Monday, May 21, 2018


Cheap Trick has a new single called “The Summer Looks Good On You” available to stream or download from various sites. (I went the iTunes route.) It’s a classic catchy and powerful Cheap Trick arrangement with a message that’s both flirtatious and supportive. Check out their Facebook page for the link.

Todd Rundgren’s band Utopia is now touring for the first time in 32 years, and they’ll be at the Chicago Theatre tomorrow night. It’s a great venue to hear some adventurous progressive rock.

U2 is bringing its eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour to the United Center this Wednesday night. The band’s 2017 effort Songs Of Experience album drew favorable reviews in the media, including here on Broken Hearted Toy. The tour title suggests U2 will be concentrating on more recent material (Songs Of Innocence was released in 2014) but hopefully they’ll perform older favorites like “I Will Follow,” “Pride In The Name Of Love,” and “Vertigo.”

The Imperial Sound, a seven-piece soulful rock band that comprises veterans of The Service, New Duncan Imperials, The Goldstars, EXPO’ 76, The Krinkles, Devil In A Woodpile, Mucca Pazza, and Jay Davis Trio, is performing at the GMan Tavern on Clark Street this Thursday night. There are six vocalists in this band. Their debut album The New AM is due out soon, and fans can get a preview on the official website. The Handcuffs (also working on a new album) will be the opening act for the show this Thursday. The music starts at 9:00 p.m.

The above mentioned EXPO ’76 will be returning to my sleepy hometown of Palatine this Friday night for another evening of fun and unpredictable cover versions. The music starts at 8:45.

Also in Palatine this Friday, the Creative Tribal Collab will be holding another open mic night at Christie’s Dairy Delights n’ Coffee from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Maria Jordan will host and Cosmo Bob will be on sound.

Great Moments In Vinyl will be performing Pink Floyd’s entire Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here albums this Friday night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. GMiV has a roster of several local musicians, so you never know which ones will be on hand for a particular show. Friday night’s event starts at 9:00 p.m.


Friday, May 18, 2018


Tickets go on sale tomorrow for Neil Young’s show at the Auditorium Theatre on June 30 and July 1.

Tickets are already on sale for two shows by The Bodeans at City Winery Chicago on November 24; The Church at Lincoln Hall on October 17; The English Beat at Metro on July 6; The Flat Five at FitzGerald’s on September 1; Poi Dog Pondering at Thalia Hall on October 5 and 6; Poster Children at Lincoln Hall on June 29; and Waco Brothers at FitzGerald’s on August 25.

Jessica Risker, a Chicago-based indie/folk performer who’s been getting some positive press lately, has a 2:00 p.m. in-store performance at the Reckless Records on Milwaukee Avenue tomorrow, May 19. She’ll be performing songs from her new album I See You Among The Stars.

The Ripleys have a 9:30 p.m. show tomorrow night at FADO just north of downtown at Clark and Grand. FADO is known for its Irish food and decor, but The Ripleys will be more likely to perform tunes by Tom Petty and The Beatles than jigs and reels. And maybe a U2 cover.

The real U2 returns to the Chicago area with its eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour next Wednesday, May 23 at the United Center.

Great Moments In Vinyl will perform the entire Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here albums at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue next Friday, May 25.

Empower, a new opera that explores the experiences of growing up on the south side of Chicago, will be performed on May 31 at the Lyric Opera Of Chicago. The work features a script adapted by Ike Holter and music by Damien Sneed and is a collaboration with the Chicago Urban League. Tickets are $10–$20.

Graham Nash, Cliff Richard, Todd Rundgren and Lee Ann Womack are among the guest vocalists covering Motown classics on legendary songwriter/producer Lamont Dozier’s new Reimagination album. Nash performs a Supremes medley that includes “Stop In The Name Of Love.” He previously covered that song with The Hollies on their What Goes Around reunion album in 1983.

Streetwise, the nonprofit publication that helps homeless people get back on their feet, is hosting The Cool Party on June 23 at The Chop Shop/1st Ward. There will be live bands and an art show.

The Vinyl Merchant is having a Record Pop-Up event at Patio at Peckish Pig in Evanston on Sunday, May 27. The Pop-Up store will also be at that location on June 10 and June 24.

Soundtrack Serenade members Charlie Short, Holly Senchak Dausch, Mark Winkler, Chris Anderson, and Neal Alger will reunite for an evening of songs from the High Fidelity flick at Quenchers Saloon on June 6. Tim Grimes will serve as MC. The gig is a farewell to the beloved Quenchers bar, which is closing soon.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties, a new movie that introduces outer space aliens to London’s punk scene in 1977, opens next Friday, May 25. It’s based on a story by Neil Gaiman and stars Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman.

Neil Gaiman fans might also want to check out Lifeline Theatre’s adaptation of his novel Neverwhere when it opens on June 7. It’s been adapted by Robert Kauzlaric and is being directed by Ilesa Duncan.

While making my weekly trip to downtown Chicago today, I was pleasantly surprised to spot my nephew on the cover of Modern Luxury’s Men’s Book Chicago summer edition. The Magazine For The Modern Gentleman (that may sound like sleazy but it’s not) has a cover story titled Chefs On The Rise and proclaims, “Joe Flamm Leads The Next Genaration.” Joe is currently Executive Chef at Spiaggia, and won the most recent season of Top Chef on Bravo. Ken Biffar at Sienna Tavern; Ryan Pfeiffer at Blackbird; Kyleen Aronson at Acadia; Andres Padilla at Rick Bayless’ Restaurant Group; and Sarah Rinkavage at Marisol are also featured in Ariel Cheung and Jaclyn Jermyn’s article, and all the chefs were artfully rendered by photographer Anthony Tahlier.


Friday, May 11, 2018


The Second Disc website recently reported on Graham Nash’s upcoming two-CD set of demos Over The Years due out in June. The oldest demo is a version of “Marakesh Express” The Hollies rejected when Nash pitched it to them in 1968. There are also demos of classic Nash solo and CSNY material like “Immigration Man,” “Teach Your Children,” “Wind On The Water,” “I Used To Be A King,” and “Chicago/We Can Change The World.” Second Disc writer Randy Fairman also mentioned a double vinyl LP version of Over The Years coming out in August.

Another round of Ravinia tickets became available today, including Earth Wind And Fire on August 17; Beach Boys and The Righteous Brothers on August 24; Lyle Lovett and His Large Band on August 28; John Hiatt and The Goners and Sonny Landreth on August 30; Culture Club and The B-52’s on August 31 and September 1; Jethro Tull on September 3; Gipsy Kings on September 14; and Tony Bennett on September 8.

Tickets also went on sale today for Cracker at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on June 17; Roky Erickson at Lincoln Hall on November 9; Eleanor Friedberger at Empty Bottle on October 5; and Howard Jones at City Winery Chicago on July 9.

The alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess will open for the band Echoes tomorrow night as part of the second optimistically named All Of My Strangers Are Going To Be Friends event at The Store on Halsted. Echo will be celebrating the release of its second CD, Confluence.

Haim’s Sister Sister Sister Tour stops by the Aragon Ballroom tomorrow night. The trio’s new album Something To Tell You is available now.

SPACE in Evanston will host An Evening Of George Harrison Music this Sunday night with performances by Steve Dawson, Phil Angotti, Tommi Zender, Tom Ryan, Dick Schmidt, Diane Christiansen, Natalie Galey, and Jim Barclay. The show starts at 7:00 p.m.

Birdland, writer Simon Stephens’ musical about the chaotic life a rock and roll superstar, continues its critically acclaimed staging at Steep Theatre through June 9.

Ex Norwegian, the Miami-based band whose last three power pop albums have garnered praise here on BHT, has a new one titled No Sleep coming out on June 22. I’ll be reviewing it in the near future. Fans can get a vinyl copy of No Sleep via Ex Norwegian’s page on the QRATES site.

Norwood Park All Stars are veterans of Chicago’s original punk scene and they’ve retained their ability to create authentic punk over the years. Their latest effort N.P.A.S. DOS is out now with 13 new hard-hitting songs. The promo copy came in a cool denim promo package that looks like the back pocket from a pair of faded jeans. I’m looking to review this one in the near future. The Norcore label has also released compilations of vintage Norwood Park punk.

33 To Nothing, a play about a band that’s coming undone due to emotional struggles among its members, runs through May 27 at A Red Orchid Theatre. Aaron Holland plays the band’s lead vocalist.

There’s going to be a documentary about Creem, the cutting-edge rock magazine that was published for 20 years and later made a brief comeback. Check out the Boy Howdy! The Story Of Creem Magazine Facebook page for updates.

There will be a Special Wednesday Night Screening of the original Planet Of The Apes at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge next Wednesday, May 16. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the film. Tickets for the Pickwick screening are $10/$8 Advance, and there will be prelude music provided by Jay Warren.

The Buddy Holly Story continues its month-long run tonight at the American Blues Theater. Lili-Anne Brown directs the Alan Janes play; with music directed by Michael Mahler.

Daniel Ash, of Love And Rockets and Bauhaus fame, has a fun new single called “Alien Love” available for digital download on his official website.

Gomez will stage a 20 Year Celebration Of Bring It On in a WXRT show at The Vic on Friday, June 15, and Saturday June 16.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the Chicago-based David Bowie tribute band with an impressive lineup music scene vets, plans to make up for a gig they had to cancel at Martyrs’ a while back by returning to the venue on July 6.

Chicago music scene veteran Ellis Clark will be celebrating his birthday with a bash on June 30 at Montrose Saloon. In addition to his band Big Parade, The Handcuffs and Fantastic Sound System are also on the bill. Clark has also been a member of The Social Act and one of Chicago’s first punk bands, Epicycle. The music starts at 9:00 p.m.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Sunshine Boys - Blue Music

Sunshine Boys haven’t been around very long but each band member has years of experience on the music scene. Lead vocalist-guitarist Dag Juhlin was a founding member of the Chicago-based punk/pop band The Slugs, and his resume also includes Poi Dog Pondering and the eclectic covers band EXPO ’76. Bassist-backup vocalist Jacqueline Schimmel was a member of Big Hello, the Brad Elvis-Chloe F. Orwell band that preceded their current one The Handcuffs. Drummer Freda Love Smith was part of the Boston-based trio The Blake Babies with Juliana Hatfield and John Strohm, as well as the bands Antenna and Mysteries of Life.

That level of expertise no doubt helped accelerate the path from first gig to debut album, and it’s also likely The Sunshine Boys were eager to get their message out to the public. While most of Blue Music deals with personal and romantic entanglements, there are also urgent calls to action regarding America’s current political and social climate. Whatever the approach, well-crafted lyrics are set to indelible arrangements that combine alt rock with classic guitar-driven 1960s pop.

“Questions” is a heartfelt tale of a budding relationship built on the old-fashioned means of a man and woman exchanging letters, and the doubts they have about each other. The achingly beautiful “Caroline Yes” is another gem about a romance being tested, while “Billy Boy” deals with the challenges and expectations a young man encounters upon graduating high school. Schimmel’s backing vocals give a dreamy quality to “Tripping Through Time,” a catchy look at various events in people’s lives.

“There Goes Another One” doesn’t mention any specific issues, but lines like “Why don’t you speak up?/Why can’t you make a choice?” aim to rouse people from their complacency. “Schoolyard Bully” takes its name from an often-used description of Donald Trump, and bristles with observations like, “He lowers the bar/Sets free the monsters we already are.” “Only A Million Miles” is Blue Music’s most inspiring mix of protest and powerful instrumentation, simultaneously sounding defeated and optimistic. We’ve accomplished so much in terms of social justice, the song proclaims, but far do we still have to go? Only a million miles.


Friday, May 4, 2018


High Fidelity, the coolest film ever made about an indie record store (Empire Records is the only other one I can think of), is being shown tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Chicago Theatre on State Street. There will be a live conversation with the film’s star John Cusack after the screening.

Alice Peacock and Phil Madeira will perform at a WXRT show at SPACE tomorrow night.

Suzanne Vega’s shows for tomorrow night and Sunday night at City Winery Chicago have sold out. Vega will be performing her Solitude Standing and 99.9 F albums in their entirety.

Eleanor Friedberger has a show tomorrow night at Lincoln Hall. In addition to being half of the critically acclaimed indie rock duo Fiery Furnaces, she’s launched a successful solo career.

Art Encounter, a nonprofit art education organization, is hosting an event to honor gallerist William Lieberman this Sunday, May 6 at the Evanston Women’s Club.

There’s a new album out today from Belly, which reminds me I haven’t played the 10-inch EP they released for Record Store Day. Or any of the other vinyl treasures I bought during this year’s event. Later this month, we’ll see new releases from Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, Ry Cooder, and The Sea And The Cake on the 11th; Matthew Sweet, Ray LaMontagne, and Courtney Barnett on the 18th; and Chvrchs on 25th. The May issue of the Illinois Entertainer has a more extensive list of albums coming out this month.

A picnic basket full of Ravinia shows went on sale today, including Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys (June 1); John Fogerty and ZZ Top (June 12);  Jackson Browne (June 15); Roger Daltry (June 23 and 25); Janis Ian (June 24); and Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang (July 8).

Other shows that went on sale today include The Hot Stove Music event hosted by Theo Epstein at Metro on June 8; The FitzGerald’s annual American Music Festival from June 29 to July 3; Peter Himmelman at SPACE on June 27; Fleetwood Mac at the United Center on October 6; and Death Cab For Cutie at the Auditorium on October 7. For an extensive listing of upcoming concerts in the Chicago area, check out the final page of this week’s Reader.

The Breeders, whose new album All Nerve has been getting rave reviews, will be at The Vic Theatre this Tuesday night.

Haim will be at The Aragon Ballroom next Friday, May 11.

Birdland, writer Simon Stephens’ musical about the chaotic life of a rock and roll superstar, continues its run at Steep Theatre through May 12.

Graham Parker with James Maddock, performs at City Winery Chicago next Thursday, May 10.

The Buddy Holly Story has kicked off a month-long run tonight at the American Blues Theater. Lili-Anne Brown directs the Alan Janes play; with music directed by Michael Mahler.

Lookingglass Theatre Company will be staging Jules Verne’s 20,000 League’s Under The Seas from May 23 through August 19. Adapted by David Kersnar and Althos Low, the production promises ecounters with “the monsters of the sea—and those inside us all.” I’d like to sit in on the auditions for the giant squid.

Amplified: Chicago Blues, an exhibition honoring Chicago’s blues heritage, opened this month at the Chicago History Museum and will run through August 10, 2019. The exhibition will focus on Howlin Wolf, Little Brother Montgomery, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Big Joe Williams, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, and Muddy Waters. The Chicago History Museum is located at 1601 N. Clark Street. Admission is $19 for adults.

33 To Nothing runs through May 27 at A Red Orchid Theatre. Aaron Holland plays the lead vocalist of band that’s coming undone due to emotional struggles among its members.

There will be a Special Wednesday Night Screening of the original Planet Of The Apes at The Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge on May 16. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the film. Tickets for the Pickwick screening are $10/$8 Advance, and there will be prelude music provided by Jay Warren.

There will be an opening reception on May 12 for the Tony Fitzpatrick: The Secret Birds at the DePaul Art Museum. On May 23, Fitzpatrick will have a conversation with Chicago Tribune writer Rick Kogan from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Frisbie 20th Anniversary Celebration

Chicago-based power pop band Frisbie’s 20th Anniversary bash this past Saturday at the Martyrs’ club on Lincoln Avenue definitely lived up to fans’ expectations. Known for its critically acclaimed albums—Subversive Sound Of Love and New Debut—and as an opening act for Cheap Trick, Matthew Sweet, and Big Star, Frisbie has gone through lulls but never actually broke up. So Saturday night’s show was not so much a reunion as the latest sporadically scheduled gig.

In addition to inviting Sunshine Boys and The Plutonians onboard for a triple bill, Frisbie founding members singer-guitarist Steve Frisbie and singer-guitarist Liam Davis, along with long-time drummer Gerald Dowd lined up a few surprise guests for its own set. Before Frisbie launched into its first number, a horn section led by Max Crawford provided a festive overture (arranged by Crawford) featuring snippets of the band’s material. Guest singer Nora O’Connor took over on lead vocals for one song and harmonized perfectly with Steve Frisbie and Liam Davis.

Even those unfamiliar with the band would have to be impressed with how Frisbie and Davis kept their powerful vocals perfectly in synch throughout several power pop songs. Crawford’s horn section pitched in at various times, enabling the band to capture the feel of songs from New Debut. “Shine,” “Disaster,” and “S.F.B.” were particular highlights during the set. Frisbie introduced an impressive new song titled “Long Shot” and added a few covers, including a rollicking take on Brian Eno’s “Needle In The Camel’s Eye.”

Opening act Sunshine Boys performed most of the tracks from its recently recently debut Blue Music. Lead-vocalist Dag Juhlin. bassist-backup vocalist Jacqueline Schimmel, and drummer Freda Love Smith have impressive resumes as musicians and they’ve gelled perfectly in this new trio. “Questions” and “Billy Boy” were heartfelt tales, while “Schoolyard Bully” and “Only A Million Miles” set politically charged lyrics to irrestible, high-energy arrangements. The brand new songs “The Serpent In Spring” and “Sideline Guys” showed Sunshine Boys are already getting strong new material ready for their next release. I wasn’t able to stay for The Plutonics, due to my usual need to catch a bus and the last train back out to Palatine.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

U2 - Songs Of Experience

Critics have been debating whether U2 deserves its lofty status ever since Rolling Stone writer Debra Rae Cohen claimed while reviewing Boy in 1981 that it didn’t mark the band as a “new Next Big Thing.” They were, in her estimation, “only the next best thing to something really new.” Decades of landmark albums and massive sales later, U2 suffered a backlash after distributing a free download of Songs Of Innocence.

For the most part, Songs of Experience arrived without controversy in 2017, garnering favorable press even from the journalists who slammed its predecessor. For those of us who not only graciously accepted Innocence but enjoyed it, Experience serves as further evidence that U2 remains a vital force in rock and roll. It’s an ambitious 17-track effort, that like Innocence, finds lead vocalist Bono trying to make sense of a violent world.

At times, the lyrics serve as a pep talk for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the menacing forces they see around them. “Don’t you ever doubt the light that we can really be,” Bono advises amidst the otherwise dire references in the pulsating techno rocker “The Blackout.” That same healing light metaphor also appears on “Lights Of Home,” and on “13 (There Is A Light).” The catchy, bass-driven “Summer Of Love” offers lines like, “We’ve one more chance before the light goes.”

The call to action on the hard-edged “American Soul” directly addresses the U.S. with lines like,“Let it be unity/Let it be community/For refugees like you and me.” “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” seems to anticipate the youth movement that sprang up only recently. “So young to be the words of your own song,” Bono observes, “I know the rage in you is strong/Write a world where we can belong.”

“Get Out Of Your Own Way” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” the songs that have garnered the most airplay from Experience, relate more to personal relationships. They succeed with the classic U2 elements—Bono’s soaring vocals and The Edge’s shimmering guitar playing. The remixed versions of “Lights Of Home,” with its dramatic string arrangement, and the hip hop infused “You’re The Best Thing About Me (U2 VS KYGO)” make Songs Of Experience even more of an adventure.

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