Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Amon Amarth/House of Blues

Metal No Comments »


Amon Amarth has been churning out face-melting, Nordic-lore-inspired epic metal for the past twenty years. Much like the delicious casserole at your grandma’s house, you’ll never see much change in the recipe, but the experience will be consistent and satisfying. The band’s latest opus, “Deceiver of the Gods,” finds the group in their proven form, with vocalist Johan Hegg’s usual demonic growl matched with the majestic, dual guitar riffage from guitarists Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen that would be right at home on a Maiden release. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Del tha Funkee Homosapien/House of Blues

Hip-Hop No Comments »

10.19 del @ hobRECOMMENDED

Cordoning off the Deltron 3030 project from the rest of Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s work is a tough task. When initially released, Del was about to embark on his Gorillaz odyssey, but was also engaged with his “Both Sides of the Brain”-era material. It was a watershed few years for the East Bay MC. And it’s because of that few years—not to mention raucous classics like “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” and “No Need For Alarm”—that the last decade seems like a letdown. Teaming with Def Jux should have resulted in a classic, but “Eleventh Hour” was a truncated mess. The litany of mixtapes and collaborations didn’t do much either, apart from necessitating trips back to those aforementioned nineties classics. So the news that Del, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala were set to revisit 3030, and in the company of a huge orchestra, came as a comforting bit of news. To have Del and the Automator tell it, “Event II” is better executed than the initial 3030 album. It’s hard to find a hook, though. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: D’Angelo/House of Blues

R&B, Soul No Comments »


Soul music was born of the friction between pious and secular ecstasy. Many of the genre’s greatest artists came to know impulsive jubilation as children through the gospel. That this same joy is accessible in everyday experience essentially marks the epiphany of the soul singer, perhaps music’s most perfect muse. In the truest sense, D’Angelo is a direct descendant of the tradition. Love, pleasure, pain and redemption radiate through his weathered voice with a sense of ultimate vulnerability. It’s been more than a dozen years since D’Angelo’s name last sat atop a marquee in Chicago. Do not miss him this time around. Read the rest of this entry »

Planet, Disrupted: Swing Out Sister Kicks Off its Long-Delayed American Tour in Chicago

Jazz, Pop, R&B No Comments »
Photo: Jody LIndscott

Photo: Jody LIndscott

By Ernest Barteldes

The eruption of volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 disrupted the lives of many—flights were grounded on both sides of the pond and, to make matters worse, blizzards on the Eastern Seaboard at around the same time just made flying across the Atlantic a near impossibility.

Among those who couldn’t get on a plane were the members of Swing Out Sister, who were supposed to go on an acoustic tour across the US. The disruption inspired them to go back into the studio and record the arrangements they were supposed to take to the road, and the result was “Private View” (Shanachie, 2013), which contains a selection of reinvented takes on some of their greatest hits and a handful of covers—we reviewed the album back in January on this site.

The much-delayed tour (fingers crossed!) is finally happening, and the band led by vocalist Corinne Drewery and pianist Andy Connell are making a number of stops Stateside, beginning right here in Chicago.

We caught up with Drewery over an extended phone interview during the week of June 24, when she talked about the music and also with her concerns about how we as individuals have a responsibility toward the environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Public Enemy/House of Blues

Hip-Hop No Comments »


Two and a half decades after “Yo! Bum Rush the Show,” Chuck D. and Public Enemy retain the righteousness and displeasure with broad American culture that made its earliest efforts landmarks in hip-hop. “The Evil Empire of Everything” counts as PE’s second disc of the year, but this newest album centers around the Trayvon Martin shooting that occurred earlier in 2012. While it’s unsurprising that Chuck D. has a point of view on those occurrences, it is stunning that the album centers on the incident, opening with 911 calls revealing a still-vibrant American paranoia surrounding black kids in hoodies. The theme’s strung throughout the disc, making “Evil Empire” a concept album, pulling its narrative from journalism’s headlines. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cannibal Corpse/House of Blues

Metal No Comments »


That people would be troubled enough by lyrics to restrict the speech of a cartoonish metal band is really what’s offensive. Cannibal Corpse has the dubious distinction of having its music banned in several countries. Of course, getting to appear in an Ace Ventura movie should mitigate any of those potential financial loses. That’s even cooler than Primus showing up in “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.” With Chris Barnes helming the ensemble, Cannibal Corpse became one of the most visible metal acts in the country, a sort of more disturbed Slayer without any true commercial potential. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Seun Kuti/House of Blues

Funk, World Music No Comments »


It’d be impossible to ignore comparisons between Seun Kuti and his Afrobeat-defining father, Fela. But pretty much all that should be said is the elder’s voice was a bit fuller. And there’s less Yoruba being spoken on Seun’s recordings. Fela’s youngest son, though, deals in precisely the same music that was bounding around Lagos forty years ago, and he does so with his father’s old band. The past few years have seen a rising political awareness as a result of the world’s economic and political shakeups, so merging distinctly danceable music with radical politics hasn’t wound up sounding dated. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Railroad Earth/House of Blues

Alt-Country, Bluegrass No Comments »

You remember when your stoner-friend convinced you to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, saying it was a bluegrass band that jammed like jazzbos? That was a bum steer. But the same guy, if he hasn’t already done so, is getting ready to tell you about Railroad Earth. The New Jersey-based band’s gained significant traction during its decade’s long career, hitting festivals in Telluride and just about anywhere else patchouli and moonshine are scents lingering in the air. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Machine Gun Kelly/House of Blues

Hip-Hop No Comments »

Signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy imprint, Machine Gun Kelly’s been in the news as much for organizing flash mobs as he has been for making music. The relative success of “Lace Up” granted the Cleveland MC enough pull to tour decent-sized venues and rake in some loot. Moving from collaborators like Ray Jr. to Waka Flocka on his latest release points to the sort of attention MGK’s received. After two mixtapes, though, the angle MGK takes on his public persona is a bit disappointing. We should all be past the dichotomy dividing MCs who talk solely about carnal pleasures from those who work in literature and thoughtful cultural references. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: George Thorogood & The Destroyers/House of Blues

Blues No Comments »


Sure, you’ve heard George Thorogood’s raspy voice telling you he’s “Bad to the Bone,” but have you heard him sing about Chicago, specifically 2120 South Michigan Avenue? Thorogood and his band, The Destroyers, have released an album saluting the long-deceased Chess Records, which used to reside at that very address. “2120 South Michigan Avenue” brings the legendary label back from the dead, with covers of celebrated songs, including guest appearances from Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite, in addition to some original songs.

Thorogood has mentioned how The Rolling Stones played a large part in his discovery of the label. “The first Rolling Stones album I bought, ’12×5,’ included ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’. I said, ‘I know I’ve heard this somewhere before…’ I wrote to Chess, they sent me a catalog, and my life was changed.”

The new album’s covers don’t have quite the dirty, disheveled twang that the originals do, but there is a new crispness. Thorogood’s voice sounds surprisingly tonic and smooth, with occasional growls thrown. The songs are fast-paced, articulate and unclouded. The clarity of sound doesn’t mute the grind of the classics as much as it gives it a new spin. (Maureen Clancy)

August 20 at House of Blues, 329 North Dearborn, (312)923-2000, 7:30pm.  17+.