Concerts in Chicago in April
With the Black Keys on hiatus, Dan Auerbach hits the road behind his latest solo album, Waiting on a Song, which finds the frontman indulging in his love of vintage soul and pop through a selection of lavishly produced arrangements. To add some authenticity to his retro sound, he's backed by a house band made up of session musicians who played with the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Bluesman Robert Finley and surf-punks Shannon and the Clams support.
Aussie dance-pop act Cut Copy masterfully blends plaintive British rock lyricism with bouncy house beats and infectious synth melodies. The group's recent album, Haiku From Zero, embraces the dance floor rhythms and production of the ‘80s and ‘90s, grounding itself in same casually rebellious rave culture mined by acts like LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip. It's the kind of breezy pop that seems to coax some humanity from the machines used to make it. Los Angeles electro-pop act Kauf opens the show.
Virginia singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus is the latest in a long line of young artists who sound wise beyond their years. On her latest album, Histories, Dacus grapples with heartbreak and despair throughout a collection of earnest indie rock ballads that maintain a certain amount of optimism, even in the face of darkness and troubling times. Indie rockers And The Kids and Adult Moms open the show.
Experimental Chicago musician Jaime Fennelly debuts his expansive new Mind Over Mirrors album with a series of concerts at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Inspired by the work of naturalist writer Henry Beston, Bellowing Sun blends Fennelly's otherworldly synthesizer arrangements with otherworldly chants, rhythms and fiddle melodies provided by musicians Jim Becker, Janet Beveridge Bean and Jon Mueller. Surrounded by the audience, the entire performance takes place beneath a rotating illuminated sculpture that lends a shifting aura to the proceedings.
After years of costume changes, video montages and general tomfoolery, parody-master Weird Al Yankovic is hanging up the fat suit for his latest, stripped-down tour. Self-consciously dubbed the Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, the setlists will focus on Yankovic's early songs and original material, dating back to the days of the Dr. Demento Show. Here's hoping that Yankovic treats the shows like an episode of VH1 Storytellers, so that we can finally learn what inspired him to write the 11-minute epic "Albuquerque."
Each year, the Burlington hosts a showcase of exciting female and female-identifying musicians during the daylong Frontwoman Fest. The lineup includes sets from electropop act Superknova, R&B singer Jordanna and experimental rockers Little Church. Decima, Ovef Ow, Glad Rags, Glitter Moneyy, Fauvely, Black Sandwich, Erzulie, Alysha McElroy-Hodges and Freddie Old Soul are also confirmed to perform.
It's become a cliché to say that Ty Segall is prolific, but even as his release schedule has slowed down ever-so-slightly, he's still churning out enough songs that you'll probably need a checklist to keep up. On Freedom’s Goblin, Segall’s 10th full-length album in as many years (countless side-projects notwithstanding), the West Coast garage-rocker once again proves that he’s one of the most capable purveyors of pop melodies drenched in buckets of psychedelic fuzz.
After crafting sprawling prog-rock based on a Japanese folktale and paying tribute to musical heroes R.E.M., the Decemberists take another unexpected turn on the group's latest album, I'll Be Your Girl. The record's first three songs recast Colin Meloy and company has a buoyant synth-pop act, revealing a jaunty, fun-loving side of the band that often gets lost amid its earnest refrains and ambitious conceptual undertakings. Nautical indie-pop outfit Tennis support.
During the early ‘90s, Afghan Whigs and Built to Spill both managed to land major label record deals on the heels of critically-acclaimed independent releases. Decades later, they're hitting the road together on a co-headlining tour that could be pegged as nostalgic if not for the fact that both groups are still producing vital work. While the Afghan Whigs explore melodramatic alt-rock, you can expect Built to Spill to supply the triumphant guitar solos. Electro-pop duo Rituals of Mine open the show.
Ever since he started rapping in the ‘80s, Bronx MC Kool Keith has been known by many names, including Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom. With the exception of a single major-label release (1999's Black Elvis/Lost in Space) Keith has remained independent as a hip-hop artist, harnessing his eccentric flow with the help of producers such as Dan the Automator and DJ Qbert. During his latest appearance in Chicago, Keith teams up with local hip-hop duo the Palmer Squares.
Sporting makeup inspired by Japanese Noh theater (this isn’t a KISS cover band), Canadian collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan creates operatic prog-rock that imagines dystopian worlds of the future. Somewhere between metal, punk and droning noise rock, the band's latest release, Dirt, was conceived as a soundtrack for an unreleased Haudenosaunee- and Buddhist-themed anime movie about a flooded world in which people live in floating bubbles and fight for soil.
Texas trio Khruangbin draws inspiration from ‘60s Thai funk (the band's name translates to "engine fly" in Thai) and a myriad of other genres, channeling taut grooves and psychedelic riffs on its latest album, Con Todo El Mundo. Twin-brother jazz-fusion duo Mattson 2 open the show.
Named for a winding ice hockey drill, local instrumental metal trio Russian Circles has long been one of the city's most skilled purveyors of heavy, serpentine melodies. The group reemerges for a pair of shows at the Empty Bottle, on the heels of its 2016 album, Guidance—a relatively succinct collection of propulsive post-rock anthems that showcases the band's taut interplay and moody atmosphere. Doom rockers King Woman open on April 22 and Kentucky rocker Jaye Jayle supports on April 24.
Blending indie rock with flourishes of mariachi, country, jazz and Americana, Calexico (as its name implies) makes music that draws on an entire continent of influences. The band's new record, The Thread That Keeps Us, confronts a natural disaster, written in the wake of wildfires that ravaged the band's home state of Arizona. While the subject matter can be tragic at times, the group lends a grand, cinematic scope to its heartbroken melodies. Local guitarist (and hilarious Twitter personality) Ryley Walker opens the show.
New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi slips on his leather vest for another tour with his namesake arena rock act, armed with a catalog of beloved hair metal anthems. The jeans may not be as tight (and the hair not quite as coiffed) as they were in the ’80s, but if you've ever witnessed a rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" at a karaoke bar, you know how much people love singing along to the band's cheesy working-class odes.
Spielberg's go-to man John Williams returns to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for four nights, performing selections from his iconic scores for films such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Minority Report and Star Wars. At 86-years-old, the composer has more familiar themes under his belt than most of his contemporaries—though he has hinted that Star Wars Episode IX will likely be his last soundtrack for a galaxy far, far away. If you love to listen to film soundtracks, you need to see Williams at the head of an orchestra.
While working as a mailman in Chicago in the ‘60s and regularly performing at open mics, John Prine's simple and impactful folk music caught the ear of Kris Kristofferson, launching his career as a professional singer-songwriter. Several decades later, Prine's eloquent songcraft has garnered prominent fans such as Bob Dylan and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. At this special hometown show, Prine will look back on his storied career and debut material from The Tree of Forgiveness—his first album of new songs in nearly 13 years.
Each year, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy brings his guitars to the Vic to perform a pair of shows benefiting a (yet-to-be-named) educational institution in Chicago. The first 30 people in line at each show are able to submit suggestions for the all-request setlists, which typically include Wilco rarities, Uncle Tupelo tracks and selections from Tweedy's various side projects. If you've been dying to hear a live rendition of "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard," you should probably snag a ticket.
Roots drummer, Tonight Show bandleader, author and Twitter personality Questlove holds court at the official Chicago Humanities Festival afterparty. The celebration goes down at Virgin Hotels' Cerise rooftop, with a DJ set from Quest (who is a deft selector of killer tracks) and drinks specials from Revolution Brewing and Dark Matter Coffee.