Lady Lamb—City Winery, September 28
The expectation of most concertgoers is that they’ll be hearing, live, the songs they’ve learned and love in their recorded versions, and for that reason, there’s pressure on performers to deliver exactly that. It’s not unheard of for an artist to revisit and reinvent his or her body of work, but it’s usually a valedictory act, undertaken after a span of decades. (Joni Mitchell was in her fifties when she toured her back catalog with a full orchestra.) Lady Lamb, the alter ego of singer-songwriter Aly Spaltro, isn’t willing to wait that long; hence “Lady Lamb: An Evening with Strings,” in which she reshapes her songs to accommodate the textures and colors of a string quartet. Fortunately, Spaltro’s brand of nuanced, lyrically complex indie-rock has garnered her the kind of fan base that’s likely to be as adventurous as she is.
The Monkees—Rosemont Theater, November 5
The two septuagenarian survivors of an opportunistically (if not cynically) conceived Fab Four knockoff mounting a farewell tour a half-century after their heyday, is something you might’ve read in a National Lampoon look-ahead at the twenty-first century. Yet here we are, and here they are. It’s a testament to the power of pop (and of TV), and to the genuine quirkiness of the band’s members (when only ersatz quirkiness was required) that Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith are able to book stadiums for this farewell tour, when other, more conventionally genuine acts from the sixties and seventies are having to tag-team to survive (check out Badfinger, Al Stewart, The Guess Who and “more to be added” on February’s “Rock Romance Cruise”). I can’t imagine how Dolenz and Nesmith will sound, playing their hits at half-strength and half a century on, but I’m also not certain it matters.
Mavis Staples—Thalia Hall, November 19; FitzGerald’s, November 20
Despite having been an integral part of Chicago’s music scene longer than some of you reading this have been alive, rock-funk-R&B legend Staples is always a can’t-miss performer, and a constantly evolving one; among her recent achievements is a trio of critically acclaimed albums with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. At eighty-two, she’s still a powerful, transcendent voice, not merely as a singer but as an activist—here’s a woman who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and sang at JFK’s inauguration. This fall she headlines A Benefit Concert for Beyond Hunger, a two-day, dual-venue event to aid the nearly 40,000 individuals the organization serves in Chicago and its suburbs. If you needed another reason to see her—which you don’t—there it is.
Robert Rodi is an author, spoken-word performer and musician who has served as Newcity’s Music Editor since 2014. He’s written more than a dozen books, including the travel memoir “Seven Seasons In Siena.” His jazz quintet recently completed a two-year residency at Uncommon Ground, and he regularly hosts a jazz singers’ jam at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge. His literary and music criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, The Huffington Post and many other national and regional publications.