The List: November 19-25, 2009 | Soundboard | Chicago Reader

The List: November 19-25, 2009 

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Aventura, DJ/Rupture & Matt Shadetek, Fuck Buttons, Saviours, Baroness, and more

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Baroness

Baroness

GL Johnson

Thursday19

Tobias Delius
International Contemporary Ensemble
Paul Lewis

Friday20

Aventura
DJ/Rupture & Matt Shadetek
Paul Lewis

Saturday21

A.A. Bondy
Tobias Delius
John Fogerty
Fuck Buttons
Half Rats
Paul Lewis
Saviours

Sunday22

Tobias Delius
Jump Smokers
Paul Lewis
Pine Leaf Boys
Septeto Nacional

Monday23

Tobias Delius

Wednesday18

Baroness

thursday19

TOBIAS DELIUS Update: Delius has been denied entry to the U.S. due to visa problems and will not appear. It's been eight years since Berlin-based tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius has released a recording as a bandleader—six if you consider him coleader of the collective session Apa Ini (Data)—and that's a damn shame. (At present he has an album of his own in the can but no label lined up.) A longtime member of Amsterdam's ICP Orchestra, Delius has one of the most beautiful and elastic horn sounds in jazz: he shares the breathy, earthy warmth of swing-era tenor man Ben Webster, but transforms it with jagged contemporary phrasing. No matter what configuration of players he ends up part of, he seems to make it sound better. This past summer in Kongsberg, Norway, he floored me in a powerhouse improvising quartet with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Johan Berthling, teasing out lusty, sanguine melodies even as he kept pace with the screaming tumult of the set. He also sounds great on this summer's First Reason (Clean Feed), a superb album by German drummer Christian Lillinger—his meaty clarinet and tenor lines slalom forcefully through the rhythm section's dense, frantic matrix of notes without losing a bit of their emotional depth along the way. On this rare visit to Chicago, Delius plays four shows with four ad hoc lineups of top-shelf local talent. Tonight he's joined by bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang; see also Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $8 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE The latest major program from the International Contemporary Ensemble is testimony both to the group's progressivism and to its growing international reputation. The concert focuses on some of the most distinctive work by brilliant Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, who will be on hand for a discussion of her music before intermission. Over the past several decades Saariaho has established herself as a restless genius with a broad range, borrowing from many approaches and schools, among them spectralism and electroacoustic music, without ever subscribing to any single one—the only constant element in her sensual, sometimes eerie compositions is a profound fascination with timbre and tone color. In 1982 she moved to Paris, where she still lives, to study at IRCAM, the prestigious electronic-music center established by Pierre Boulez, and three of the four works on tonight's program reflect the long-standing interest in electronics she cultivated there. In the solo percussion piece Six Japanese Gardens (1994), dedicated to composer Toru Takemitsu, the musician triggers prerecorded material—nature sounds, Japanese ritual chants, and processed percussion—that underlines the live performance. Solar (1992) is scored for chamber orchestra and two digital keyboards, and Lichtbogen (1986), inspired by the northern lights, electronically augments an ensemble of flute, percussion, harp, piano, and strings. Rounding out the evening is the program's only purely acoustic piece, Terrestre (2002), for flute accompanied by harp, percussion, violin, and cello. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, $25, $20 members, $10 students. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Paul Lewis - JACK LIEBECK
  • Paul Lewis
  • Jack Liebeck

PAUL LEWIS Between 2005 and 2007 young British pianist Paul Lewis performed all 32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas on tour in Europe and the U.S., meanwhile recording them in sets; Harmonia Mundi released them in four volumes, and the last volume won Gramophone's 2008 Record of the Year. It's a monumental undertaking for any pianist, and Lewis, born in Liverpool in 1972, didn't even start taking piano lessons until age 12, after two uneventful years on cello; he entered Chetham's School of Music in Manchester at 14 and went on to London's Guildhall School, where a master class with Alfred Brendel led to regular coaching in his early 20s. Last November Lewis gave a recital in Orchestra Hall that included a sublime rendition of Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 18, in which he revealed an approach similar to the one he brings to Beethoven—he aims to get out of the composer's way, staying as transparent as possible. At times the strictness of his tempos leaves me wishing for a little breathing room, but what he does is impressive—he's a thoughtful player with abundant technique that includes remarkably well-balanced chords and an ability to convey an exceptional range of moods and timbres. He makes his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart's exquisite Piano Concerto No. 12; the program also includes Bartok's folk-inspired Divertimento for String Orchestra and Schumann's Symphony No. 2. Christoph von Dohnanyi conducts. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $22-$199. —Barbara Yaross

friday20

AVENTURA Latin pop inhabits a kind of parallel universe in the U.S., under the radar of the English-language media, but whether you've heard of them or not, Aventura are filling arenas around the country. The bilingual Bronx quartet formed in the mid-90s, and within a few years they'd become international stars. They play bachata—the slinky, guitar-driven romantic music of the Dominican Republic—kissed with contemporary R & B, and their latest full-length, The Last (Premium Latin Music), spent 15 weeks atop Billboard's Latin album charts this summer, selling more than 200,000 copies and going double platinum. Still, most Americans have no idea they exist. On The Last Aventura further urbanize the sound of bachata, retaining the fluid acoustic-guitar patterns and hand percussion from the music's rural past but adding glossy radio-ready production, breathy teen-idol singing from 28-year-old front man Anthony "Romeo" Santos (complete with the occasional lick of Auto-Tune), and impossibly sweet vocal harmonies from his bandmates. (In traditional bachata there's usually only one singer at a time.) Aventura's urban-pop trappings have earned them the epithet "Dominicano 'N Sync," and a few of the tunes on The Last are blatant crossover stabs—"All Up 2 You" has jacked-up beats and a cameo from Akon—but most of the group's output rests on a recognizable foundation of bachata. It's not for listeners who like their traditional sounds uncut—this is unquestionably mainstream stuff—but it's absurdly catchy, confident, and accomplished.  9 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $50-$125. —Peter Margasak

DJ/Rupture & Matt Shadetek - STEFANO GIOVANNINI

DJ/RUPTURE & MATT SHADETEK Reading the blog Dutty Artz is like watching a bunch of evil geniuses draw up their latest master plan—except instead of evil geniuses they're just people who know a ton about music, and what they're doing amounts to devising a handy diagram that makes clear the connections between disparate sounds like southern rap, cumbia, upstart African dance styles too new to have names, and prewar gospel blues played on a homemade fretless zither. It's one of the only blogs where I feel confident downloading any track they put up, whether I can listen to it first or not. DJ/Rupture and Matt Shadetek both write regularly for Dutty Artz, and like its other contributors they're exceptionally talented and daring DJs. They also have a history of working together, and their latest collaboration is a mix CD called Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture) that mashes together a mess of styles that fall along the axis joining reggae, dancehall, and dubstep, creating something deep, dark, and extremely addictive. Brooklyn art-rockers Gang Gang Dance and Telepathe and worth-watching MC Jahdan Blakkamoore, who's tight with the Dutty Artz crew, all make appearances, but if you don't study the track listing you might not notice—and anyway, Rupture and Shadetek's blends are so subtle and natural sounding that picking out the different parts of their mix is much less satisfying than enjoying it as one big, dubby, bassy whole. Devlin & Darko, aka Spank Rock's DJs, headline; DJ/Rupture & Matt Shadetek and DJ Trew open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, free with RSVP to rsvp@emptybottle.com. —Miles Raymer

PAUL LEWIS See Thursday. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $22-$199.

saturday21

click to enlarge A.A. Bondy
  • A.A. Bondy

A.A. BONDY Former Verbena front man A.A. Bondy is an angst-ridden guy making countryish music—like Ryan Adams, at least back before Adams went the way of the Dead. Bondy's latest, When the Devil's Loose (Fat Possum), often sounds like the sort of album everyone's been wishing Adams would get back to making: bedroom intimate despite being recorded in a studio, it's warm, deeply melancholy, and awash in reverb, full of lonesome themes (rivers, moons, deliverance, human bondage, a woman who's gone and not coming back) and real songs. Elvis Perkins in Dearland headlines.  10:30 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $16. —Jessica Hopper

TOBIAS DELIUS Update: Delius has been denied entry to the U.S. due to visa problems and will not appear. See Thursday. A quartet of Jason Stein, David Daniell, Joseph Mills, and Steven Hess headlines; Delius plays second in a duo with trombonist Jeb Bishop. A trio of Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nick Macri, and Charles Rumback opens. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, heavengallery.com, donation requested. 

JOHN FOGERTY In 1973, after the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty turned to his love of vintage country for his first solo album, The Blue Ridge Rangers, chipping away at his contract by covering classics from the likes of Hank Williams, George Jones, and Jimmie Rodgers and playing all the instruments himself. I'm not sure why, 36 years later, he chose to cut another record under the same name. Though on Rides Again (Verve Forecast) he's surrounded himself with excellent players—guitarist Buddy Miller, drummer Jay Bellerose, multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, bassist Dennis Crouch—the music lacks the energy and grit of, say, Fogerty's 2007 solo album Revival (Fantasy). I don't mind hearing him do solid renditions of Ray Price and Buck Owens, but his covers of John Denver's "Back Home Again" and Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" (with Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit, no less) are the kind of empty, predictable, feel-good boomer bullshit he ought to be above. 8 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500, $37.50-$69.50. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Fuck Buttons - LUCY JOHNSTON
  • Fuck Buttons
  • Lucy Johnston

FUCK BUTTONS Tarot Sport (ATP), the sophomore album from Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power—aka Bristol noise duo Fuck Buttons—would make a perfect soundtrack to a sci-fi horror movie, accompanying lavishly lit alien-abduction scenes complete with jarringly quick closeups of the soon-to-be-victim's doomed face. The opening (and best) track, "Surf Solar," sets the tone with a tranced-out pulse shoring up a swirl of metallic-sounding snippets; here Fuck Buttons flirt with a chunky electro feel, foregrounding their beats instead of submerging them beneath entrancing swells of distortion the way they did on their impressive debut, Street Horrrsing. That album often shook listeners back into consciousness with half-buried onslaughts of abrasive shrieking, but Tarot Sport relies on cleaner sounds—polished layers of synth and electronics that overlap to form an enmeshing matrix for the blips and beeps pinballing within each loop. Articulate and linear, the record climaxes with the outstanding "Flight of the Feathered Serpent," where an almost ominous tip-toeing melody, played on what might be a fuzz guitar, drags just behind a frenetic beat—it's as unsettling as it is alluring. Growing opens.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, limited $5 tickets. —Kevin Warwick

HALF RATS Lafayette, Indiana, has been producing old-fashioned party-centric rock 'n' roll for the better part of the decade—the Romance Novels, Eric & the Happy Thoughts, the Sweet Sixteens—and as representatives of that fertile scene the Half Rats are as good as any. Think of the sock-hop deep cuts Dick Biondi plays on WLS when he's not besieged by Abba requests from lame-o suburbanites, and you'll get the idea. In fact, Sir Biondi would probably be able to sneak the heartbroken girl-group number "Johnny Savage" or the surfy teen-boy plea "For the Sake of Love" on the air between the Gentrys and the Shangri-Las. Ever since guitarist-singer T.J. Brock moved to Chicago and joined CoCoComa earlier this year, the Half Rats have been less active, but thankfully they're playing some midwest dates with Shannon & the Clams, an Oakland band smitten with the same sort of vintage sounds. With local boys the Yolks on the bill too—they released a high-energy hip shaker of a debut LP this summer—this show might be your last best chance to break out your dance moves before Chicago freezes over. The Half Rats headline; Shannon & the Clams and the Yolks open.  9:30 PM, Cole's, 2338 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-5802. —Brian Costello

PAUL LEWIS See Thursday. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $22-$199.

SAVIOURS This California four-piece emerged from the stoner-rock scene, but at the level of id the band looks to be a horse of another color. Though Saviours indulge in the requisite sludgy down-tuning, they've got none of the genre's luxuriant dilated-pupil languor—the heart inside their metal beats fast. On the band's third full-length, Accelerated Living (Kemado), there's a bit of Black Flag and Nausea in their churn, and the structures of their songs forsake one of the chief advantages of relatively slow metal, namely the productive tension it can create by threatening to erupt at any moment—these guys erupt so frequently that they've hardly got time to threaten anything. It's a trade-off, of course, and Saviours' way has its own rewards. The playful cover artwork, which looks like something a satanist might paint on the side of his custom van, lets you know what you're in for: straight-up ripping metal that farts in the general direction of self-seriousness, overanalysis, and basically any thesis a music critic might care to trot out. "Acid Hand" and "Livin' in the Void" in particular pwn the thesaurus wielders of the world. Headliner first, tonight's bill is 3 Inches of Blood, Saviours, and Holy Grail. 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $13, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

sunday22

TOBIAS DELIUS Update: Delius has been denied entry to the U.S. due to visa problems and will not appear. See Thursday. A quintet of Delius, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer Frank Rosaly headlines; James Falzone's Klang opens. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.

JUMP SMOKERS Jump Smokers' "My Flow So Tight (Anti-Breezy)" opens with what has to be the non sequitur of the year: the group's lead MC, Roman, repeats "My flow so tight and the beat so sick" three times, then tacks on "Chris Brown should get his ass kicked." Hooking what's essentially a novelty song to a domestic-abuse incident is a tricky proposition, but I can't help but agree with the sentiment. Apparently I'm not the only one—the track was widely blogged, and its combination of real talk and catchy electro beats helped it get steady spins on Chicago pop and hip-hop stations. "Don't Be a Douchebag" is a clunkier attack on an easier target, but the fact that the band tosses out burns on Ed Hardy boys and at the same time gets props from B96—the radio equivalent of a dude wearing too much hair gel—is amazing. LMFAO headlines; Shwayze, Far East Movement, Jump Smokers, Paradiso Girls, Space Cowboy, Million Dollar Mano, DJ Inphinity, DJ Illusive, and DJ Ryan B. open.  7 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-804-2736, $18. —Miles Raymer

PAUL LEWIS See Thursday. 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $22-$199.

PINE LEAF BOYS Though I used to love Beausoleil, I lost interest when the Cajun juggernaut started angling for a new audience with a middle-of-the-road rock-based approach in the 90s. So I'm glad to see a younger generation, like the Pine Leaf Boys from Lafayette, Louisiana, picking up the mantle of the classic bayou sound. The group suffered a setback after their sophomore record with the departure of vocalist, violinist, and accordionist Cedric Watson—who just released his second album, the excellent L'esprit Creole (Valcour)—but on their latest, Homage au Passe (Lionsgate), they've still got a zesty front line of squeeze box and fiddle, and they serve up soulful, careening waltzes, pumping grooves, and rowdy stomps. As you might expect given that members of the band are connected to Cajun greats like Marc Savoy and the Balfa Brothers by literal bloodlines, the Pine Leaf Boys almost always stick to fundamentals. Despite its contemporary energy, their music is hardly progressive—but I'll take it. I think Beausoleil already proved that tinkering with tradition doesn't always work out. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $22, $20 members, $18 seniors and children. —Peter Margasak

SEPTETO NACIONAL Ghost bands don't get much older than Septeto Nacional, which established a blueprint for modern Cuban son more than 80 years ago. Formed in 1927 as Sexteto Nacional by bassist and songwriter Ignacio Piñeiro, the band shortly expanded to a septet with the addition of trumpeter Lazaro Herrera—a pioneering step, since wind instruments weren't yet part of the music. Elaborately interlocking patterns on bass, acoustic guitar, tres, and hand percussion buoy the rich, passionate vocal melodies—sometimes composed, sometimes improvised—and the horn both complements the singers and steps out alone, juicing up the punchy, repetitive vamp of the obligatory montuno section with brash soloing. Piñeiro left in the mid-30s, and Herrera took over as leader until 1937, when the group disbanded. They began working together steadily again after the Cuban revolution in 1959, staying true to the vibrant sound of old-fashioned son, and they've continued to this day, albeit with more lineup changes than I'd care to count. Just as exciting as Septeto Nacional's appearance here is the fact that any Cuban musicians at all are playing here—they're the first group from the island to visit Chicago in six years, thanks to the baby steps the Obama administration has taken to normalize relations between Cuba and the States. 7 PM, Alhambra Palace, 1240 W. Randolph, 800-838-3006, $35, $28 until 11/20. —Peter Margasak

monday23

TOBIAS DELIUS Update: Delius has been denied entry to the U.S. due to visa problems and will not appear. See Thursday. Delius plays in a quartet with cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Mike Reed. 10 PM, Skylark, 2149 S. Halsted, 312-948-5275, donation requested.

wednesday25

BARONESS If you think of this Georgia four-piece as simply stoner metal, their masterful second full-length, Blue Record (Relapse), ought to complicate your thoughts on the matter. With new guitarist Peter Adams and producer John Congleton (not a specialist in heavy music, he's worked with the Roots and the Polyphonic Spree, among many others), Baroness dig themselves up that hill and emerge at a transcendent height, playing riffs and melodies that have a piercing, single-minded clarity and journeying through a satisfying variety of sounds and moods. They're not at all shy with acoustic interludes—the kind that put you in mind of a Ren-faire reenactment of the Battle of Evermore held in a magic-mushroom meadow, which have been damned hard to do properly since about 1979—but they also know exactly when to follow up a mellow medieval daydream with a one-two punch of Dark Ages brutality and rage. "The Sweetest Curse" seethes with slippery, bluesy Ritchie Blackmore-style guitar licks, and the drums in the wicked "A Horse Called Golgotha" reliably show you just where to bang your head. As if that's not enough, singer-guitarist John Baizley contributes beautifully detailed cover art (as always) that you can get lost in while the band boils your brain. Earthless and U.S. Christmas open. 8 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2105 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $14, $12 in advance, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

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