Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nash Pays Homage To ‘The Other Kids’ While Doing Fine Without Them

Photo of Shane Fontayne (left) and Graham Nash from Nash’s Facebook page.

Before Graham Nash was even half way through his performance this past Sunday night at the Athenaeum Theatre, some guy yelled a request for “Chicago.”

“Do you think I’d come to this city and not play that song?” Nash asked. “Patience, my dear.”

While it was obvious he would save “Chicago” for almost last, the rest of the concert was not as predictable. Nash was once again joined by Shane Fontayne, a versatile guitarist-vocalist who’s also toured with Sting and Bruce Springsteen, but unlike his other recent shows in our area, there was a third party on stage. Keyboards player-vocalist Todd Caldwell is also a familiar companion for Nash, having toured with Crosby, Stills and Nash in the past.

Caldwell and Fontayne enabled Nash to recreate the three part harmonies he perfected with his supergroup mates, whom he described at one point during the show as, “the other kids.” “Marrakesh Express,” “Pre-road Downs,” “Wasted On The Way,” and the rarely performed “Carried Away” were delivered with impeccable singing. They also pulled off a spirited version of Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” as well as his breathtaking “Find The Cost Of Freedom.” That was followed immediately by Neil Young’s “Ohio,” which was driven by Fontayne’s ferocious strumming and climaxed with Nash leading the crowd in a chant of, “Four dead in Ohio.”

Fontayne also added extra power to “Wind On The Water,” “Cathedral,” and “I Used To Be A King.” The quieter moments came on “Golden Days” from Nash’s 2016 solo effort This Path Tonight, “Simple Man,” and “Sleep Song.” Nash mentioned the recent Joni 75 all-star birthday concert (and upcoming film) for Joni Mitchell while introducing his exquisite love song to her, “Our House.” There was only one Hollies song this time out, a well-crafted take on “Bus Stop.” I’d still love to see Nash come to terms with the Hollies portion of his career, perhaps devoting an entire concert or album to reworked versions of his best material with them.

As for “Chicago,” it served as a rousing first encore, bringing the crowd to its feet to sing along on, “We can change the world.” After a gorgeous rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” Nash had everyone joining in again on “Teach Your Children,” which he dedicated to the high school activists campaigning to end gun violence.


Monday, March 18, 2019


All three original members of The Stray Cats will kick off a 40th Anniversary Tour on June 21 and will continue through August 31. Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom, and Lee Rocker don’t land on American soil until an August 3 date in Atlantic City NJ, and they’ll follow that with stops in New York City; Vienna, VA; Huber Heights, OH; Grand Rapids, MI; Welch, MN; Salt Lake City, UT, and San Diego and Los Angeles in CA. Hard to imagine why Chicago isn’t included. At least we’ll be able to buy the new album The Stray Cats have recorded—their first in 26 years. Stray Cats 40 comes out May 24.

Phil Angotti, one of Chicago’s best tribute acts, will be joining fellow musician (and presumably fellow Beatles fan) John Bowes for some ‘70s McCartney tunes tomorrow night (March 19) at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. The rock show starts at eight, so don’t be late. In previous shows, Angotti has honored The Beatles, Elvis Costello, The Zombies, The Kinks, and other acts.

Lollapalooza 2019 tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and there’s a good chance they’ll sell out almost immediately again without any of the performing acts being named. We do know there will be over 170 acts performing on eight different stages. This year’s event runs August 1 through August 4.

Tickets go on sale this Friday morning for The Squeeze Songbook 2019 show at the Chicago Theatre on August 31. Other cities on the U.S. tour include New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. It looks like it’s being billed as The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook for the European dates later in the fall. By either name, it’s bound to be a great time.


Friday, March 15, 2019


First, a hearty welcome to Graham Nash, who’s in town for a concert this Sunday night at The Athenaeum Theatre on Chicago’s north side. It’s a benefit for the Old Town School Of Folk Music’s music education programs. He’ll be performing songs from his entire career, with help from guitarist-vocalist Shane Fontayne and keyboards player-vocalist Todd Caldwell.

St. Patricks’s Day is this Sunday but the entire weekend will be filled with celebrations around town. The Irish American Heritage center on Chicago’s northwest side will be rocking Saturday with live music, dance, food and drinks, children’s activities, an art gallery and more from 1:00 p.m. to midnight.

Singer-songwriter William Steffey has a release party tonight for his latest solo effort Reality Jockey at the Esquina venue at 4602 N. Western in Chicago. The album is available on CD, vinyl, and digital.

How soon will Morrissey be performing at the Ravinia Festival? Pretty close to now. He’s one of the recently announced artists scheduled for the summer-long series of outdoor concerts in Highland Park, IL. Ringo Starr and his AllStar Band will share a double bill with The Beach Boys, and other shows include Sting; Ramsey Lewis; Sarah McLachlan; John Prine; Buddy Guy with Blues Traveler and Shemekia Copeland; Tony Bennett; and Lyle Lovett and his Large Band.

Speaking of Morrissey, he also has a run on Broadway coming up at the beginning of May, and a new album called California Son that features him covering songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Season EIGHT of Asian Pop-Up Cinema is underway, and will feature contemporary Asian films with English subtitles at AMC River East 21 and a few other locations through April 24.

The 22nd Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival runs through April 4 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The Jewish Film Festival runs through this Sunday March 17, with screenings at various venues, including Arclight Cinema, Cinemark, and Music Box Theatre.

Girl with the guitar says all right for British Invasion band. The Zombies have announced on social media Susanna Hoffs will present them when they’re inducted into the The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on March 29. Hoffs is a perfect choice considering the major influence bands like The Zombies, The Beatles, and The Hollies have had on The Bangles. By the way, my opening sentence to this bit is a reference to Michael Quercio’s “Girl With The Guitar” with The Three O’Clock. It’s said to be a tribute to Hoffs.

The Juliana Hatfield Three has a spring tour coming up in support of her new album Weird that kicks off with four dates in the U.K. before moving on to America. The stateside gigs include a double bill with Liz Phair at the Out Of Space 2019 event presented by SPACE and Temperance Beer Company in Evanston, IL on June 22. The Juliana Hatfield Three will also be in Evanston on June 20 for a solo show at Out Of Space 2019.

According to a Brad Elvis Facebook post, The Handcuffs have just a few more recording sessions to go before they’ll be ready to mix their next album. Looking forward to it.

Theatre Nebula’s production of the Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening hcontinues its run at Cutting Hall in Palatine through March 24.

The Chicago Philharmonic, led by composer and conductor Tom Nazziola, will provide a live soundtrack for a trio of vintage silent films at 4:00 p.m. on March 24 at the North Shore Center in Skokie. The Silent Sherlock event will present Buston Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr. as the main feature, along with Fadeaway with Koko the Clown and Sure-locked Holmes with Felix the Cat.

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has gig coming up next Friday at The Vic on Chicago’s north side.

Cinema/Chicago will present the CINEYOUTH FESTIVAL featuring young filmmakers from around the world from April 26 through 28 at Music Box Theatre on Southport


Thursday, March 14, 2019

He Comes To Chicago As He Pleases

Graham Nash has been a regular visitor to the Chicago area over the past few years. He’s performed at The Arcada in St. Charles, City Winery Chicago, and The Old Town School of Folk Music, as well as a gig in Skokie that was the only one of his recent tours I missed. His show coming up this Sunday at the Athenaeum Theatre on Chicago’s north side is a benefit for the Old Town School Of Folk Music’s music education programs. According to an article in the Asbury Park Press by Alex Biese (and linked to Nash’s official Facebook page), his current touring band consists of guitarist-vocalist Shane Fontayne and keyboards player-vocalist Todd Caldwell.

Nash has already formed a musical bond with Fontayne, a veteran of tours with Sting and Bruce Springsteen. He and Fontayne crafted gorgeous harmonies together on the concerts mentioned above, and they also write songs together. Caldwell’s resume includes working with Crosby, Stills and Nash. It seems likely the addition of a third player will improve the already impressive team of Nash and Fontayne. This Sunday’s show will be a couple hours long, with an intermission dividing two separate sets. Nash has been including a few Hollies songs in his shows during the past few years, and it would be great to hear him delve even deeper into the earliest days of his stellar career.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Singer-songwriter William Steffey’s 12th solo album Reality Jockey is now available on CD, vinyl, and digital. He has a release party coming up this Friday at the Esquina venue at 4602 N. Western in Chicago. Admission is free and there will be food, drinks, and a raffle. In my review of a previous Steffey effort, Love And Armageddon, I praised the well-crafted pop of “This Show Must Go On” and noted that “Had To Pay” brings to mind Chris Stamey and Crowded House.

New York alt rock veteran Karen Haglof has just released her third solo effort, a 14 track album titled Tobiano. Mitch Easter of Let’s Active fame and Peter Holsapple from The dB’s are among the guest musicians, and Easter mixed the album. Bassist-backing vocalist Steve Almaas played throughout Tobiano and served as producer; CP Roth played drums and piano. As on her 2016 effort Perseverance and Grace, Haglof takes an off-kilter but inviting approach to melodic roots rock songs. I’m hoping to do a more extensive review in the future.

Chicago-based indie Preserve Records is presenting a label showcase at Montrose Saloon next Monday night starting at 8:00 p.m. Friends Of The Bog, the folk-oriented band that played a huge role in creating Preserve Records a little over a year ago, will be performing. Nire Nah, Hal Baum, Pontac, Vender and The Cobras, and To Do List are also scheduled to play at this free event.

As reported by Chris Jones in a recent edition of the Chicago Tribune, a Cubs musical titled Miracle - A Musical 108 Years In The Making is coming soon to the Royal George Theatre at 1641 N. Halsted Avenue. According to lead producer William Marovitz, Miracle celebrates the relief and exuberance long-time fans felt when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. Judging from the drunken Cubs fans I’ve seen stumbling onto the Metra Northwest line at the Irving Park stop on summer nights, A Musical 108 Beers In The Making might be a more apt subtitle. Seriously, this does sound like a fun show, especially since the Cubs have agreed to allow Marovitz to use official footage from the team’s championship year.


Friday, March 8, 2019


The schedule for International Pop Overthrow - Chicago is now online at the official IPO website. A number of favorites will be returning, including Enuff Z’nuff, Jeremy, Magnaphonic, King Mixer, The Webstirs, Three Hour Tour, Michael Steven Cohen, Van Go, Thrift Store Halo, The Collectors, The Unswept, Mike Vanderbilt, Rose Cora Perry And The Truth Untold, The Queue, The Spindles, The Red Wigglers, Dave Rave, Catherine Tecktiel from Magatha Trysty, The Jay Goeppner Band, Rob Schultz Band, The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, The Injured Parties, The Artist Formally Known As Vince, and Scott Niekelski from Go Time. IPO - Chicago takes place at the LiveWire venue on Milwaukee Avenue this year and runs from April 12 through April 20.

Tickets went on sale today for Dave Mason at City Winery Chicago on August 13 and 14; and Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park on August 15.

Singer-guitarist Ani DiFranco will be discussing her new book No Walls and the Recurring Dream with rock critic/author Jessica Hopper at Everybody’s Coffee in Chicago’s Uptown Neighborhood on May 10. The tour will also include stops in New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles.

SXSW kicked of today and will offer live music, conferences, and film screenings at various venues around Austin, Texas through March 17.

I was sad to see on social media that Sara Romweber from Let’s Active has passed away from cancer. The trio emerged in the early 1980s with spirited coed vocals and irresistible power pop songs that included the FM radio hit “Every Word Means No.” Singer-guitarist Mitch Easter is now the only remaining member; bassist-vocalist Faye Hunter left us in 2013. I still have all of their albums.

He comes to Chicago as he pleases. Graham Nash is getting to be a regular visitor here, with a number of concerts in town over the past few years. I’ve seen him at The Arcada in St. Charles, City Winery Chicago, and the Old Town School Of Folk Music. His concert next Sunday, March 17 at The Athenaeum Theatre is a benefit for the Old Town School Of Folk Music’s music education programs.

Local bands Sonia Dada; The Way Moves; Nicholas Tremulis and The Prodical 9; and Dick Holiday and The Bamboo Gang join host WXRT air personality Lin Brehmer for Kocour Fest – A Celebration of the Life of Steve Kocour this Monday, March 11 at Metro. Kocour was a highly regarded and popular sound/lighting expert and teacher who worked with several bans in the Chicago area.

I had never heard of Peter Capaldi before his terrific portrayal of The Doctor on Doctor Who, and now that I’m following him on social media, I’d like to be in a comedy group with him.

The One Earth Film Festival continues to screen environmentally friendly films throughout the Chicago area through March 10. See the official website for times and locations. The 22nd Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival opened today at the Gene Siskel Film Center and runs through April 4. The Jewish Film Festival runs through March 17, with screenings at various venues, including Arclight Cinema, Cinemark, and Music Box Theatre.

Looks like I’m not the only one who writes rock and roll fiction. Pete Townshend, whose rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia were packed with drama, humor, and vivid characters, has a novel titled Age Of Anxiety coming out in November. Reportedly, it’s about his generation and the music industry in general.

As reported by Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune and Stefano Esposito in the Chicago Sun-Times, Steppenwolf Theatre is getting a $54 million upgrade. The additions include a 400-seat theater-in-the-round and an education center. The highly acclaimed Steppenwolf was the starting point for John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, and Laurie Metcalf.

Theatre Nebula’s production of the Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening has begun its run at Cutting Hall in Palatine and will continue through March 24. Kevin Wiczer directs a cast of 13, with choreography by Kristine Burdi.

Also in Palatine, Christie’s Dairy Delights in downtown Palatine will present its next Rock ‘N Roll Ala Mode open mic event on March 13.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Official Release: Various Artists - 3X4

The concept behind 3X4 was to reignite the psychedelic atmosphere and catchy songs of the early 1980s Paisley Underground by bringing together some of the era’s best-known participants. The album was released last November as part of the Black Friday Record Store Day limited vinyl editions, but was recently given an official release. The curveball here is that the four major players from that Los Angeles scene recorded new versions of each other’s vintage songs.

The Bangles are the best known of the acts involved, but don’t expect anything resembling “Eternal Flame.” This is the band as their true fans know them; mixing 1960s pop and garage rock with lush harmonies and strong melodies. The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, and Rain Parade follow the same blueprint, and like The Bangles, they sound like they’re having a blast on 3X4. After all, this is music they’ve known and loved for decades.

The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn states in the extensive liner notes that he wanted his band’s new version of The Salvation Army (a precursor of The Three O’Clock) song “She Turns To Flowers” to capture the original’s “beautiful chaos,” and the result is a mind-bending gem. The Bangles’ exotic take on Rain Parade’s “Talking In My Sleep” features tabla playing from guest musician Meena Makhijani, and The Three O’Clock capture the lilting arrangement of The Dream Syndicate’s psychedelic “What She’s Done To Your Mind.”

Rain Parade slows the tempo a bit on The Bangles’ romantic “The Real World,” giving it a delicate beauty as well as ringing guitars. But the best example of how well 3X4 works comes on The Dream Syndicate’s guitar-fueled take on The Bangles’ first hit “Hero Takes A Fall,” which features Linda Pitmon and Bangle Vicki Peterson supporting Steve Wynn on backing vocals. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more collaborations from these for bands and even a tour.

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