While many casual music
fans may opt to stay glued to their TV sets over the weekend, watching
highlights of the much-hyped Live 8 concert, the holiday always has meant
two things for discerning lovers of live music in Chicago: The free July
Fourth concert in Grant Park sponsored by WXRT (93.1-FM), now celebrating
its 18th year, and the American Music Festival, returning to FitzGerald's in
Berwyn for its 24th holiday weekend.
XRT hasn't presented such
an impressive lineup since Wilco headlined and performed much of its
then-unreleased "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" album in 2001. This year's star
attraction is techno godfather turned pop craftsman Moby, but just as
promising is a performance by rootsy singer and songwriter John Hiatt,
with backing from the best young blues band to emerge in the last decade,
the North Mississippi Allstars.
Recording his 21st album
in Memphis at the legendary Ardent Studios, Hiatt drew musical support from
the North Mississippi Allstars' guitarist and drummer, Luther and Cody
Dickinson, and tapped their father Jim Dickinson (whose credits range from
Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones to Big Star and the Replacements) to
Given the younger
Dickinsons' fiery spirit, it's surprising that Hiatt's new "Master of
Disaster" is a relatively quiet and understated affair, full of soulful,
nostalgic yearning. It's a fair bet, though, that the always enthusiastic
holiday crowd and the spectacular setting of the Petrillo Band Shell will
kick the author of "Thing Called Love" (among dozens of other hits for
himself and others) into high gear, and the Allstars are a group capable of
grooving harder than any band Hiatt has ever fronted.
For his part, Moby never
fails to rise to the occasion before a big outdoor crowd -- his Area1 and
Area2 concerts remain at the top of the list of the best amphitheater shows
I've ever seen -- and he is touring behind "Hotel," an album full of
electronic pop gems.
Performing at the
Riviera Theatre in April, the former Richard Melville Hall of Darien, Conn.,
seemed even more energetic than usual as he interacted with guitarist Daron
Murphy and backing vocalist Laura Dawn, highlighting a catalog that is one
of the strongest of the last two decades, from the undeniable techno drive
of his early hit "Go," through "Hotel" standouts such as the giddy pop of
"Beautiful" and the sing-along David Bowie tribute "Spiders," not to mention
the signature tracks from his breakthrough album "Play."
The concert starts at 3
p.m. with Blue Merle and Stereophonics, but if you're
reluctant to leave the backyard barbecue, it will also be broadcast live on
6615 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn, has once again outdone itself by booking a
veritable Who's Who of the best names in modern blues and roots-rock for its
American Music Festival, which kicked off yesterday and continues
Shifting between two
stages, one inside the club and the other in an outdoor tent, the music
starts at 5 p.m. today and includes Roots Rock Rollercoaster, Paul Thorn,
Dallas Wayne and Redd Volkaert, Jon Dee Graham, Anders
Osborne, Brave Combo and the Jeff & Vida Band, though the
standouts are Ian McLagen, the Small Faces and Rod Stewart veteran
currently fronting his hard-driving Bump Band (9:30 p.m. in the
club), and the sassy, sultry Louisiana/Texas chanteuse Marcia Ball
(10:15 p.m. in the tent).
are the blues band the Kinsey Report (8 p.m. in the club), the deft
and adventurous local cover band Tributosaurus (performing as the Band at
8:30 p.m. in the tent), native daughter turned rising national act Cathy
Richardson (9:45 p.m. in the club) and the always entertaining Chicago
songwriter and raconteur Robbie Fulks (10:30 p.m. in the tent), who
is riding high on his new Bloodshot album "Georgia Hard."
Saturday's lineup, which
starts at 2 p.m., is completed by the John Burnett Orchestra, Grey Delisl,
Kevin Gordon and Jennifer Nicely, Eh La-Bas, Patterson Hood, the Lee
Boys, Dallas Wayne and Redd Volkaert, the Gourds, and the Jeff & Vida
The festival wraps up on
Sunday starting at 2 p.m. and includes the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Del
Rey, Eh La-Bas, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, the Gourds, King Wilkie,
Marcia Ball, the Subdudes, Switchback and the Jeff & Vida Band, though
this day's must-sees are Sleepy LaBeef (6:30 p.m. in the tent), the
veteran blues, country, gospel and rockabilly musician who has performed
with Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, and the
Charlottesville combo the Hackensaw Boys, the insanely energetic
old-time bluegrass band that assaults its banjos, mandolins, washboard and
dobro with punk-rock fury and intensity.
Admission to the
festival is $25, with a $5 discount before 6 p.m. today and before 3 p.m.
tomorrow and Sunday, and kids under 13 admitted for $5 before 10 p.m. For
more information and specific set times for all of the acts, call (708)
788-2118 or visit www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.
REASONS FOR LIVING
Rock critics live for
list-making, and since the Fourth of July weekend marks the halfway point of
2005, here is my list of the 10 best albums of the year to date.
1. Common, "Be"
(GOOD/Geffen): It ain't homerism, it's simply one of the strongest, most
inventive and most honest hip-hop discs I've ever heard.
"X&Y" (Capitol): The backlash is well under way (the New York Times called
it "insufferable"), but it's a mystery how anyone can resist pop music this
accessible that draws from underground influences (Brian Eno, Kraftwerk)
Soundsystem, "LCD Soundsystem" (DFA/Capitol): Cutting-edge dance grooves
paired with vintage art-punk energy and invention. Irresistible.
4. The Black Eyed
Peas, "Monkey Business": Hands-down the good-time, party groove disc of the
5. Moby, "Hotel"
(V2): The lovable chrome dome has been the subject of the second most
vitriolic backlash of the summer (serves him right for doing all those
commercials), but he has produced another pop gem.
6. The White
Stripes, "Get Behind Me Satan" (V2): No one else in rock consistently does
so much with so little.
7. Spoon, "Gimme
Fiction" (Merge): Another art-punk classic, less dance-oriented, but with
rhythms that are just as hard to deny.
"Demon Days" (Virgin): A darker, trippier effort than their debut, but it
holds up even better under repeated listenings.
9. Billy Corgan,
"The Future Embrace" (Warner Bros.): No, it's not more homerism, nor is it
evidence of a special love for bald guys -- just an impressive, heartfelt
collection of electronic songs about the desire to be loved.
10. Damon &
Naomi, "The Earth Is Blue" (20/20/20): Heartbreakingly beautiful psychedelic
folk-rock from the veteran rhythm section of Galaxie 500.