Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blistering Solos, Superb (and likable) Singer Make for a Scintillating Slash n' Burn Evening -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators
with Foxy Shazam, The Lovehammers
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
September 28, 2012

I certainly have no real knowledge of the bones of contention between Axl Rose and Slash (and the rest of Guns N’ Roses) that brought about GnR’s premature breakup and subsequent unilateral resurrection--and hired-hand propagation--by Axl.

But based on my perceptions over the years, I side with Slash.

Certainly, the guitarist formerly known as Saul Hudson–and his fellow ostracized Gunners–have had well-publicized  substance issues during and since the band’s late-‘80s/early-90s heyday, and who knows if Slash is a wonderful guy. But Axl, while a terrifically talented singer and musician, has long seemed like one of the world’s biggest assholes.

If nothing else--though Axl's actions have perpetually been cringe-inducing--when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, Slash was open to, and even hoping for, a full reunion of the original lineup. But Axl, who has recorded and toured under the Guns N' Roses moniker with substitute sidemen for years now, didn't show up and asked not to be inducted or mentioned. Plus, he banned fans from wearing Slash shirts to his shows.

I never saw Guns N' Roses back in their heyday, in part because of Axl's known tendency not to take the stage until after midnight, regardless of the listed showtime. Although I did see, and enjoy, Axl's version of GnR in 2002, his proclivity for disrespectful tardiness and other lunacy largely prompted me to skip last year's show at the Allstate Arena--which started after 11pm but did garner strong reviews.

Well, even though there's a ton of dough to be made from a true Guns N' Roses reunion, and I would certainly show up for one, if Slash can make a decent living playing shows like he did Friday night at a considerably less-than-full Riviera, I think he may be all the better for leaving Axl completely in the rearview mirror.

With another tempestuous singer--Scott Weiland--seemingly having mothballed Velvet Revolver (which featured Slash and other ex-Gunners), Slash has now hooked up with a tremendously talented vocalist who seemingly comes without all the drama.

Myles Kennedy is the lead singer of Alter Bridge, a band I've never listened to because it was otherwise made up of guys from Creed. But he was also chosen to work with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham a few years ago when they were trying to get Robert Plant to agree to a reunion tour. So I assumed he had pretty good chops, and though Apocalyptic Love, the 2012 album by "Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators"--I suggest Slash N' Burn as a better band name--isn't on par with GnR's Appetite for Destruction, it has a fair share of good songs.

So while the chance to hear several Guns N' Roses classics, plus a couple of Velvet Revolver singles--all impressively handled by an amiable Kennedy, who apologized for being under the weather despite sounding great--was what brought me to the Riv, what made the performance an even more rousing success was the solidity of the new songs and others from past Slash projects.

Ferocious renditions of GnR's "Nightrain," "Civil War," "Rocket Queen" (featuring blow-your-mind soloing from Slash), "Out Ta Get Me" (wonderfully sung by bassist Todd Kerns), "Sweet Child o' Mine" and the closing "Paradise City" were a sheer delight, but tracks like "No More Heroes," "Anastasia" and "You're A Lie," among others, filled out a well-balanced, well-paced setlist--see it here--and showed that this wasn't simply a Guns N' Roses tribute band with a singer that may be even better than Axl these days.

As for Slash, while I've loved his work with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, I've admittedly given more heed to his unique look and having one of rock's best stage names than properly appreciating him as a virtuoso guitarist.

Well, forget the fact that they don't make uniquely-styled rock gods like Slash anymore. Throughout a generous 2-hour show, he delivered one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen from a guitar player.

Song after song featured blistering yet soulful solos, and on a extended instrumental bluesy jam--but not just then--his fretwork was jaw-dropping.

In a month in which I've seen Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Maximo Park, Madonna, Prince and Peter Gabriel, this was a show I'd been eyeballing but wasn't sure I was going to catch. Fortunately for me, walk-up tickets were readily available at the Riv and a balcony seat was easy to come by. Not only was it a supremely enjoyable blast-from-the-past, with the present and future also boding well for Slash, Myles and crew (Kerns, guitarist Frank Sidoris and drummer Brent Fitz were co-Conspirators), but it wound up being--somewhat surprisingly so--one of the best concerts I've seen in 2012.

There were even two rather enjoyable opening acts. First up was Chicago's Lovehammers, which delivered a solidly hard-rocking yet melodic 20-minute set in which it was clear why frontman Marty Casey got some acclaim on the short-lived Rock Star reality show few years back.

Foxy Shazam
And then came the oddest rock band I've ever witnessed: Foxy Shazam. Featuring a spasmodic singer named Eric Sean Nally who kept doing somersaults, a hyper-kinetic keyboardist who at one point played while crowd-surfing and a shirtless, freaky-dancing horn player, they were--as I heard a nearby audience member say--"either psychotic or brilliant."

Or both, as despite all the nuttiness, they had several songs that sounded pretty good, including one called "Unstoppable." To get a sense of what I'm talking about, here's a clip of them doing "I Like It" recently in Indianapolis.

And to get a sense of how good Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators were, here's a YouTube clip of "Sweet Child O' Mine" someone (stakbrown80; click for more vids) shot at the Riv:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A More Than 'So'-So Show, In My Eyes -- Chicago Concert Review: Peter Gabriel - 'So': Back to Front

Concert Review

Peter Gabriel
United Center, Chicago
September 27, 2012

I have always considered Peter Gabriel an artist of great integrity, all the more so because he has resisted milking the cash cow of a Genesis reunion. So it seemed somewhat askew that without having released a new album of original music in 10 years, and only 2 in the last 20, he is touring around the conceit (gimmick?) of playing his most commercially successful album—1986’s So—in its entirety.

That the current tour brought him back to the United Center just 15 months after his more unique outing with the New Blood Orchestra failed to fill the joint—even if Thursday’s gig was also well shy of full—made the occasion seem all the more economically enterprising.

So be it.

I am all for extoling great albums—and the art form itself—and even if the recent trend of classic rock tours being marketed around in-full live renditions of landmark recordings saps some of the surprise and spontaneity out of concert performances, you know you’ll be hearing stuff you like for at least 40 minutes.

And while I don’t think So is Gabriel’s best solo album—that would probably be his third eponymous one, released in 1980—nor is it precisely its 25th anniversary anymore, it still holds up as an excellent piece of music that was a joy to hear in full (only purists will care that “In Your Eyes” was moved to the end onstage and played as an extended version).

Of course, being the brilliant and innovative artist that he is, Gabriel didn’t just take the stage with his band—musicians who had played on So and its terrific tour I caught in 1987—and dive into album opener “Red Rain” (following three nights of “Purple Rain” at the same venue).

Having, at 8pm sharp, introduced a pair of background singers—Swedes Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson—who delivered a pleasant 4-song opening set in lieu of Ane Brun who had dropped off the tour due to illness, Peter reappeared at 8:40, sitting a piano with the house lights up and initially accompanied only by bassist Tony Levin, to begin his performance with a new song in progress called “OBUT.” It sounded pretty good on a first hearing.

Given rock concert convention, it felt a bit odd that even as guitarist David Rhodes, drummer Manu Katché and original E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious joined the action (along with the background vocalists), the house lights remained up for the next 3-1/2 songs. But luckily the crowd remained respectfully quiet and in a weird way, I was able to better focus on the compositions themselves as Gabriel delivered emotive acoustic versions—during what he called the first of the concert’s three parts—of “Come Talk to Me,” “Shock the Monkey” and “Family Snapshot” from albums that preceded and followed So.

During the last song above, a jolt of electricity surged through the band as the house lights came down. With greater amplification and a bit more punch, the ensemble mined Gabriel’s stellar catalog for six songs, including a sweet version of “Solsbury Hill.”

Although this was supposedly still part of the appetizer before the entrée of So in full, I was impressed by how unrushed Gabriel and crew were in delivering lengthy, delicate and/or complex renditions of lesser-known gems like “Secret World,” “The Family and the Fishing Net,” “No Self Control” and “Washing of the Water.” (Though I’m naming most of it, you can see the full setlist on

After about an hour, with scant introduction, Gabriel launched into “Red Rain.” Although his voice, at age 62, is a touch gruffer than in his younger days, it is still a terrifically impressive instrument, perhaps even with added gravity due to the slight rasp. And though he is not the onstage dervish he was in delivering the 1987 show I still recall as outstanding, despite a bit of paunch he brought some fun physicality to “Sledgehammer.”

Though I have never considered it my favorite song on the album, “Don’t Give Up” was probably the most sublimely rendered on this night, with Abrahamson sounding fantastic on the Kate Bush part. Gabriel sang “Mercy Street” theatrically lying on his back and aptly illustrated that there was much artistry to a “filler” song like “We Do What We’re Told,” which came off better than the more commercial “Big Time.”

Although I have heard slightly more ebullient renditions of “In Your Eyes,” the elongated live version featured great drumming from Katché and as a set-closing showcase, reiterated that it has long superseded “Sledgehammer” as So’s centerpiece song.

Gabriel ended the highly enjoyable evening—which suffered only slightly from the premeditated pacing—with a 2-song encore. I didn’t recognize the first tune, “The Tower That Ate People,” but it sounded good and featured the show’s most elaborate set design, with a pretty nifty twist at the end (see photo below).

The show closed with “Biko,” one of the greatest songs of social activism every written and one of rock’s most gripping show closers ever, but on this night it felt somewhat forced and out of place. Particularly when, instead of the crowd continuing to chant “Uh-uh-ohhh” long after the musicians walk off stage—as in the past—the chanting stopped when the song did, and was almost immediately followed by an announcement that you could buy an official bootleg of the show by going to Peter Gabriel’s website.

“Biko”—about slain South African anti-aparteid activist Stephen Biko—is so good as to never be bad to hear, but as I’ve shared with Mr. Gabriel (though his Facebook page) it would’ve been special to hear “Games Without Frontiers” or even Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” The latter would’ve been an especially huge surprise, but on an evening that was So prefabicated, this monkey would’ve enjoyed being shocked by a rather unexpected ending. (And not the kind Prince delivered on Monday.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not a Contradiction of Conscience, Just the Apple of My iPhone

My iPhone 5 arrived from China yesterday and has already supplanted my iPhone 4 as the single best product I have ever owned.

Mind you, the home button of my iPhone 4 had become largely unresponsive and the battery seemed to drain almost completely every single day, even with only moderate use. Also, when I spoke without using a headset, people often couldn't hear me.

So durability may not have been the 4's finest feature, but this is how I justify—to myself—why I needed to order a 5, which shipped from China because I didn’t care enough to bother camping out at an Apple Store.

Of course, an even truer reason is that I have loved my iPhone since I got the initial version in December 2007, then upgraded to the 4 in June 2010—never bothering with the 3, 3S or 4S. Being qualified for an upgrade, I candidly couldn’t resist acquiring the newest and coolest edition.

Is it absolutely necessary? Of course not. I lived without an iPhone for 39 years and without any cell phone for roughly 30, and in some ways was probably better off for it.

Will it make me cooler, smarter, richer or happier? No, no, no and not substantially.

Is it worth the $200 it cost? Depends on how you look at it. If the choice was between getting an iPhone 5 and covering my mortgage, paying for prescriptions or buying food, of course it wasn’t necessary. But if you consider that I don’t have a home phone and that in 2012, I’ve spent $0 on shoes, outerwear, small appliances and computer software, almost nothing on office supplies, under $50 on alcohol (for home use or at any & all venues/establishments), less than $200 on new clothes and basically nothing on bank account/ATM fees, if the iPhone 5 falls into the Household/Personal Supplies & Services category, I think I’m well under budget.

Yet a friend asked me--jokingly, but I've heard this line of reasoning elsewhere--given how disdainful I am about the devastation wreaked by the "corporatocracy," don't I feel any moral compunction enriching the most successful corporation on Earth? Perhaps now even more so given the worker riots at an iPhone factory in China.

Similar, but much more venomous incredulity, has been spewed in the direction of Occupy protesters and other activists. "They hate the rich, but yet they have iPhones," goes the logic (I used the term loosely). "Don't they see the irony of buying into what they're supposedly protesting."

Simply put--without proper knowledge to loop in the dissension of the Chinese protesters or their reasons--this line of thinking is silly, even stupid. I don't speak for anyone else or what they may believe, but, in short:
My ire over the (used as shorthand) "1%" has never been about envy, wealth, living well, non-egregious/elitist materialism, consumerism or even uncorrupted capitalism.
What I--and imaginably others--repudiate is corruption, fraud, rampant greed & tax avoidance among those with at least tens of millions, and a lack of both humanity and fairness.
This is a bit tangential, but recently it was revealed that Mitt Romney said something to the extent of not caring about the "47%" of Americans who don't pay taxes and mooch off the government (his incorrect statistic and insinuations, not mine). While all of my liberal friends lambasted this line of thinking, I imagine there were other people who shared Mitt's derision over perceived freeloaders. That's their right, even if I find such elitism repugnant, but it also ignores the truth that numerous Wall Street millionaires, even billionaires, would have lost everything they had--by losing bets they consciously made--if not for being bailed out by the government. So by Mitt's logic, it would seem the system should provide a safety net for the rich, but not basic sustenance for the poor.

So what I really want is a fair playing field, not for companies to fail or rich people to vaporize.
I have no problem whatsoever with anyone who earns a fortune honestly and earnestly, based on intelligence, effort, talent and/or ingenuity, and gives their fair share back to society through taxes and charitable contributions.
In fact I admire it.
While I don’t care much about overt materialism, and have never aspired to Mercedes or mansions, I certainly like being able to enjoy my life. Who wouldn’t?

Obviously, this means different things to different people, in terms of how they spend whatever money they have to be spent in discretionary ways. Some people like fancy shoes or pricey jeans. Some people think it’s important to send their kids to parochial schools. Some people easily drop $50 or more on a night of casual drinking.

As long as it’s legal and doesn’t harm anyone else, I certainly don’t begrudge anyone what they wish to spend their money on. And I’d be the last to advocate that we all must live spartan lifestyles in order to be soulfully satisfied.

This blog certainly portrays my passion for attending a wide array of live events, and occasionally my love of travel. While I try to do both as inexpensively as possible—with ticket discounts, accumulated airline miles, alternatives to paying for parking, willingness to sit in the cheap seats, etc.—clearly these are areas where I spend a fair share of money.

But any parent who has ever had to pay for just one child to get braces has likely outspent my yearly entertainment and travel outlay in an area in which I’ve never had to.

And especially in being once again gainfully—and gratefully—employed (at least for now), well, I don’t think I have to belabor my justification for spending $200 on a new iPhone.

As for further enriching the corporatocracy or buying into a system I think is largely nefarious, perhaps I am guilty of some inconsistency of conscience--and I certainly don't condone the gross mistreatment of workers in the name of profit, if such was the case at the Foxconn factory in China--but I see no ethical dilemma in my purchasing a new iPhone, nor anyone with reasonable means to do so. 

As I said at top without meaning to be hyperbolic, the iPhone is the best product I've ever owned. From the initial launch in 2007, which literally changed the face of all subsequent technology, no product has been better designed, or concept more magnificently executed beyond expectations, than the iPhone. Sure, there have been a few minor engineering missteps, but over intervening 5 years, Apple has made quantum leaps in making the iPhone even better. 

When I got my iPhone 4 in 2010, I was shocked by how much sleeker and cooler it was than my iPhone Classic, which had seemed sublime in every way upon release.

Now, with the iPhone 5 in my hands, I am stunned by how clunky the iPhone 4 appears in comparison. 

To patronize, and yes reward, a company that makes a brilliant, revolutionary product and then keeps improving upon it has absolutely no relevancy to my chagrin about the damage done by the people at Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, etc., who made, then lost fortunes by playing casino games with synthetic CDOs and the like. (For a good briefer on some of the people and practices that deserve to be despised, check out Matt Taibbi's writings for Rolling Stone.)

Does this mean I believe that everyone at Apple is a wonderful, benevolent soul doing all they should for the common good? Or that Apple itself is entirely virtuous and pure? Heck no, and while his contributions to the world of technology were astonishing, I've long gleaned that the late, great Steve Jobs wasn't always a wonderful guy.

But he sure as heck deserved to get rich, even more so than he did. He essentially created the personal computer, the Macintosh, the operating system nicked by Microsoft, Pixar, the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and more. Capitalism should reward someone like that, even exorbitantly, and I have no problem further enriching Apple for continuing to do great work. They've become uber-successful because they've deserved to, not because they bilked their clients or pushed numbers around and wound up destroying a huge chunk of the world's wealth.

Besides, the iPhone 5 is just damn cool. And I like it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Majestically Talented Prince Still Reigns, Albeit Quite Purplexingly -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

United Center, Chicago
September 24, 2012

Until the "end," and what happened after, I didn't think Prince's show Monday at the United Center--the first of three put on sale--was nearly as bad as some other reviews (1, 2, 3) seem to be suggesting.

More than not, I rather enjoyed it and found the basis of most complaints (lack of structure, preponderance of song snippets, heavy showcasing of background vocalists) to be fully in keeping with the two Prince shows I'd previously seen (in 2000 and 2004).

So although I may have preferred a performance that was formatted and presented a bit differently, I pretty much got what I expected, at least until the Princester decided to pull a rude ruse on his fans, some of whom paid $150 and up for tickets (I didn't).

But let me back up and say that while there are a number of musical artists I favor, there really is no one alive--not even just in music--who I can readily suggest as being any more talented than Prince. Given his prodigious gifts as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, musician who can play myriad instruments, dancer, producer, arranger and concert performer, there are relatively few people who can match any of his talents, let alone the combined array of them.

At Monday night's inaugural Welcome 2 Chicago concert, his multi-faceted artistry was frequently on dazzling display. From one moment to the next, Prince channeled James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger with equal aplomb. And rather than a typically structured concert comprised of a song, then another song, then another song, etc., Prince put on his own non-stop funk festival in which he showcased creations of his made famous by others—“The Bird” and “Jungle Love” (The Time), Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre,” and “Nothing Compares to You” (Sinead O'Connor)—as well as covers of The Impressions' "We're A Winner" and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.”

Even at 54, the artist originally, formerly and currently known as Prince seemingly hasn’t lost a step--at least to someone who never saw him way back when. Dressed in a half-black, half-white suit that pretty much summed up the audience, he was a kinetic presence as he moved about the unpronounceable symbol-shaped stage in the center of the UC floor. Between singing, dancing, playing the guitar and piano, and even in frequently sharing the spotlight with—or fully ceding it to—female backup singers (as on Shelby Johnson's rendition of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel") Prince was never less than entertaining, until he wasn’t, but more on that in a moment.

There was no denying his virtuosity and to me, no debate that his show was much more acutely enjoyable than the one I saw Madonna deliver at the same venue last Wednesday. Suddenly, it seems to be 1985 all over again, with Prince, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen being the biggest concert acts to hit Chicago over the past 3 weeks.

While I liked Prince much more than Madonna, he wasn’t nearly as good as Bruce. This might seem an obvious opinion coming from such a devoted Springsteen fanatic, but I would concede that Prince is not only more extensively talent than the Boss, but also has a catalog that’s just as deep (even if I’m not as big a fan of it).

But unlike the outstanding examples of end-to-end bliss Springsteen produced at Wrigley a few weeks ago, the Prince show felt more like a demonstration of amazing talent than a fully satisfying concert. And Prince pissed off his own fans in a way that I don’t believe Bruce ever has.

That Prince took the stage—rising through a trap door in the middle of the symbol—a tad after 9:00pm for an 8:00pm show that had no opening act didn’t bother me at all; in fact it seemed sort of normal.

And although “Pop Life” was the only strictly Prince-doing-Prince song that I really recognized in a fluid first hour that played like a stream of funkonsciousness, I was readily able to admire what Prince and his band—including a horn section—were doing.

Still, I preferred when he delivered full, largely faithful versions of “Take Me With You,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Cream” and an extended rendition of “Purple Rain.” And if you simply look at the setlist (on, it might be easy to imagine that it was an absolutely fantastic show.

But while his purple majesty gave the crowd a mostly full “Kiss,” as has been his wont in the past, “When Doves Cry” consisted of the audience singing the first two verses before the song morphed into “Sign of the Times,” which also wasn’t played all the way through. And “Darling Nikki” and “I Would Die 4 U” were given merely opening riff teases—to huge applause—only to evaporate.

After about 2 hours, Prince ended the show—or so it seemed—with a couple songs I didn’t recognize. But while I would’ve liked a little more structure and a few more hits, played in full, I was sufficiently impressed, including by a rather scintillating lighting display, to have awarded the show @@@@1/2.

But then things got stupid.

After Prince said thank you and left the stage, the house lights stayed down, no PA music came on and the outline of the symbol-shaped stage remained lit.

Prince had already taken his sweet time coming back onstage after “Purple Rain,” so it didn’t seem impossible that he might reappear after a few minutes of stage mopping that was taking place.

But a few minutes turned into 10, then 20, as some people around me on the 3rd level started to leave while most remained put. On a restroom run, I asked two security guards if they thought it was over, and they said “Yes,” but still I stayed, in the dark, more out of curiosity than any real need to hear Prince tease me with any more song snippets.

Finally, at 11:40pm, the house lights came up and people booed lustily. And seemingly everyone left the building and went out to their cars, except for the heartiest souls who still stuck around—not me—only to be ushered out within 10 minutes, according to reports.

This would’ve been bad enough, that Prince kept people hanging for 40-50 minutes for no reason.

But even worse, I learned today that at about midnight, with conceivably very few people left in the arena, Prince came back onstage and played “1999” and “Little Red Corvette.” There were even unconfirmed Facebook insinuations that he had alerted his fan club to stick around after the lights came on. 

As my friend Paolo said—we were both there but not sitting together—“That’s bullshit.”

While I doubt Prince will lose any sleep that this ridiculousness cost him a 1/2@ on my rating of his show, I am puzzled on why he would go out of his way to be so maddening. The show itself—or at least the first 2 hours of it—wasn’t perfect, but it was sufficiently pleasing, even at times astonishing.

So why end the night by royally pissing everyone—or very close to it—off?​

Seems there was also mass dissension at Prince's after-show gig at the House of Blues, where he himself didn't even play a song.

In addition to Tuesday night's show at the UC, Prince also plays Wednesday, with tickets seemingly still available.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quick Snaps: Photos of the Chicago Bears vs. St. Louis Rams

Although I have seen the vast majority of Chicago Bears football games played during my lifetime, I have only attended about 10 in person. And the last home Bears game I was at was in 2003, the first season after the renovation of Soldier Field.

So today was a real treat, courtesy of my friend Dave, who was graciously given a pair of tickets by a friend of his.

You couldn't ask for a better day to watch a football game, and while the Bears' offense and their oft-maligned quarterback, Jay Cutler, didn't exactly impress, the combination of a strong Bears defense and a lousy Rams offense enabled the Bears to win 23-6.

Rather than expound on the experience of being at the game, which was certainly fun and enjoyable but not particularly newsworthy sans for the relative novelty for me, I thought I'd share some of the photos I took, from the players entering the field to them exiting it.

Bear in mind that I didn't shoot every play, and on some of the big ones, people standing and cheering often got in the way, but these are a few that I think came out pretty good (with a bit of cropping).

 Opening kickoff:

Robbie Gould's 54-yard field goal:

The Bears' first touchdown, by Michael Bush:

A nearby fan:

All photos by Seth Arkin, copyright 2012. Please do not use without proper attribution, and for any commercial purposes, without permission. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Seth Saith 'Woody Sez' is Made for You and Me -- Theater Review

Theater Review

Woody Sez
The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie
Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL
Thru October 21, 2012

100 years after his birth and 45 years since his death, Woody Guthrie remains one of America's most venerated singers, songwriters and social activists.

That he was an influence, inspiration and even in the first case, mentor, to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, Tom Morello, Jeff Tweedy and numerous other musicians that I admire pretty much guarantees that Guthrie is someone I should not only appreciate, but revere.

Yet although I have always known his name and a few of his most ubiquitous songs--"This Land is My Land" foremost among them--my knowledge of his music and life has been in scant proportion to his renown.

So although I was aware going in that Woody Sez is a low-key 90-minute biologue of Guthrie's life featuring several of his songs, and word of mouth was only middling, I figured it would be worthwhile even if just in further enlightening me--to any extent--about the legendary troubadour.

And on that level it was, especially as I was able to purchase one of Northlight's day-of-show discount tickets for just $20, and only 15 minutes before showtime at that. Which isn't to say the production and performances weren't worth a bit more, but particularly as Woody Sez isn't a full-blown musical, nor even a narrative drama, the cost made the entertainment value all the more judicious.

Originally staged in 2007, the show was principally developed by David M. Lutken, who embodies Woody, although two co-performers (Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell) and the show's director, Nick Corley, are three of the other four people credited with devising it, along with Andy Teirstein.

Lutken chronicles Guthrie's life largely in the first person, with Deaville, Russell and David Finch not only playing various people in Woody's life, but performing on a vast array of instruments and each getting nice solo turns.

In sum, Woody Sez gives a basic yet informative biographical overview with Lutken serving as an affable host during a well-paced single act.

Aside from "This Land is My Land" (performed with the full, rarely sung verses), there were only a few songs I recognized, such as "This Train is Bound for Glory" and "Riding in My Car." But a total of 33 different ones were played, with all not only sounding pleasant, but giving a good Folk Singing 101 lesson about Guthrie's passionate paeans to social justice.

Songs about bankers, Wall Street, unions, hard times and other ills & issues certainly didn't lack for current resonance, and many seemed to be a bit more familiar to the mostly older folks in the audience.

While it is sufficiently entertaining for what it is, I can't that Woody Sez is terrific theater, a first-class musical or even essential viewing for anyone who doesn't possess an affinity for or curiosity about its namesake. Though it is a solidly researched and performed piece about a great musician, it lacks both the brilliant structure and more broadly thematic storytelling of 33 Variations, a play about Beethoven now getting a wonderful TimeLine Theatre production.

And while the tonality and intimacy of Woody Sez properly reflect the Dust Bowl grittiness of Guthrie's music, not only are there not exuberant production numbers such as in Jersey Boys, but even the book is far less strong. In other words, I learned considerably less about Woody Guthrie than I did about the Four Seasons, or at least less memorably.

But not all musical theater, even of the pre-existing songbook variety, lends itself to exuberant production numbers. For the right price, simply being educational and enjoyable can be more than enough. And in that regard, Seth saith Woody Sez is certainly worth a song, if not a good bit more.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Prim Madonna Makes the Music — and the Fun — Seem Oddly Immaterial -- Chicago Concert Review

Photo credit: Nuccui DuNuzzo/Chicago Tribune
Concert Review

w/ opening DJ set by Paul Oakenfold
United Center, Chicago
September 19, 2012

I hope you completely disagree with this review.

For if you attended Madonna’s concert at the United Center on Wednesday night, or will on Thursday or caught any other show on her MDNA Tour, there’s about a 98% chance you paid at least twice if not many times the $45 + fees I spent on a seat way up high behind the stage.

Especially as someone who has derived far more than entertainment value from many a phenomenal concert experience, I truly wish you absolutely loved Madonna’s performance.

But I didn’t.

It’s not that I don’t like Madonna. Although I won’t purport to have been the biggest fan of her music or persona throughout the nearly 30 years she has reigned as the world’s most popular entertainer—or close to it—I think she has a terrifically impressive catalog of true pop gems. Though not quite as infectious as her early stuff, her latest album, MDNA, is rather solid with several songs catchy enough to supplement a setlist. And although I've liked some more than others, I have sufficiently enjoyed the three concerts I’ve seen over her last three tours (’04, ’06, ’08, all at the UC) to truly have been looking forward to this one.

It's also not that I don’t appreciate theatricality or conceptually-thematic concert performances. In fact, it’s my love of musical theater that has prompted me to explore and enjoy Madonna’s work as an artist and performer over the past decade. I understand that she develops a meticulously planned production for each tour, complete with regimented set pieces, dance numbers & videos and often sparse on greatest hits, and delivers the same show every night in every city.

As someone who has come to love Broadway theater almost as much as I do rock ‘n’ roll, I have no pronounced problem with this predictability. Although my preference tends to be for concert acts who bring a bit of variance and spontaneity to every show, I mostly just love watching great performers deliver great performances, especially those whose joie de vivre elevates that which is scripted and staged.

So I didn’t really care that Madonna took the stage at 10:20pm for an 8:00 show—although it certainly didn’t help to stifle my yawning throughout. (Famed British DJ Paul Oakenfold "performed" for nearly an hour to open the evening.)

I take no issue with her splitting her show (per her setlist; this one’s from Toronto but it’s the same) into four theoretically thematic quadrants entitled Transgression, Prophecy, Masculine/Feminine and Celebration. And I have no particular aversion to her opening the show with pseudo-religious imagery followed by 20 minutes of Tarantinoesque gunplay and violence accompanying some not-so-famous songs. (For more on this, see the video I included at bottom.)

I don’t even much care—in light of Elton John’s charges that Madonna lip syncs on stage—whether or not she did any live singing or that she was heavily augmented by backing tracks if she did. (I did find it a bit humorous when she held a guitar she clearly wasn't actually playing.)
But when the audience dances more at an Elvis Costello show than at a Madonna spectacle, which also featured fewer jubilant sing-a-long moments than your average Radiohead gig, the balance between artistic statement and plain old "give the folks who paid nearly $400 (face value for the prime seats) a shake their ass good time" is, IMHO, way out of whack.
It wasn’t just that I had no real idea, or much interest, in whatever Madonna was trying to say with all the mishegaas—my vantage point may not have helped, but I saw it all with the aid of video screens—but beyond anything I recall at the three previous shows and anathema to her stature as a performer and provocateur, worst of all I found myself rather bored.

An otherwise adequate sprinkling of sparkling chestnuts like “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Express Yourself,” “Open Your Heart” and “Vogue” came and went in rather rote fashion, sandwiched among the dogmatic messaging and considerably less delectable newer songs.

While at 54, Madonna is still in tremendous shape for a person of any age, she looked—at least as I perceived from the video close-ups—somewhat tired and withdrawn, even though she hadn’t perfomed since Saturday. Though on the prior tours, there was also an egomaniacal self-importance to Madonna’s stage presence that made her come off somewhat robotic, last night she was all the more so a prim Madonna; I noticed her crack a smile just once.

To her credit, she gave a full 2-hour performance with some rather elaborate choreography, but if it’s too harsh to say she was merely going through the motions, the whole thing just seemed rather joyless and even soulless.

Even her stage patter was markedly stilted and sour. At one point she told some folks up front—who had undoubtedly paid a small fortune to be within the general admission cocoon—that they should “buy lots of t-shirts” because she has four kids and shoes aren’t cheap. I certainly suppose she meant this to come off jokingly, but when it was followed by a rant about how we should all do our part to change the world—“you don’t have to be Oprah; you don’t have to be Madonna”—it felt all the more perplexing. Just a thought, Lady M, but what if those $355 tickets were only $250 and included a $100 donation to feed people in Africa; would you still be able to clothe your children?

As bogged down as this review might be getting, that’s pretty much how I felt throughout the concert. While a stripped-down—Madonna herself and the song—version of “Like a Virgin” at first felt like the most impassioned moment of the show, even it became somewhat tepid by song’s end. And while the crowd got to do a bit of dancing during “Holiday” and “Like a Prayer,” even these felt less effervescent than they should have. I know the thought of me shaking my groove thing might make you lose your lunch, but I damn sure should’ve been inspired to do a good bit more of it.

Obviously, any concertgoer will have their own perspective of any show, and I expect—and genuinely hope—that many attendees liked this one much more than I did. But even so, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have loved it even more if Madonna had included some more buoyant, straightforward renditions of “Material Girl,” “Lucky Star,” “Into the Groove,” “Ray of Light,” “Music” or even some of the ones she sang.

I appreciate Madonna’s ambitiousness and realize it’s unfair to compare an artist for whom I have middling regard with my all-time favorite musician and performer. But whereas anyone paying attention at Bruce Springsteen’s recent Wrigley Field shows would have noted the overarching thematic strains pertaining to financial hardships, personal struggle, perseverance, etc., in sum the Boss and his band gave the fans a celebration. You were asked to think, you were even asked to donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, but you also sang along loudly, played some air guitar, did a little dancing (in the dark) and went home happy.

While I believe that Madonna’s legacy is also that of a first-rate performer and I respect that she has—at least in her mind—something important to say about our times, at the end of her show on Wednesday night (which technically finished on Thursday morning), I was just happy to go home.

I found this video on YouTube. I did not shoot it nor upload it and it likely isn't from Wednesday night's Chicago show. But it depicts Madonna's most violent production number, done early in the show, for a song called "Gang Bang." If you love it, more power to you--and her--but it didn't do much for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maximo Park Rewards My Devotion with a Superb Show at Schubas -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Maximo Park
w/ Stagnant Pools, The Neighbourhood
Schubas, Chicago
September 17, 2012

If I were to look at your iPod, I would undoubtedly discover at least a few—if not several—musical artists with which I am unfamiliar but that you devotedly enjoy and follow. The British band Maxïmo Park is one of those acts for me.

I found their 2005 debut album, A Certain Trigger, to be the best album of the century’s first decade and although their two subsequent discs were each a step downward, their latest release, The National Health, is among the best new albums I’ve heard in 2012.

On Monday night, I saw Maxïmo Park live in Chicago with a relatively small but passionate crowd of fellow devotees at Schubas. The show, also featuring opening acts Stagnant Pools and The Neighbourhood--I enjoyed the former, a 2-piece band of brothers from Indy, a bit better than the latter--had been booked at Lincoln Hall, but was moved to its older-but-smaller sister venue, presumably due to middling ticket sales.

If you’re oblivious to Maxïmo Park, so be it; I just hope that whatever obscure bands you love deliver as satisfying a show as I got last night. For in a 90-minute, 22-song set—every one of which I enjoyed—Maxïmo Park further demonstrated that, IMHO, they are one of the best bands in the world today.

Coming on the heels of outstanding concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, I’d be hard-pressed to award this one a full @@@@@ as it just didn’t have the emotional heft of the former or classic brilliance of the latter. But once the acoustics got worked out early on in a much-smaller room than Maxïmo Park plays in Europe, it was every bit as good a performance as I could have wanted.

Energetic, animated and amiable, Paul Smith is a first-class front man, providing the 5-piece band’s primary focal point in addition to crisp vocals. Mixing songs from all four of their studio albums, it was clear that the band has built up an estimable songbook and that The National Health has substantially enhanced it.

New tunes such as the album’s title cut, “Hips and Lips,” “Write This Down,” “The Undercurrents,” “This is What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and “Waves of Fear” sounded great among A Certain Trigger chestnuts “Graffiti,” “Going Missing,” “I Want You to Stay” and “Apply Some Pressure.”

And while the band’s 2nd and 3rd albums aren't end-to-end excellent like the 1st & 4th, “Questing, Not Coasting,” “Our Velocity” and “By the Monument” showed that Our Earthly Pleasures and Quicken the Heart each have choice cuts that come off quite well in concert. (A Chicago setlist is not posted on, but I believe it matches what Maxïmo Park played in New York.)

I had seen Maxïmo Park play a similarly stellar show in 2007—though their new material certainly added to this one—but they cancelled a U.S. tour in 2009, and with their brief current jaunt experiencing the downsizing of venues, who knows when they might be back again. So this review may be somewhat moot in terms of a recommendation that you see this band anytime soon.

But if you’re looking for someone new and worthwhile to add to your personal music universe, in my estimation you could do a lot worse than to explore Maxïmo Park. Start with the albums and just maybe, you’ll join me in looking forward to their next visit to Chicago. Or at least a concert DVD that isn't Region 2 only.

This is a video I shot of their first single and closing song, “Apply Some Pressure”:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Elvis is Alive and His Aim is Still True -- Milwaukee Concert Review: Elvis Costello & the Imposters

Concert Review

Elvis Costello
& the Imposters
with opening act
Willy Porter
BMO Harris Bank Pavilion,
Summerfest Grounds, Milwaukee, WI
September 15, 2012

Saturday night in Chicago offered a wealth of concert possibilities, including some of my very favorite artists: Rush at the United Center, Wilco at the Hideout Block Party, Buddy Guy at the Chicago Theatre and Roger McGuinn at the Beverly Arts Center, where he had given an outstanding performance in June 2011.

And although I am not big on festivals, Riot Fest in Humboldt Park seemed to offer good value and on Saturday featured such quality acts as the Gaslight Anthem and Dropkick Murphys.

So of course, I decided to go up to Milwaukee to see Elvis Costello & the Imposters.

Especially compared to Rush, Wilco, Guy and McGuinn, all of whom I’ve seen live within the past couple years, it’d been too long since I attended a show by the artist originally known as Declan McManus. I saw Elvis and the Imposters open for the Rolling Stones on a bitterly cold night in 2006, but hadn’t seen Costello as a headliner since a free Taste of Chicago concert in 2003. I’d seen him on three occasions before that, dating back to 1991, but for a musician I’ve really liked for over 25 years and from whom I own over 20 albums, at least one more live experience seemed in order.

Though Costello still seems to come through Chicago fairly often, he isn’t currently in the midst of a full-fledged American tour, with no other recent shows and only a run of California dates coming up.

He and the Imposters were scheduled to play Riot Fest on Sunday, but while the lineup was stellar—also including Iggy & the Stooges, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Built to Spill, Fishbone and Alkaline Trio—the festival wasn’t conducive to my schedule or my discomfort in standing for long periods.

So just this week, I got tickets—in the 6th row—to see Costello at his only other Midwest show, in Milwaukee, and went up there with my friend Paolo, who’s an even bigger Elvis fan than I am. The concert was held at the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion, a relatively recently constructed stage on the grounds of Milwaukee Summerfest, that to my awareness, joins the Marcus Amphitheatre as the only such venues to hold concerts outside of the annual Summerfest festival.

Because Paolo also had tickets to the nearby Rock the Green festival, on a gorgeous afternoon in Milwaukee we checked out a band from Australia named Atlas Genius and one from Las Vegas called Imagine Dragons. Both were listenable but in my estimation, nothing special. After a good Cuban dinner at a place called Cubanitas, we made our way onto the Summerfest grounds and to our prime seats at the BMO Harris Pavilion, which is attractively designed along a lovely lakeside setting.

Although we were only alerted to the opening act upon arrival, we discovered him to be a terrifically enjoyable Wisconsin-based folk singer named Willy Porter (shown at left). 

Onstage alone, Porter clearly won over the crowd with a delightful set of songs and brilliant guitar playing. His fretwork was particularly dazzling on a song called "Breathe"; other than perhaps Lindsay Buckingham, I don't know that I've ever witnessed anyone playing an acoustic guitar with such obvious ability and flair.

All of Porter's songs were pleasant, with "How to Rob a Bank" being an insightful highlight about modern-day financial thievery. He also performed a sublime interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Digging in the Dirt" and clearly deserved the standing ovation he earned at the end of a near hourlong set. (Here is just one Willy Porter video I found on YouTube, of "Breathe" from a few years ago.)

Then it was time for Elvis, and from the opening notes of first song "Lipstick Vogue," it was apparent that even at 58, Mr. Costello's voice is still in fine form. For the next 100 minutes or so, he and the Imposters--pianist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher, the first two being original Attractions--mixed a cavalcade of Costello classics with a few songs I, and even Paolo, didn't recognize but that didn't detract.

No one has yet posted a setlist for Milwaukee on, and I don't know it in full, but among the gems that Elvis played--all rather well, some with nice variances from the recordings--roughly in order were "Lipstick Vogue," "Mystery Dance," "Radio Radio," "Everyday I Write the Book," "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down," "High Fidelity," "Uncomplicated," "Watching the Detectives," "Beyond Belief," "Clubland," "Less Than Zero," "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." 

He also covered Johnny Cash's "Cry, Cry, Cry" and closed with a rollicking version of The Byrds' "So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star."

As with any show by someone with a songbook of Elvis' magnitude--although his output, especially from 1977 to 1986, is matched by a relatively small handful of artists--a few great tunes were left out. But other than "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," "Oliver's Army," "Alison" and personal favorite, "Brilliant Mistake," there wasn't a whole lot that I acutely missed hearing.

And as, like his voice, a slimmed-down Costello remains in good shape, I certainly would be happy to see him again, the next time through Chicago. Or Milwaukee.

Although for me, and presumably for Paolo, this wasn't a @@@@@ show rivaling the Springsteen epics at Wrigley last weekend. But it was as good as I was hoping for from an artist that remains among the best at what he does. And made all the more special from a close-up vantage point, it more than merited the drive north across the border and the foregoing of other attractive entertainment options. 

35 years after his debut album, My Aim is True, announced him as a major talent, Elvis Costello is still, quite impressively, hitting his target.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Who Can It Be Now? -- Answers to Yesterday's Real Names of Rock Stars Quiz

I hope at least a few people enjoyed my Real Names of Rock Stars Quiz, which I posted here yesterday. From my traffic stats and Facebook likes, it seemed that a good number did.

So before you completely forget about it, I figure I should post the answers.

Please click here to see the answers, which I've posted as a PDF.

Those who want a clean PDF of the quiz itself should click this link.

So, how many did you know?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who Are You, Who-Who, Who-Who? -- The Real Names of Rock Stars Quiz

Excited to see Elvis Costello in concert on Saturday night, it got me thinking about other rock stars who are better known by stage names or pseudonyms. So beyond the ones I’d already knew, I did a bit of research and came up with this Real Names of
Rock Stars Quiz.

See who you know from the list of real names, keeping in mind it includes both living and dead musicians and that I’ve expanded the “rock” genre to include blues, rap and more.

If you would like to print it out, click here for a PDF. Please do not cite the answers as Comments; I will post them as a PDF in a few days and call it out in a new blog post. (Update: I've now posted the answers, accessible through this post.)

1. Reginald Dwight
2. Gordon Sumner
3. Cheryl Sarkisian
4. Paul Hewson
5. Declan McManus
6. David Evans
7. Stefani Germanotta
8. Stuart Goddard
9. Patricia Andrejewski
10. Robert Zimmerman
11. John Deutschendorf
12. Elias Otha Bates
13. Calvin Broadus, Jr.
14. Michael Balzary
15. William Broad
16. Riley King
17. Gary Lee Weinrib
18. James Smith
19. Barry Pincus
20. Farrokh Bulsara
21. Roberta Anderson
22. Alecia Moore
23. James Osterberg, Jr.
24. Vincent Furnier
25. Jeffery Hyman
26. John Cummings
27. William Bailey
28. Curtis Jackson
29. Chaim Witz
30. Saul Hudson
31. Richard Starkey
32. John Mellor
33. Eileen Edwards
34. Steven Tallarico
35. John Ritchie
36. Edward Severson III
37. McKinley Morganfield
38. Steveland Morris
39. LaDonna Gaines
40. Steven Georgiou
41. Tracy Marrow
42. Franklin Feranna
43. Louis Firbank
44. Ingram Cecil Connor III
45. Hugh Cregg
46. Robert Van Winkle
47. Joan Larkin
48. Audrey Perry
49. David Jones
50. Marvin Lee Aday
51. Richard Melville Hall
52. Frances Gumm
53. Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong
54. George O’Dowd
55. Brian Warner
56. Enrique Morales
57. Charles Westover
58. Claude Bridges
59. Stanley Eisen
60. Sylvester Stewart

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Concerts Might Rock Wrigley Field in 2013?

Still in the afterglow of two sensational shows by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band over the weekend at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, I couldn’t help but consider who might next—other than the Cubs, of course—make good use of the venerable ballpark, which has become one of my favorite places to see a concert.

Wrigley is unlike any other major league stadium in America—besides Boston’s Fenway Park—in that it has stood for nearly 100 years and is situated in a neighborhood, rather than being surrounded by parking lots on the outskirts of town.

Its unique and famed features include ivy-covered outfield walls, a manual scoreboard, bullpens along the foul lines, rooftops behind the bleachers that allow additional fans to catch the action and a team that has never won a World Series as the park’s primary tenant.

It was the last major league ballpark not to have lights, and thus night games (until 1988), and although additional advertising signage has been added in recent years, marketing messages remain relatively sparse within the “Friendly Confines.”

So although it could use a good bit of rehab, which it should get if the City of Chicago decides to play ball with the Ricketts family that owns the team, Wrigley Field—which I think I first attended in 1975—remains not only my favorite ballpark on Earth (and I’ve been to most other major league stadiums), but truly one of my favorite places. Despite all the bad things that have happened there.

While I vaguely recall a few rather innocuous post-game musical performances over the years, I don’t believe any full-fledged rock concerts were held at Wrigley Field until 2005. Somehow, the Cubs and likely a local promoter got permission from the city to hold 2-4 concerts there each summer; I think initially it was only 2 shows, every 2 years, but it now appears that 4 concerts each year have become permissible.

Roger Waters: The Wall at Wrigley Field
In 2005, Jimmy Buffett played at Wrigley, but I didn’t attend a show there until The Police reunion tour came through town in 2007. I attended an Elton John/Billy Joel double-bill in 2009, two Paul McCartney shows in 2011, Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in June 2012 and the pair of Springsteen gigs.

Other headline acts to play Wrigley have included the Dave Matthews Band, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley.

If every performance has not been a complete sellout, it’s been pretty darn close. Obviously, you have to be pretty popular to book a 40,000 seat stadium, but I think the added allure of Wrigley helps to sell even more tickets than the artists might elsewhere.

And I would imagine that even for the most veteran of performers, being there is just cool. So with the notion that any sizable concert act would want to play there if available dates fit into their tour schedule, I am going to fearlessly prognosticate who might perform at Wrigley Field in 2013. Or at least, who I would want to.

The Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley shows certainly bespeak the drawing power of top country artists, but not only are most of them not my cup of tea, this summer saw a Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw double-bill play Soldier Field, so it’s not too likely either or both would hit Wrigley next summer. So unless Garth Brooks opts to hit the road next year, I don’t know what country stars—not counting the now rather crossed-over Taylor Swift—would be apt candidates for the confines, even if I wanted to put them on my list.

So who might show up on Anthony Rizzo’s off days? With the thought that two acts would likely play two nights each, in an order that unscientifically blends prediction and preference, here’s who I see as likely candidates to play centerfield (actually, I wouldn’t mind an encore from Springsteen, and it isn’t hard to imagine many of those who have already played Wrigley being ready to return, but I’ll omit any repeat visitors):

The Rolling Stones – They’ve booked a pair of shows in both New York and London this November, to commemorate their 50th anniversary, but it remains to be seen if the Stones will roll on a full-fledged tour in 2013. A 2012 tour had been rumored, but supposedly there were concerns about Keith Richards’ health. Traditionally, they’ve played Soldier Field, which would allow for 20,000 more fans per show, and their stages are usually gargantuan, but I just like the idea of finally getting some Satisfaction at Wrigley Field.

Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder made guest appearances at both Springsteen shows, likely due not only to an affinity for Bruce, but a love of Wrigley and the Cubs. Though Pearl Jam has toured a bit this year and played Alpine Valley last year—where the 40,000 on two straight nights suggests PJ can fill Wrigley—they haven’t played Chicago proper since 2009. This would seem a natural fit, with the primary obstacle perhaps being Pearl Jam's proclivity to keep its ticket prices lower than those usually charged for Wrigley Field concerts.

Simon & Garfunkel – Paul and Artie were supposedly going to embark on another reunion tour a few years ago—including a rumored Wrigley gig—until Garfunkel’s voice problems scuttled the tour. Art’s now doing a solo tour, and if his voice holds up, I wouldn’t be surprised if an S&G tour follows. Their audience skews a bit old, but that should be conducive for selling $250 tickets on the field.

Taylor Swift – One of few young performers who could seemingly pack the place, Swift’s soon to release a new album and conceivably will be touring next year. But her young audience wouldn’t be ideal for beer sales.

Fleetwood Mac – They’re supposedly to tour next year and while I’m not sure they would readily sell 45,000 tickets for one night, let alone two, I could imagine them getting quite a boost from the Wrigley setting. The same logic could apply to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, who skipped Chicago on their brief 2012 U.S. tour.

Metallica – Wrigleyville might cringe at the thought of such a loud band and their legion of black-shirted fans—me among them—but they played Yankee Stadium last year, along with Megadeth, Slayer & Anthrax. I’d actually prefer AC/DC, but haven’t seen signs that they’re ready to tour again in 2013.

Bon Jovi - They’ve filled Soldier Field a few times in recent years and always seem to be touring.

Adele – I’m somewhat surprised that she hasn’t capitalized on becoming the world’s biggest pop star by touring this year; perhaps she will next. Going from the Riviera to Wrigley Field in consecutive Chicago shows would seem quite a leap, and perhaps too dwarfing a venue for her vocal virtuosity, but I actually think it could work.

Phish – I’m not the biggest fan, but appreciate their music and huge, loyal fan base. Wrigley would be a pretty cool place for them to play and beer sales should be pretty strong.

The Eagles - A fairly standard issue possibility.

U2 – I haven’t seen any 2013 tour rumors and a stage like the one they used on the U2 360 tour would hardly fit at Wrigley, but perhaps they’d want to play a few one-off shows, and where better than at the venerable ballpark.

Led Zeppelin – This week the Led Zeppelin Facebook Page has been teasing a major announcement to come Thursday (and today they were named one of this year's Kennedy Center Honorees). It’s supposedly not going to be about a tour, but rather the release of a DVD of their 2007 reunion concert. But I’m holding out hope. And from the upper deck, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones would look like they did in 1977.

So who would you like to see rock the Friendly Confines in 2013? With the Cubs' 2013 schedule having just been released, I can imagine promoters and band managers are already eagerly looking at the possibilities.