Mayer's hot dogs


September 11, 2005


There are plenty of big-news, top-dollar events on the pop music calendar this fall, including new albums and tours by rock legends the Rolling Stones (who return to Chicago to perform at the United Center on Jan. 23 and 25 after Saturday night's show at Soldier Field) and Paul McCartney (who plays the United Center on Oct. 18-19).

Even more exciting is Kanye West's promised "GOOD Music Tour," which will find him supporting his excellent new album, "Late Registration," by headlining over and hopefully collaborating with proteges John Legend and Common. (Dates have not yet been announced.)

Less hyped but just as anticipated are two shows on Sept. 21 and 22 at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, by the John Mayer Trio, the new band that finds the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter fronting a session-pros supergroup featuring drummer Steve Jordan (Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Keith Richards) and bassist Pino Palladino (the Who, Jeff Beck).

"I'm gonna go out in the fall with the trio and just play," Mayer promised Rolling Stone. "Power-rockin', electric-guitar, in-your-face blues."

This is good news indeed, and a cause for hope that the Connecticut-born artist, who turns 28 on Oct. 16, will reconnect with the muse that inspired his first and best album. His 1999 debut "Inside Out" was a rootsy, bluesy effort, which preceded the multiplatinum success that greeted his more acoustic, Dave Matthews-flavored discs for Chicago-based Columbia Records subsidiary Aware, 2001's "Room for Squares" and last year's "Heavier Things."

The voice that brought us "Your Body Is a Wonderland" has been ubiquitous since that breakthrough success, guesting on Eric Clapton's new album, "Back Home," and Herbie Hancock's disc "Possibilities," as well as lending his talents to recordings by Common, Kanye West, Rob Thomas, B.B. King and Chicago blues giant Buddy Guy. (Mayer is nothing if not versatile.) But while he embraces his unexpected status as a pop star, he maintains that he longs to return to grittier sounds.

"I would feel like I'm not making the most of my life if I don't take this success and turn it into other opportunities," Mayer told Billboard. These include jamming out with the new trio, which will perform a mix of covers and original material, and which plans to release a live album later this fall.

Meanwhile, Mayer is also working on his next studio album, titled "Continuum" and due early in 2006. He promises that it will have a much earthier "Sam Cooke vibe," and says that his new sounds are strongly influenced by the trio, which is also joining him for this recording.

*The Hideout Block Party, Friday and Saturday, 1354 W. Wabansia: Chicago's favorite hole in the wall throws a great bash every fall, but this year it's outdone itself. The lineup includes Freakwater, Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor, and a rare gig by Chicago's Eleventh Dream Day, but the best news is the Sept. 17 reunion by power-pop legends the dB's. The donation is $10 per day; for details, visit

*Neil Young, "Prairie Wind" (Sept. 27) and Farm Aid (Sept. 18): As everyone's favorite Canadian rock legend prepares to drop a gorgeous, mostly acoustic new album, he'll be one of the highlights at Farm Aid, which comes to the Tweeter Center on Sept. 18 and also features Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Wilco. Tickets are $30 to $85 through Ticketmaster, (312) 559-1212.

*The Arcade Fire, Riviera Theatre, Sept. 28: After stealing the show at Lollapalooza, these Montreal-based orchestral popsters return for a much more intimate performance at one of Chicago's best-sounding venues. Wolf Parade and the Bell Orchestre open the sold-out show.

*Franz Ferdinand, "You Could Have It So Much Better" (Oct. 4) and the Aragon Ballroom (Sept. 20): With their self-titled debut, these English New Wave revivalists claimed one of the best albums of 2004. Gearing up for their second album next month, they're performing with Pretty Girls Make Graves and Cut Copy. Tickets are $30 through Ticketmaster.

*Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age, Allstate Arena, Oct. 7: This inspired double bill pairs Trent Reznor and friends, who remain one of the most inventive acts industrial rock has ever produced, and the Queens, a consistently fun stoner-rock high. Tickets are $42.50 or $47.50 through Ticketmaster.

*The Decemberists, Metro, Oct. 18 and 19: With their recent album "Picaresque," the Decemberists crafted a new ork-pop gem as strong as the Arcade Fire's "Funeral." They headline two nights at Metro with opener Cass McCombs. Tickets are $18.50 at the box office, 3730 N. Clark.

*The New Pornographers, Metro, Oct. 20: On the recent "Twin Cinema," the much-hyped supergroup (which boasts Chicagoans Neko Case and Nora O'Connor on vocals) finally made an album that lives up to the hype. Destroyer and Immaculate Machine open, and tickets are $18.

*Gwen Stefani and the Black Eyed Peas, Allstate Arena, Oct. 28: Call it a guilty pop pleasure twice over, but the pairing of the Hollaback Girl and humps-happy Peas frontwoman Fergie is sure to be a stone-cold groove. Tickets are $37.50 to $65 through Ticketmaster.

*Flower 15 Music Festival, Metro, Nov. 8-15: The most respected talent agency in underground music, Chicago's Flower Booking celebrates its 15th anniversary with a series of shows featuring Pelican, Local H, Jimmy Eat World, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and reunions by the Promise Ring and the Smoking Popes. Tickets are available for $15 to $18 through

*System of a Down, "Hypnotize" (Nov. 15) and the Allstate Arena (Sept. 30): A few weeks before the insanely energetic, genre-hopping, unexpectedly platinum-selling art rockers release part two of their double album, they headline an exciting arena tour with the Mars Volta and Hella. Tickets are $32.50 to $45 through Ticketmaster