Amadou and Mariam plus Frank Waln at the Pritzker Pavilion

Amadou and Mariam played a truly delightful concert of lively music from Mali on Monday, July 24, at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. I’m looking forward to the duo’s new album, La Confusion, coming out September 22. The opening act was Frank Waln, a hip-hop artist of Lakota heritage, who Continue Reading

Tortoise and Ryley Walker concerts, in one night

Aug. 25 felt like a quintessential night of live Chicago music: seeing Tortoise at Millennium Park, followed by Ryley Walker’s late concert at the Empty Bottle. Tortoise’s instrumental music resonated beautifully in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, with the band members constantly shifting around the instruments, playing intricate patterns with almost astonishing precision. The show Continue Reading

Mbongwana Star at Millennium Park

The African band Mbongwana Star got the audience dancing on Aug. 11 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, playing wildly infectious beats and beguiling, highly rhythmic guitar riffs and solos. This group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo includes two singers (Yakala “Coco” Ngambali and Nsituvuidi “Theo” Nzonza,) who Continue Reading

Femi Kuti in Millennium Park

Femi Kuti‘s father, the legendary Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti, created the extraordinary and exhilarating style of music called Afrobeat. As Fela’s eldest son, Femi is carrying on the family tradition. On Monday, July 11, he performed a joyous nonstop jam with his band, The Positive Force, at the Jay Pritzker Continue Reading

Mahmoud Ahmed and Aziz Sahmaoui at Millennium Park

Mahmoud Ahmed is one of the greatest singers of Ethiopia — it may be no exaggeration to call him “one of the greatest singers in the world,” as the World Music Festival Chicago’s website asserted. Several albums in Buda Musique’s endlessly wonderful “Ethiopiques” series feature his songs, especially the recordings he made in the Continue Reading

The Very Best at Millennium Park

Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion began its “Downtown Sound” concert series this week — with shows on Monday and Thursday evenings. On Thursday, June 4, the Very Best gave an exuberant performance that got many audience members dancing. The group is a collaboration between Radioclit (a London-based DJ/production duo) and Esau Continue Reading

Alarm Will Sound at Millennium Park

The New York-based ensemble Alarm Will Sound plays acoustic arrangements and orchestral scores of music that was originally created by electronic artists such as Aphex Twin. And what a strange and impressive sound it made on July 3. The group made its Chicago debut as the final concert of Millennium Park’s Loops Continue Reading

eighth blackbird and Michael Ward-Bergeman at Millennium Park

The Loops and Variations concert series at Millennium Park usually features a contemporary classical act  as well as another artist playing electronic music. Last week, on June 19, there was just one set, but it was varied enough to fit the concept. One of Chicago’s best new-music ensembles, eighth blackbird, had the Continue Reading

Joshua Abrams + Natural Information Society in Millennium Park

Millennium Park’s series of free summer concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, always one of the highlights of the year in Chicago, is in full swing now. Monday’s headliner was Omar Souleyman (click here to see my photos of Souleyman), but the show also featured a top-notch opening act, Chicago Continue Reading

Jack DeJohnette at Chicago Jazz Fest

After decades of using Grant Park’s Petrillo Bandshell as its main stage, the Chicago Jazz Festival has finally moved to a classier, better-sounding and more welcoming venue: Millennium Park. The festival, which continues throughout this weekend, officially opened yesterday (Aug. 29) with events including a concert by Jack DeJohnette in Continue Reading

Jeff Parker-Nels Cline Quartet

Jeff Parker and Nels Cline, two virtuoso guitarists who are fluent in both jazz and rock, played together Aug. 8 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Backed by drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Nate McBride, they played their version of the 1964 avant-garde jazz album The Turning Point by pianist Continue Reading

Matmos and Fonema Consort at Pritzker

Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion hosts a series of free concerts on Thursday evenings called “Loops and Variations,” which brings together electronic experimental music with modern classical music. (“New music,” if you will.) This past Thursday (June 27), the series presented a concert by the Baltimore duo Matmos, with Chicago’s Fonema Continue Reading

Lee Ranaldo and Marc Ribot at Pritzker

Despite unseasonably chilly temperatures, the summer concert season got off to a stellar start May 27, with the year’s first show in the Monday night series called “Downtown Sound” at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The evening started with Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, a trio led by the Continue Reading

Jonathan Richman at the Pritzker Pavilion

“It’s not a concert,” Jonathan Richman told the audience Monday night (June 4) at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park. “It’s supposed to be more like a party. That’s why I sang all the songs with the word ‘party.’” And indeed, Richman’s performance — like any Richman performance Continue Reading

Soul Train 40th anniversary concert

Given how popular the TV series Soul Train was for so many years, it was no surprise that a huge crowd turned out Monday night (Sept. 5) for an all-star concert at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion celebrating the show’s 40th anniversary. Estimating crowd sizes is difficult to do with any Continue Reading

Steve Reich concert in Millennium Park

Composer Steve Reich turns 75 on Oct. 3, and musical ensembles have been celebrating that landmark birthday this year by performing Reich’s music. Two estimable new music groups based in Chicago, eighth blackbird and Third Coast Percussion, joined forces and brought in assorted friends to play three pieces by Reich Continue Reading

My Brightest Diamond at Millennium Park

My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden, deftly bridges the realms of indie rock and classical music. She once aspired to be an opera singer, and her formal training shows in her spectacular vocals. She also studied composition, and that shows in the sophistication of what she writes and plays. She’s Continue Reading

Hanggai and Aurelio Martinez at Millennium Park

Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion has a pretty full schedule of concerts all summer, not just the Monday-night “Downtown Sounds” shows I’ve written about earlier, but also classical, jazz, world music and more. The Thursday evening “Music Without Borders” series got started June 9 with the Mongolian-Chinese band Hanggai and Honduran Continue Reading

Justin Townes Earle and Andre Williams

The weather was beautiful in Chicago on Memorial Day (May 30) — perfect for the free concert at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion starring headliner Justin Townes Earle and opening act Andre Williams. They made for a somewhat unusual pair — a 29-year-old country-folk singer and a 74-year-old blues and soul Continue Reading

Bonnie “Prince” Billy at Millennium Park

Yes, it is hard to believe sometimes how unusual and wonderful the concerts promoted by the city of Chicago in the beautiful Millennium Park are. The summer season of free concerts got started Monday night (May 23) with … Bonnie “Prince” Billy? And Eleventh Dream Day as the opening act? Continue Reading

Photos: Thermals, Hum, Caribou and more

Here are some photos I’ve taken at concerts over the past couple of weeks. THE THERMALS with DISAPPEARS July 5 at Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park See more photos from the concert. ——— HUM and LONELY TRAILER July 10 at the Champaign 150 street festival See more photos from the concert. Continue Reading

Shellac and Shearwater at Pritzker

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?!? Continue Reading

Great Performers of Illinois

The Great Performers of Illinois festival, sponsored by the Illinois Arts Council, seemed like it was about to slip under the radar. I got the feeling not many people were even aware of it, but its presence in Millennium Park was hard to miss this past weekend. The headliner was Continue Reading

Concert round-up

I’ve posted photos from several concerts lately without any comment here. Back on June 24, Robert Gomez, a singer-songwriter from Denton, Texas, performed a nice show of melancholy folk rock with a bit of a psychedelic edge at Schubas. It was sparsely attended, but I enjoyed the intimate feeling of Continue Reading

Reviews of June 19-22 concerts

I’m not quite as swamped with concerts this week as I have been lately, but here are a few good ones that happened in recent days. Soy Un Caballo sounds like the name for a Spanish band, or maybe a New York pretending to be a Spanish band. The group’s Continue Reading

St. Vincent at Millennium Park

A great season of free concerts is under way in Chicago, including a number of noteworthy shows in the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. St. Vincent (a.k.a. singer-songwriter Annie Clark) performed last night (June 8) beneath architect Frank Gehry’s curving metallic folds, with an appreciative audience and the Chicago Continue Reading