Summerfest: Saturday, July 3
Rush, Modest Mouse and John Hiatt
Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
When you’re the three guys in Rush—the same three guys who have been in Rush since 1974—you can call your current North American trek the “Time Machine Tour.” This “evening with Rush” will feature the band’s most popular album, 1981’s Moving Pictures—“Tom Sawyer,” anyone?—performed in its entirety, plus other classics and new tunes from the Canadian prog-rock trio’s forthcoming 20th studio album.
“Everybody was kind of itching to get
on the road and get in ‘peak playing form’ before we recorded the bulk of the
record,” vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee recently told Rolling Stone. “In a way, we have this tendency to take a long
period of time off, and then we kind of get our chops together and go record.
We thought it’s kind of ass-backwards, really, because when you finish a long
tour, you're in such amazing playing shape that that’s the time you should go
in and start laying down tracks. But, of course, you're exhausted by then.”
It certainly would be understandable if
Lee (age 56), guitarist Alex Lifeson (56) and drummer Neil Peart (57) are
exhausted after this 40-date tour. But Summerfest is only the third stop, so
expect a fresh, energized performance by a timeless band. (Michael Popke)
Modest Mouse w/ Avi Buffalo
Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.
It took Modest Mouse four full-length
albums and more than a decade on the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene to
score a chart-topper (“Float On” from their 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News), making them one of the
most unlikely commercial success stories in modern rock history. The group from
Issaquah, Wash., overcame its share of troubles—drug abuse, mental illness,
jail time, even criticism for selling their songs to beer and car
commercials—to achieve platinum-selling status with Good News and No. 1 real estate on the Billboard 200 for 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.
Though Modest Mouse was getting major mainstream radio play, the band didn’t
compromise its sound for the masses. The band’s music distinguishes itself with
frontman Isaac Brock’s evocative lyrics, often delivered in a weird but
compelling yelp-bark, arranged over a tight blend of bold guitars and a sharp,
almost primal, rhythm section.
Opening for Modest Mouse’s 10 p.m. set
is Avi Buffalo, a young Sub Pop group from Long Beach, Calif.
Fresh from releasing its first album in April, the quartet will be sure to
bring its short, snappy pop songs glazed with high-pitched vocals and guitar
fantasias. (Sarah Biondich)
& Stratton Big Backyard, 10 p.m.
At his 1979 Summerfest debut, John
Hiatt was hunched over and wary, as if ready to defend himself from bodily
harm. He had just released Slug Line,
an album indebted to the artful hostility of Elvis Costello, and drew a small
new wave crowd to the side stage. Almost no one present had any idea that
Hiatt’s recording career had already begun five years earlier with Hangin’ Around the Observatory, an album
that sold almost no copies when released but would nowadays be embraced by Americana fans for its
folk-country sound. Slug Line was the
digression, an off-ramp on Hiatt’s journey. The work that followed in the ’80s
would establish his legacy.
Hiatt began his career as a songwriter
where the music industry stressed the verities of storytelling and simplicity
that would continue to inform his writing through nearly 20 albums. But country
music was always too small a category for a writer whose songs have been
covered by everyone from Iggy Pop to Emmylou Harris, B.B. King to Paula Abdul.
Not unlike Ry Cooder, with whom he has often recorded, Hiatt distills the
essence of many American genres into a rugged, road-tested sound recognizably
his own with inspiration from blues, gospel via ’60s soul, rock and folk.
Although he has received many Grammy nominations, and penned songs that hit No. 1 for others, stardom always eluded him. His greatest commercial success, Perfectly Good Guitar (1993), reached No. 47 on Billboard. Hiatt’s 2010 CD, The Open Road, reflects on the rambling life in weather-beaten songs by a musician who has never stood still for long. (David Luhrssen)