Music: fears, Spears & jeers


September 2, 2001



pop music critic

The summer concert season may have just ended with a bang courtesy of Madonna, but the fall is already heating up with a crowded roster of highly-anticipated albums and heavily-touted concert tours.

The mega-hyped "Invincible" by Michael Jackson and Britney Spears' new album and tour may grab the headlines and the magazine covers, but that doesn't mean they'll be the musical highlights of the fall.

Here are the albums and concerts that I'm most eagerly anticipating, based on listens to the advance releases, word from the early shows, or the artists' previous accomplishments.


Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" (Columbia)--Yes, I've heard it, and it's even better than "Time Out of Mind." But that's all I'm gonna say right now.

Mercury Rev, "All Is Dream" (V2)--The New York psychedelic-pop band's orchestral answer to "The Soft Bulletin" by arch rivals the Flaming Lips.

Tori Amos, "Strange Little Girls" (Atlantic)--Tori covers Eminem? Really??

Macy Gray, "The Id" (Epic)--Sophomore slump? Ha!

The Strokes, "Is This It" (RCA)--Yes it is, and then some. Killer New York punk circa the Velvets and the mid-'70s, updated for the modern age.

The Aphex Twin, "Drukqz" (Sire)--An electronic/ambient groundbreaker returns to show the many would-be aspirants how sinister noise is really done.


Rufus at the Arie Crown Theatre, Sept. 20--Horn-happy headliners Earth, Wind & Fire didn't do much for me the last time I saw them, but the prospect of the red-hot Chaka Khan reuniting with her legendary band brings a smile to my face.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Chicago Theatre, Sept. 28--The perfect regal setting for the gothic splendor of the punk Leonard Cohen, and with opener Neko Case, he's paired with a sex-crazed hellhound who's his distaff soul mate.

Bjork at the Civic Opera House, Oct. 14--The Icelandic chanteuse, a 50-plus-piece orchestra, a female vocal choir, a techno DJ, and pristine sound in beautiful surroundings. Is it a wonder why this show sold out in 20 minutes?

Dylan at the United Center, Oct. 27--He's 60 years old but in fine form and playing with a great band.

Tangerine Dream at the House of Blues, Nov. 2--The Krautrock legends and synthesizer pioneers could be brilliant, or they could walk out onstage, turn on their machines, and put everyone to sleep. But I'm curious to find out.

--Jim DeRogatis

August 31, 2001

The most encouraging trend, according to Andy Cirzan, head talent buyer with Chicago promoters Jam Productions: ''Rock is coming back in a big way--at least in terms of the best shows that we're seeing coming through town this fall.''

Something is certainly needed to shake things up in the music world: For months now, industry trade publications have been calling 2001 the worst slump in the music business since 1995, with no one sound emerging as ''the next big thing'' (or anything much to get excited about at all).

In early August, the Wall Street Journal reported that sales of new albums fell eight percent during the first half of the year. Independent record retailers are hurting as the major chains take an even bigger bite of the market (Tower Records is reportedly close to bankruptcy), and an industry that has come to mirror Hollywood's ''blockbuster'' mentality has seen such major releases as Dave Matthews and 'N Sync fall short of its inflated expectations.

Meanwhile, on the concert front, a handful of major tours did do big business--Matthews, Madonna, and U2 among them--but other summer jaunts met sluggish ticket sales, and the season was marked by a shortage of promising new talents. It will continue to be a slow fall on the arena level for national promoters Clear Channel Entertainment, industry observers say, but there are dozens of exciting acts coming through at the club and large theater level one rung below the United Centers and Allstate Arenas.

Probably the biggest news in terms of both albums and tours is ''Love and Theft,'' the first new studio album from Bob Dylan since 1997. The disc arrives in stores on Sept. 11, and Dylan will perform at the United Center on Oct. 27, according to an early ''head's up'' on the fan-run web sites.

Pop diva Britney Spears will release her third


TURN LINE HEREbum on Nov. 6, and she is expected to perform in Chicago around the same time. In addition to her first duet with boyfriend Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync, the album includes a cover of the Arrows' ''I Love Rock 'n' Roll,'' which was a No. 1 hit for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in 1982.

Recorded at a staggering cost of $30 million, Michael Jackson is set to release ''Invincible,'' his first album since 1995's ''History,'' on Oct. 30, with tracks produced by Rodney Jerkins (who also worked on Spears' disc) and Chicago's R. Kelly. The one-time King of Pop is taking a wait-and-see attitude about touring, however, delaying the decision until he can gauge the reaction to the tributes that he's throwing for himself at New York's Madison Square Garden on Sept. 7 and 10.

Also uncertain about touring is Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who will drop his fourth solo effort ''Goddess in the Doorway'' on Nov. 6. Guesting on the disc are Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry (that oughta make Keith mad!), rapper Wyclef Jean, Pete Townshend, Lenny Kravitz, and matchbox twenty's Rob Thomas, who wrote several tunes (that oughta make Carlos Santana mad!).

Other albums coming in September include ''Toxicity,'' the second disc from California art-rockers/nu-metalers System of a Down (Sept. 4, and ''Face 2 Face'' by Babyface, ''A Funk Odyssey'' by Jamiroquai, ''All Is Dream'' by Mercury Rev, ''God Hates Us All'' by Slayer, ''Rockin' the Suburbs'' by Ben Folds, ''Supernova'' by Lisa ''Left Eye'' Lopes, and ''Bayleaf'' by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard (Sept. 11).

Also out on the second Tuesday in September: ''Glitter'' by Mariah Carey, which was postponed from last month because of the star's much-publicized bout with ''exhaustion.''

Out on Sept. 18 are ''Strange Little Girls,'' an album of cover songs by Tori Amos, Macy Gray's eagerly awaited sophomore effort ''The Id,'' the fifth album by alt-rockers Live, and ''The Blueprint'' by rapper Jay-Z. Due to be released on Sept. 25: the newest from DMX, Spiritualized, New York's Strokes, and alternative-country heroes Ryan Adams (ex- of Whiskeytown) and Jay Farrar (formerly of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt).

Coming in October are ''Beautiful Garbage'' by Garbage and ''Songs from the West Coast'' by Elton John (Oct. 2); ''Dragontown'' by Alice Cooper, ''Sex, Age and Death'' by Bob Geldof, ''The Deep End'' by Gov't Mule, ''Atomic'' by Lit, a live album by Black 47, and the latest by Brandy and the Breeders (Oct. 9), and ''Ten New Songs'' by Leonard Cohen, ''The Argument'' by the Foo Fighters, ''Down to Earth'' by Ozzy Osbourne, ''Get Ready'' by New Order, and the latest from Pulp and former En Vogue singer Dawn Robinson (Oct. 16).

Other October releases include ''Drukqz'' by techno legend the Aphex Twin, ''The Process of Belief'' by Bad Religion, ''Wake Up and Smell the Coffee'' by the Cranberries, ''California Crossing'' by Fu Manchu, ''Morning View'' by Incubus, ''Lenny'' by Lenny Kravitz, and new efforts from Bush and R.L. Burnside (Oct. 23), and ''Oracle'' by Kittie, ''Cuttin' Heads'' by John Mellencamp, and a new disc from California popsters Smashmouth (Oct. 30).

Slated for November are ''White Lilies Island'' by Natalie Imbruglia, ''Faithfully'' by Faith Evans, and a new album by Kid Rock (Nov. 6); ''Driving Rain'' by Paul McCartney, ''This Way'' by Jewel, ''R U With Me?'' by Montell Jordan, ''Love Shelby'' by Shelby Lynne, and a new effort from Pink (Nov. 13), and ''Pleasure and Pain'' by Ben Harper, ''Diamond'' by Brandy, ''Doggy Treats'' by Lil' Bow Wow, and Christmas albums by Destiny's Child and Barbra Streisand (Nov. 20).

Also coming in the fall are albums by Billy Joel, Busta Rhymes, Creed, Marc Anthony, the Goo Goo Dolls, Zach de la Rocha, Cher, Beck, Blondie, Chumbawamba, No Doubt, the Roots, Toni Braxton, Alanis Morissette, Dr. Dre, Chicago alt-rockers Local H, Chicago rapper Common, Darius Rucker, Deborah Cox, Beth Orton, Meshell Ndegeocello, Nelly, Teddy Riley, Guns 'N Roses (sure, right), and Shaquille O'Neal (who really should know better by now).

Hopefully, ''Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,'' the fourth album by Chicago's Wilco, will also see a release before the end of the year. The group is entertaining offers from some 30 new labels after parting ways with Reprise Records last month.

Newsworthy concert dates in September include industrial/progressive-rockers Tool at the Allstate Arena (Sept. 9); Laurie Anderson at the Park West (Sept. 11); the Pledge of Allegiance Tour with Slipknot and System of a Down at the Allstate Arena and David Byrne at the Riviera Theatre (Sept. 14); Tricky at the Vic Theatre (Sept. 19), and Earth, Wind & Fire and the reunited Rufus at the Arie Crown Theatre (Sept. 20).Also: Weezer at the United Center (Sept. 21); Moe at the Aragon (Sept. 22); 311 at the Riv (Sept. 26); Sigur Ros at the Vic (Sept. 27); Maxwell at the Arie Crown (Sept. 28-29), and Nick Cave and the Bad Sees and Neko Case and Her Boyfriends at the Chicago Theatre (Sept. 28).

Coming in October: Kinks bandleader Ray Davies in a ''storyteller's'' performance at the Vic (Oct. 2); Ben Folds at the Vic and Judas Priest at the Riv (Oct. 3); Megadeth at the Vic (Oct. 4); Tenacious D at the Riv and the Black Crowes at the Aragon (Oct. 5); Neil Diamond at the United Center (Oct. 8-9); Ryan Adams at the Park West and Travis at the Riv (Oct. 10); Icelandic pop princess Bjork at the Civic Opera House (Oct. 14); Ani DiFranco at the Aragon Ballroom and Jane's Addiction at the Allstate Arena (Oct. 21), Tori Amos at the Arie Crown (Oct. 23), and a special Halloween show by the jam band Widespread Panic at the U.I.C. Pavilion (Oct. 31).

The most anticipated November date: the prog-rock trio Oysterhead (Les Claypool of Primus, Trey Anastasio of Phish, and Stewart Copeland of the Police) at the Aragon on Nov. 2.

Also expected to be announced soon: this year's edition of the Family Values Tour with Staind, Linkin Park, and Stone Temple Pilots (the Allstate Arena in mid-October); a theater show by R&B crooner Brian McKnight; a victory lap by hot neo-soul newcomer Alicia Keys; Incubus and Amy Mann in separate shows at the Riv; techno superstar Paul Oakenfold; Phil Lesh and Friends, and possible return arena shows by Aerosmith and U2.

As always, the music world is a turbulent and ever-changing place, and all dates and specific plans are subject to the constantly shifting whims of the artists involved (to say nothing of the vagaries of the business).