sonar festival: Oval finds music again in the key of 'O'

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The Sonar multimedia festival -- returning to the United States this weekend with a three-day encampment in Chicago -- bills itself as a showcase of "advanced music," a label validated by the concert lineup in Millennium Park and at the Chicago Cultural Center, featuring cutting-edge electronic music pioneers like the Slew (with Kid Koala), Ben Frost and Chicagoan Benn Jordan's the Flashbulb.

oval.jpgTonight, it's the long-delayed return of audio composer Oval, aka Markus Popp. Based in Berlin, Oval has been releasing albums of click-and-cut creations on Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records for nearly two decades -- though he's been unusually silent for the last nine years. He re-emerged this summer with the album "O," a double disc featuring one set of long tracks (go ahead, call them songs) and another disc of 50 short bursts of noise and sound.

The album was made with all stock plug-ins -- over-the-counter computer instrument sounds and samples -- as opposed to the highly technical apparatus Oval has created before, often writing his own software to assemble his found sounds and industrial noises. The result: Oval has stopped referring to his work as mere "audio." This, once again, is "music."

Before Sonar: AIMM kicks off with Rhys Chatham trio show

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This week's Sonar multimedia festival features European organizers bringing some severely cutting-edge sounds to Chicago, but you needn't wait till Thursday to get your innovative noise fix. The annual Adventures in Modern Music fest, corralled by the Empty Bottle and British music mag The Wire, starts a day earlier: today! And what an opener: a concert by the Rhys Chatham Trio, featuring the acclaimed minimalist guitar composer with Tim Barnes and Chicago's David Daniell. Mind you, it's a trio show, so don't show up expecting the 200-guitar thing, "A Crimson Grail," even though that album just came out. Expect plenty of long tones and occasional guitar thrashing, though, starting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Museum for Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Tickets: $20, members $16, plus student tickets are $10 and subject to availability,

Other concerts throughout the weekend include the very awake Sleep (Thursday @ Logan Square Auditorium) plus shows at the Empty Bottle, including Cave, Efterklang, High Places, Buke & Gass, Wooden Shjips and Ahleuchatistas.

Lollapalooza, Pitchfork bands return to Chicago this fall

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These acts performed in the blazing sun and heat of several outdoor festivals this summer in Chicago. Perhaps you saw them, perhaps you missed their set, perhaps you'd like to see them in a proper setting. Radius clause, schmadius clause -- they're baaaaaack ...


"So you thought you might like to go to the show ..."

Rock and roll's most enduring concept album returns to the concert stage this fall, as ex-Pink Floyd impresario Roger Waters rebuilds "The Wall" for a thundering hammer march across the states in the coming months.

Crowded House now less crowded, more intense

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102162116GC021_Hard_Rock_Ca.jpgCrowded House called it quits in 1996 after four albums and several modest hits. Granted, most of those hits were on the front end ("Don't Dream It's Over" in 1987, "Better Be Home Soon" the following year), and the band fared better in Europe and its native lands down under. But singer and songwriter Neil Finn's McCartneyesque melodies have survived as a credible, inspiring body of work.

Rumors and requests of a reunion persisted, but in 2005 founding drummer Paul Hester killed himself. The reunion, however -- of Finn and bassist Nick Seymour, adding Mark Hart and a new drummer, Matt Sherrod -- eventually happened in spite of this tragedy, possibly because of it.

Crowded House Mach II has been a more complex affair, thus far delivering two albums ("Time on Earth" in 2007, this summer's "Intriguer") of densely arranged tunes with wilder undercurrents. We caught up with Neil Finn this week to hear how the new venture is holding together.

Cee Lo has two words for radio in his online hit single

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Cee Lo Green admits he never expected his latest single to be an on-air hit.

"This wasn't about radio," he told the Sun-Times this week. "This was about exhibition and alternative, about underground and antiestablishment. This was always for the Internet -- the people's radio."

He's talking about his new song, wildly popular via viral forwards of its YouTube video, which has racked up 4 million views in two weeks. It's a song radio can't play, with a title we can't print. (Though it fools absolutely no one, not even the kids, you'll have to suffer the hyphens here.) It's Cee Lo's already infamous "F--- You."

5 radio edits sillier than Cee Lo's 'Forget You'

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You know what it's like: You catch one of your favorite songs on the radio, only to hear a word or an entire line fudged because of the FCC's ever-Victorian standards of alleged decency. Movies, too -- I remember realizing all grown-ups were stupid when, as a boy, I watched "Smokey and the Bandit" on cable and the most quoted exclamation from the film was very poorly dubbed for my protection: "I'm gonna barbecue your (head) in molasses!"

A lifetime of pop songs by necessity has meant encountering a lifetime of "radio edits," as happened this week when Cee Lo's online smash hit "F--- You" finally reached traditional radio as "Forget You." Who were we kidding -- or protecting -- with these censored versions of popular songs?

The music lineup at the North Coast Music Festival either makes your pulse race or doesn't excite at all. There's likely little reaction in between. Here are the main highlights from the weekend, plus the full schedule:

Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Ravinia, Jazzfest, Countryfest, Bluesfest, Taste of (Your Microclimate Here) -- Chicago summers offer music fans the opportunity to see live bands from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with some spillage over either side, without ever setting foot indoors. This year, the festival calendar adds another three-day, four-stage event: the new North Coast Music Festival.

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