Outsider artist Daniel Johnston embarks on his last tour ever—or is it? | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Outsider artist Daniel Johnston embarks on his last tour ever—or is it? 

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click to enlarge Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston


During the 80s, Austin-based songwriter Daniel Johnston began recording fractured, innocent, childlike pop genius onto a boombox. As he passed the tapes around, he caught the attention of alternative acts like Built to Spill, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana—Kurt Cobain famously introduced the mainstream to Johnston’s music by wearing a T-shirt with the cover art for Johnston’s 1983 album Hi How Are You to the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Praise from the punk giants allowed Johnston (now considered an outsider legend) some notoriety in the 90s, and he graduated from making albums with a single microphone and a rickety piano to recording them in actual studios with backing bands. Since the 90s his records have lacked the magic of his early one-mike avant-piano-pop, but his knack for off-kilter, confessional brilliance has never faded away. His latest record, 2012’s Space Ducks, is a full-on high-fidelity affair, slick and poppy throughout. At each stop of this tour, Johnston will be backed by a band of musicians who’ve been influenced by his work; he performs the Chicago shows with Jeff Tweedy & Friends. While Johnston’s current string of live dates has been billed as his last ever, last week the 56-year-old told the New York Times that he sees no reason for this to be the end of his performing career. The shows will open up with a screening of the 2006 documentary The Devil & Daniel Johnston, which focuses on his career and struggles with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.   v

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