Now, this was one strange scheduling change. The concert originally planned for Monday evening (Aug. 10) at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park was Malian singer Rokia Traore with opening act Shearwater. Unfortunately, Traore had to cancel her tour, then the city replaced her on the bill with … Shellac?!? That’s right — the hard-hitting rock band led by Chicago’s most famous record producer, Steve Albini. They were a strange pairing with Shearwater — and it seemed like at least a few African music aficionados showed up last night thinking they were to going to hear the much mellower sounds of Rokia Traore, only to find their ears pounded by Albini & Co. Truth be told, I’m not that big a fan of Shellac. They are good at what they do, but it’s just not the sort of music I enjoy listening to all that much. You have to get them props, though, for the power and precision of the pulverizing performance last night.
Shearwater is more to my liking. It was originally seen by many people as a sort of side project to Okkervil River, since Shearwater singer-songwriter Jonathan Meiburg also plays sometimes in Okkervil. But it’s very clear by now that Shearwater is very much its own entity. Meiburg has a nice voice that floats up to high notes while he and his band play complex arrangements that mix the atmospherics of art rock and folk rock. For a band that can sound awfully delicate on some songs, Shearwater was strong, even driving at times last night.