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October 2012 Archives

Sandy blows: Pumpkins show nixed, Andrew Bird on

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It's the perfect booking: Smashing Pumpkins on Halloween. But it won't be happening.

Billy Corgan & Co. were scheduled to perform their "Oceania" tour Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the show's off, according to the band's publicist.

That's just one of numerous performances upset by the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy's destruction across the eastern seaboard.

noelG.JPGMy first post-Oasis earful came last year from Liam Gallagher as he toured Beady Eye, a band comprised of three-fourths of Oasis minus singer Liam's guitarist brother Noel.

After 18 years together in Oasis, the Gallagher brothers had topped the charts ("Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova") and altered the course of rock and roll. But they were 18 contentious years. The Gallaghers fought constantly, and at the Rock en Seine festival in Paris in 2009 another backstage dust-up turned out to be their last. Noel stormed out. Oasis was over.

Inevitable solo projects followed. Liam and the others came and went as Beady Eye. "We're not lacking anything," he assured me. (Except a hit.)

Noel, now 45, stalled a while, then produced a solo album and now a lengthy tour under the moniker Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. The latter debut went platinum in England but hasn't fared as well in the States.

Which may explain why Noel -- once one of the biggest rock stars in the world -- this weekend not only shares a double bill with the middling band Snow Patrol but shares it at a casino out in Chicago's hinterlands.

Playlist for raising 'cane: Frankenstorm Party!

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For our friends and readers out east riding out the storm o' the century -- hopefully safely nestled at home with something simmering and a stockpile of tasty beverages -- here's a whipped-up Spotify playlist for your long days staring out the window.

It's a "Frankenstorm Party!" featuring "Storm Coming" (Gnarls Barkley), "Hurricane Waters" (Citizen Cope), a nice take on "Stormy Weather" by Chicago's Smoking Popes, Camper Van Beethoven's cabin-fever version of Fleetwood Mac's "Storms," three songs called "Sandy" and much more.

Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, 'Psychedelic Pill'

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psychedelicpill.jpgNeil Young & Crazy Horse, "Psychedelic Pill" (Reprise) 2<br />
stars -- Neil Young, 66, is either boring or brilliant. When he's not playing the part of grumpy old man (straight out of an old "Saturday Night Live" sketch), which he's done ably since he was about 30, he teeters toward brilliance. "Psychedelic Pill" -- the second album this year from Young and Crazy Horse (Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank Sampedro), but the first original material with the band since 2003 ("Americana," out in May, featured rock covers of old folk songs) -- boasts a few brilliant moments amid numerous typically thundering and meandering dull diversions.

Green Day postpones 2013 tour dates

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Green Day has canceled remaining dates on its West Coast club tour and is postponing all January and February concerts -- which includes the Jan. 8 show scheduled for Allstate Arena.

Hold on to your tickets, though: New dates for the postponed shows will be announced, and previously purchased tickets will be honored on the new dates.

Reviews: Paul Banks, Cajmere and more

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banksy.jpgPaul Banks, "Banks" (Matador) 3<br />
stars -- Interpol front man Paul Banks first stepped aside for his own project in 2009, but he veiled that mostly pre-Interpol material behind a pseudonym, Julian Plenti. Now Banks turns on, well, at least some warm lamplight to illuminate himself. Thankfully, this is not just a batch of songs Interpol didn't get around to recording. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine even angular Interpol tackling the ambitious sweep of these compositions, many of which are mini-suites swinging between accessible indie-rock, pastoral pop and occasionally dissonant psychedelia.

Review: Kids These Days, 'Traphouse Rock'

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Kids These Days, "Traphouse Rock" (Kids These Days) 3<br />
and a half stars

traphouse-rock.jpgEven hyphens couldn't bring together all the styles that Kids These Days offer under one tent. The Chicago-based collective plays funk-alt-rock-pop-jazzy-hip-hop-blues, and that doesn't even start with the subgenres.

The point is, they do it all well, and "Traphouse Rock," due Tuesday, is definitely one of the finest Chicago albums of 2012.

Concertline: Afghan Whigs, Lurrie Bell, more

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A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

Reunited and rarin' to go, Cincinnati's roguish gentlemen acquitted themselves admirably at Lollpalooza in August and now continue mining their grunge and grooves on a new tour. Older than their years during their mid-'90s heyday, Greg Dulli and his mates are now grown into their own sound, coming off like fine Corinthian leather flecked with cigarette ashes.
Wussy opens at 9 p.m. Oct. 26-27 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets: $36 (Oct. 27 is sold out). Call (800) 514-ETIX;

A great talent derailed years ago by personal problems, Lurrie Bell might have made the record he was born to make. The son of harp master Carey Bell, the Chicago guitarist released "The Devil Ain't Got No Music" last spring, a Satan-taunting set (titled for one of Mavis Staples' favorite interview quips) that tries to reclaim blues from the depths, or bring gospel down to earth, or both. Expect his concert to be a religious experience.
At 6:30 p.m. in the Myron R. Szold Music & Dance Hall at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4545 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $20. Call (773) 728-6000;

Why we can't escape REO's 'Can't Fight This Feeling'

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Unlike several of their '70s-'80s pop music peers, REO Speedwagon has not gone back into the studio to re-record their hit songs. In something of a rarity among arena rock-era superstars, singer Kevin Cronin maintained legal control of his own songs.

"I was really fortunate," Cronin said in a recent chat. "I became partners with my publishing company over 20 years ago, and my agreement is pretty unique in music publishing. I have veto power over where my songs are used."

That means Cronin has said yes to -- or, at least, not said no -- to the ubiquity of his 1984 chestnut, one of the biggest power ballads of the rock era: "Can't Fight This Feeling."

R. Kelly brings back the freak, 'Trapped in the Closet'

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kells11.JPGR. Kelly's bid for respectability is winding down. Since he was exonerated of child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the R&B superstar -- he of the "Freaky Sensation," "Freaky in the Club," "Like a Real Freak" -- has cooled things down with the more traditional, retro-soul albums "Love Letter" and "Write Me Back," and bared not quite all in a memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me. He was even somewhat restrained in concert last year (pictured) and on his recent duet with Kanye West.

But the freaky, he says, is coming back.

The singer, famous in part for his sexually explicit songs, is working on a new album called "Black Panties" ("My intention: I wanted to do an album for the strip club," Kelly said recently). He's launched a new tour with a stated intention to turn heads (his goal on this tour: "Just basically shocking people," he said).

More importantly, "Trapped in the Closet" is back.

Morrissey concerts postponed this week

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Well, now my heart is empty. Morrissey has postponed several concerts this week and weekend -- including the scheduled Oct. 27 show at the Chicago Theatre.

The British singer's mother has fallen ill, and he's heading back to England to be with her.

As One Direction looms, does Bieber have staying power?

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beeb102212.JPG"For me, Justin [Bieber] is ... I've met him, I've worked with him, I did a TV commercial with him. He's a really great little guy. But that's his problem -- he's a little guy."

An oracle speaketh about the future of the Beeb.

"His fans are growing up, they're 18-, 19-year-olds now. And that means the little girls ... they're young women. And he still looks like that little boy!"

Tell us more, oh wise one.

"I just don't think, from my gut -- maybe my gut's wrong, 'cause it's not 100 percent -- but I don't think he's going to stand the test of time."

Where's the beef? In hip-hop, it's now on Twitter

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Lupe Fiasco was brainstorming tweets that might set the world on its ear.

His representative from Atlantic Records tensed up, looked at me, rolled his eyes. "This guy -- everything he tweets starts a discussion," he said. "The good and the bad."

This was weeks after Fiasco found himself embroiled in a brief but now notorious Twitter exchange with fellow Chicago rapper Chief Keef (Fiasco said in an interview that Keef scared him, Keef tweeted his intention to "smack" Fiasco) and just days after Fiasco traded 140-character barbs with comic D.L. Hughley (who reacted negatively to a Fiasco statement discouraging voting).

In 2012, when rappers throw down, it's off the record -- literally.

Jason Aldean to play Wrigley Field in 2013

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aldeancubs.JPGOctober and baseball season's winding down -- but already we have the first Wrigley Field concert announcement for next season: Country star Jason Aldean will headline a concert at the Chicago Cubs ballpark July 20, 2013, with Kelly Clarkson, Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett.

The news came Thursday afternoon at a press conference at Wrigley by promoter Live Nation, with Aldean on hand, shivering in the cold and occasional rain in right field.

"A summer show's sounding pretty good right now," Aldean said.

John Lydon lives for live music in Public Image Ltd.

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You hear about John Lydon, but you think Johnny Rotten.

Who could blame you? In their few short years together in the late 1970s, Rotten's squawking snarl made an indelible cultural impression as leader of British punk band the Sex Pistols. The quartet crashed music's barricades and made a deep enough impact on modern music to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

But at the end of an ill-fated U.S. tour in 1978, the band disbanded. John Lydon was left stranded here in America, angry (personally and professionally) and hungry (literally and artistically).

His next project, Public Image Ltd., would have more staying power, lasting 15 years and proving influential in a less blatant but deeper and perhaps more meaningful way. The Pistols, sure, fired up a bunch of punk wannabes -- many of whom Lydon still despises for their lack of originality (read on) -- but PiL's innovative weave of dub beats, pop production and the angry energy of Lydon's vocals threaded into bands from U2 to Nine Inch Nails.

Lydon, 56, in our recent conversation with the California resident during a visit to London, admitted his heart wasn't ever fully committed to the Pistols -- a band manufactured by Malcolm McLaren, a hipster clothier, with intentions largely as cynical and commercial as any contemporary boy band -- at least beyond their initial run. There was no pining for the band's return, even though they re-formed for tours five times.

Would jail stall Chief Keef's career before it starts?

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Lawyers for Chicago rapper Chief Keef sparred with Cook County prosecutors on Wednesday over whether to jail the Chicago rapper for probation violations stemming from three earlier delinquencies.

Following a meteoric rise and a successful single ("I Don't Like") through Kanye West's G.O.O.D. label, Keef was just signed to Interscope Records and has been in California recording tracks for a debut hip-hop album.

Would jail time stall a promising career before it starts?

Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan: Busy like '94

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Billy Corgan leads the Smashing Pumpkins Oct. 14 at the Gibson Amphitheatre
in Universal City, Calif.
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Billy Corgan is as busy as he was 20 years ago, maybe busier.

He's recorded a new album with the Smashing Pumpkins, "Oceania," one of the most acclaimed under that moniker. The restaffed quartet has been trotting the new material around the world all year -- South America this summer, Asia early this fall. It might as well be the mid-'90s: "Siamese Dream" just came out, and "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" is due Dec. 4 (amid the string of expanded Pumpkins reissues, which Corgan oversees). Somewhere in there, he started his own pro wrestling group in Chicago and last month opened a 1930s-style tea salon in Highland Park.

The band launched a North American tour this week -- shows are featuring the entirety of "Oceania" plus a second set of Pumpkins oldies (last fall's Riviera Theater show drilled deep into the catalog) -- and, even after all this time, he still has trepidation about bringing it all back home.

"More than any audience in the world, Americans will cross their arms, stare at you and say, 'OK, whaddya got?' -- no matter how many times you've proven it to them," Corgan told me in a recent conversation about his North Shore retail venture, Madame Zuzu's Tea House. "Then a weird thing happens. Once you've taken enough slugs and punches, they decide they like you. All of a sudden you're revered, just because you're still there. Unless you say something they don't like politically. I just went to see Kiss and Motley Crue, both bands that are past that threshold. It's this weird endurance test, more about survival than art."

He also touched on that touchy subject earlier in the summer, when I caught up with Corgan to chat about his survival tactics, his band's continuing critical disconnect, the old days and, sure, God ...

Review: Martha Wainwright, 'Come Home to Mama'

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marthamama.jpgMartha Wainwright, "Come Home to Mama" (Cooperative) 3<br />
and a half stars -- The secret weapon in the Wainwright family, Martha is a wicked and potent genealogical branch bearing her father Loudon's sometimes uncomfortably honest confessional songwriting, her brother Rufus' occasional grandiose musical ambitions and her mother Kate McGarrigle's talent for modernizing and enlivening old, staid folk traditions.

Recorded at Sean Lennon's home studio and produced by Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda (and featuring guests such as Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and Dirty Three drummer Jim White), "Come Home to Mama," Wainwright's third outing (fourth, if you count the knock-down awesome Piaf record), is also a blend -- of the singer-songwritery angst of her 2005 debut and the rock leanings of 2008's "I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too."

Review: Donald Fagen, 'Sunken Condos'

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fagencondos.jpgDonald Fagen, "Sunken Condos" (Reprise) 2<br />
and a half stars -- After three solo records he called "The Nightfly" trilogy, named for the 1982 debut -- with each LP at least a decade apart -- Steely Dan leader Donald Fagen returns to the scene in record time, dropping a fourth album a mere six years after "Morph the Cat." Retroactively calling it a trilogy, though, was always a bit far-fetched, and this certainly isn't a departure. There's little music on "Sunken Condos" that couldn't have slotted seamlessly into any of the previous albums. No creative left-turns here -- it's the same impeccable playing, starchy horn charts and detached tales of beautiful urban losers.

Hear the new Stones song: 'Doom and Gloom'

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The Rolling Stones return this week with their first new single in seven years, a teaser from yet another retrospective collection, "GRRR! Greatest Hits," due Mov. 13 in both 50-track and 80-track versions.

The rock legends recently recorded at least two new songs in a Paris studio, the first time the group -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood -- has joined in a studio since making 2005's "A Bigger Bang."

Wolf Gang dreams up pop for 'Suego Faults'

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1348773369wolfgang_portland_014231.jpgBefore he chucked it all, Max McElligott was a student at the London School of Economics (like Mick Jagger before him), studying social anthropology and writing a thesis titled, "Is the Notion of Romanticism a Western Construct?"

"Capital-R Romanticism and the different ways of seeing it," McElligott explains. "It's a very 19th-century construct, and in anthropology there are so many good examples of a similar notion experienced across cultures -- but it's romantic love, the lowercase 'r,' ideas of love and what love is. You go back to the 13th century poets going around the courts of France mysticizing this thing called love. But I was curious as to whether, say, a tribe in the Congo had similar poetry for their relations, the same of romantic Romanticism we take for granted."

McElligott, 24, took a year off from school and hasn't gone back, but he's entered a new field well-versed in exploring the meanings of love: pop music.

Lupe Fiasco talks Chicago violence, his own future

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Rapper Lupe Fiasco in a moment of thought during an interview
Oct. 1 in the Sun-Times offices.
(Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)

Lupe Fiasco was in town last week -- for some promotional events around the release of his latest album, "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1" -- and he stopped on a street corner to snap a photo with his phone. A mother recognized him and approached him, he says, telling him she encouraged her son to listen to Fiasco's hip-hop because of its positive messages.

Then she added that a teenage boy shot and killed the previous weekend was her son's best friend, and the boy died in her son's arms.

"That was this morning. I wasn't asking for that ... I didn't go out reaching out for that. I didn't go on Twitter and say, 'Tell me your saddest story that happened to you this weekend.' I was in the road taking pictures," Fiasco says. "So it's that visceral."

Music reviews: Birds of Chicago, John Cale, more

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Birds of Chicago, "Birds of Chicago" (BOC) 3<br />
and a half stars
BOC.jpgAs refreshing and rewarding as morning in the reeds with the Audobon Society, Birds of Chicago is actually the naturalistic pairing of Chicago's JT Nero (as in JT & the Clouds) and Vancouver's Allison Russell (Po' Girl). After working together on a JT project (2011's "Mountains/Forests"), they wisely realized they had something special in their organic harmonies and wistful affections for the wide variety of music under the auspices of Americana. The braiding of their singular voices is surprising and often magical -- bouncing over the bass grooves of "Trampoline," boogieing through the Cajun howdown of "Sans Souci," blithely regarding the "Humboldt Crows" in the park -- and the flock of musicians on board for the record provide a downy padding to the blend. It's like Delaney & Bonnie sitting in with Poi Dog Pondering -- a record sweet as birdsong.

In concert: Birds of Chicago celebrates the release of this album Nov. 10 at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Music reviews: Tame Impala, Ty Segall

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Tame Impala, "Lonerism" (Modular) 3<br />
and a half stars
Ty Segall, "Twins" (Drag City) 3<br />

lonerism.jpgTwo head-turning acts from summer Chicago festivals return with rewarding new albums this week. First, Tame Impala -- an acclaimed Australian trio that played Lollapalooza's first day in August -- delivers a sophomore set that is the very opposite of a slump. "Lonerism" is still rife with the sheepish lyricism of the band's bedroom beginnings ("Destined to be / lonely old me," Kevin Parker sings in the swirling psychedelia of "Why Won't They Talk to Me?"), but it's much bolder than "Innerspeak," their debut, both in its occasional use of careening Swervedriver guitar and the songs' confident pop sensibilities. Rarely has a band reaped so much from the "Tomorrow Never Knows" side of Beatlesque-ness, and not just because Parker's voice is often a dead ringer for full-on Leslie-cabinet Lennon. The heady swirl of the instruments, the obvious nods to Todd Rundgren's "A Wizard, a True Star," harmonic achievements that would bewitch Fleet Foxes -- it's a heady mixture and maybe not so tame, after all.

Adele, 'Skyfall' & 50 years of James Bond theme songs

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adele007.JPGAdele was confirmed only Monday as the latest brassy voice to tackle a James Bond movie theme, and within hours a snippet of the new song -- "Skyfall," corresponding to the new Bond flick, starring Daniel Craig as 007, in U.S. theaters Nov. 9 -- was circulating online.

The 90-second preview features a remarkably tentative Adele dialing back her usual belting and bombast over a verse of simple piano chords and silky tension. Even as drums break into the mix and the 77-piece orchestra swells into the chorus, Adele maintains her composure -- and is all the sultrier for it. Like Shirley Bassey's second Bond theme ("Diamonds Are Forever," after her career-making "Goldfinger" debut in 1964), the expectation of an explosion makes the controlled sizzle even hotter.

"This moment, so overdue," Adele sings -- and if the rest of the song sounds as classy and traditional as the sample, it is indeed overdue. After years of overly ambitious and gimmicky Bond themes, an elegant performance by a powerful singer would be a lovely gift upon the film franchise's 50th anniversary this fall.

You can vote for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees

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Nominees for the next class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced -- and, for whatever it's worth to you, fans are now part of the voting process.

The performers up for enshrinement are ...

Concertline: Norah Jones, Owl City, more

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A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

Adam Young's Owl City first snared our ears in 2009 with the song "Fireflies." Now he's back -- and with Carly Rae Jepsen on his latest album, "The Midsummer Station." It wasn't even a fame-hitching gimmick; Jepsen added vocals to Owl City's "Good Time" well before she went viral with her own ambivalent phone-chat hit. But Young doesn't need Jepsen along to put on a vibrant, dance-pop show.
At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. Tickets: $25. Call (800) 514-ETIX;

She was just as surprised by the runaway success of 2002's "Come Away With Me," but she's spent the last decade curing, as it were. Her latest album, "Little Broken Hearts," is something of a pinnacle. The Danger Mouse collaboration aside, Jones has also been recording with her country band, the Little Willies. There's more breadth her than you might expect, and a show worth taking in.
At 8 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets: $48-$65. (800) 745-3000;

Jazz guitarist Earl Klugh and his country roots

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Earl Klugh is a jazz guitarist -- one of the greatest, no doubt, with a sweet, signature style on the nylon-stringed acoustic guitar -- but don't think less of him just because his initial inspiration to the craft was a TV Western.

"The first exposure I had to the guitar really was on 'Bonanza,'" Klugh told the Sun-Times. "They always had a guitar by the fire, you know, and it was a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar. I would look at it, and it wasn't like any of the guitars you'd see on, I don't know, 'American Bandstand' or something, or like Chuck Berry. That stuff was all great, but once I started playing a nylon-stringed guitar, there was no going back for me."

Well, he had some second thoughts.

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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