Tommy Keene | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tommy Keene 

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Nearly everything written about Tommy Keene since his mid-90s comeback has hinged on his bad luck with the record industry--the veteran singer, songwriter, and sometime sideman has become a symbol for a legion of gifted but commercially frustrated pop practitioners. But watching him play one perfectly realized song after another during a solo set at Schubas last June, it became clear to me that none of that matters--Keene's music has such a pure, incandescent quality that it's folly to consider him through the prism of his SoundScan figures. This has been his busiest year in a decade. He's played guitar on the road with former Guided by Voices kingpin Robert Pollard, and he's released two albums: Blues and Boogie Shoes (Rockathon), a polished collaboration with Pollard as the Keene Brothers, and Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty), a stylistically expansive solo CD. Keene labored on the latter in his LA home studio for nearly three years, and it's one of his best efforts: from the booming drum reports of the opening "Black & White New York" to the closing strains of "Texas Tower #4," it displays the peerless pop smarts and unabashed tunefulness that are his stock-in-trade. Keene will play with a full band here. Cracklin Moth opens. a 10:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, 18+.

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