Summerfest: Friday, June 25
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers w/ ZZ Top, Public Enemy and Dierks Bentley
Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
For those who like their rock fast and furious and grounded in American roots, this is the show to see.
It was 34 years ago that Tom Petty
formed his band, the Heartbreakers, and the group continues to wow on the road.
The parade of hits is endless, whether it’s the early work like “Breakdown” and
“American Girl,” the psychedelic sounds of “Don’t Come Around Here No More”
(co-written and produced by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart), the solid rock of
Petty’s 2002 record, The Last DJ, a
bitter attack on the music industry, or his new album Mojo, which makes time for longer, bluesy jams.
Special guests ZZ Top merit special
recognition on many levels, musically as well as personally. These three
guys—Billy Gibbons (vocals and guitar), Joseph Dusty Hill (vocals, bass and
keyboards) and Frank Beard (drums)—have stuck it out together for 41 years and
helped to shape and define the Southern boogie blues-rock sound. Their music
jumped up the charts with their 1973 release, Tres Hombres,and the
catchy, infectious guitar hooks of “La
Grange.” Seventeen albums with as many hits have
followed since then, with a new studio album planned for 2010 to coincide with
their world tour.
And, yes indeed, they still wear their
sunglasses at night. (Harry Cherkinian)
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, 10 p.m.
Public Enemy wasn’t the first rap act
to make message songs; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had been
documenting inner-city ills well before Chuck D and company. But where earlier
rap artists merely pointed out social problems—racism, poverty, drug use—Public
Enemy pointed fingers, arguing on groundbreaking albums like 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us
Back and 1990’s Fear of a Black
Planet that white government was failing black America. Public Enemy
affected political discourse in a way no rap act has since, taking black
concerns ignored by the media—such as the sluggish response times of 911 first
responders in urban communities—and turning them into songs that called
mainstream attention to these issues.
The last decade has been a curious one
for the band. After a slew of legal problems, sideman Flavor Flav spawned an
unlikely reality-show empire on VH1, while Chuck D remained a prolific speaker
and commentator. Through it all, the group has continued recording, albeit
largely to commercial disinterest. Their latest album is 2007’s respectable How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who
Sold Their Soul?, an indictment of modern commercial rap music. Few will
confuse it for vintage Public Enemy, but nobody will mistake it for anything
that isn’t Public Enemy, either. The militant beats; Chuck D’s booming,
rhetorical rhymes; Flavor Flav’s irreverent, palate-cleansing tangent
verses—this is one of the most iconic sounds rap music will ever know. (Evan
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 10 p.m.
Ever since his 2003 breakthrough hit
"What Was I Thinkin'," Dierks Bentley has become one of mainstream
country's most consistent artists, with a string of Top 10 singles on the country
music charts, including seven No. 1 hits. Bentley’s studio albums with Capitol
Records Nashville, even a greatest hits package in 2008, reveal a pretty
consistent theme within Bentley’s work: the duality of his country-boy nature.
His lyrics have him playing the part of vulnerable country-crooner-in-love with
songs such as “Come a Little Closer” from 2005’s Modern Day Drifter and “Every Mile a Memory” from his third album Long Trip Alone. The Arizona native’s rollicking-redneck side is
served with a helping of outlaw country a la David Allan Coe with tunes like
“Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” and “Sideways,” a crowd-pleasing favorite
from 2009’s Feel That Fire.
Bentley’s 2010 “Up on the Ridge” tour coincides with the June release of his latest Capitol Nashville studio album, a project that the county star says is steeped in the bluegrass and roots music that made him become a country singer in the first place. (Sarah Biondich)