George Dalaras | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

George Dalaras 

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Frequently called the Bruce Springsteen of Greece, George Dalaras has been his country's biggest pop star for several decades--so much for the comparison. Dalaras masterfully blends traditional Greek styles like rembetika (a bawdy urban blues) and smyrneiko (a similar style imported from the old Turkish city of Smyrna, now called Izmir) with an ever expanding phalanx of contemporary international pop moves. Influenced early on by American protest singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, he advocated democracy for Greece in the 70s and criticized the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in '74; he still uses recordings--there are more than 50--and concerts to raise money and awareness for various causes. The retrospective A Portrait of George Dalaras (Hemisphere) offers a pretty impressive overview of his prolific career, with only a handful of overwrought duds: melancholy sandouri (a hammer dulcimer with as many as 100 strings), bouzouki (the pinched-sounding Greek oud), violins, and clarinets tangle with grandiloquent rock-tinged arrangements and Dalaras's powerful, nasal voice, which sounds nothing at all like Springsteen's or any other Anglo rock singer's. He's collaborated with musicians from a wide range of backgrounds, including Spanish flamenco master Paco de Lucia, American jazz guitarist Al DiMeola, and even Jethro Tull flute tooter Ian Anderson. Not surprisingly, the Greek Springsteen is prone to lapses of bad taste, and a recent Greek recording sent to me by his tour publicist is a seemingly endless chunk of overly sentimental musical deadweight, including a suffocatingly lachrymose duet on "Con Te Partiro"--the tune Donna Summer recently discoized--with opera star Andrea Bocelli. Sunday, 8 PM, Arie Crown Theater, McCormick Place, 2300 S. Lake Shore Dr.; 312-791-6516 or 312-559-1212.

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