Summerfest: Sunday, July 4
Carrie Underwood, Devo and Silversun Pickups
Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
As a pretty blonde with a tonally pure,lung-buster of a voice and built-in following as a winner of “American Idol,” it was almost a foregone conclusion that Carrie Underwood would succeed in any style of music. She chose commercial-radio country and, as expected, an Underwood single that doesn’t reach No. 1 in airplay is rare indeed. Perhaps only Taylor Swift rivals her as country royalty.
But just becauseUnderwood
seems to have it all doesn't mean youhave
to hate her.At herbest,
she can sell a song like few others.Give
her credit, too, for the occasional forays into material thatplays
against her light, sweet persona. She may not be a shotgun-wielding Miranda
Lambert, but the gal can raise aruckus
(even if she won’t be threatening her exes with bullets and attemptedarson).
no denying that voice. Underwood’s vegetarianism and PETA support give her an
edgethat probably rubssome
of her rural listenersthe wrong way, but no
doubt many of those cynics succumbed just like all those “Idol”voters
who became converts as well. That voice makes it toughnotto
be a fan.(Jamie Lee Rake)
Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.
Devo has remained plenty active since they released their last album of new material, Smooth Noodle Maps, in 1990. They’ve toured heavily, recorded music for movie soundtracks, experimented with multimedia projects (including a forgotten CD-ROM adventure game), backed bassist/singer Gerald Casale on his satirical side project Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers, and infamously teamed with Disney for Devo 2.0, an all-kid cover band that sang G-rated rewrites of incongruously sexual Devo songs like “Whip It,” “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Jerkin’ Back ’n’ Forth.” For all their activity, though, it seemed less likely with each passing year that the band would release an actual new Devo album.
“When you write a new record, you put
yourself on the line,” Casale told the Shepherd
in 2006, explaining the pressures intrinsic to releasing a new album after such
a long sabbatical. “You’re saying, ‘This is us, this is what we have to say,’
and I couldn’t get the group to commit to that.”
The band eventually relented. This
summer, Devo will finally release a new record, Something for Everybody. A teaser single from the album, “Fresh,”
lives up to its name, updating Devo’s classic, synthesized new wave ever so
slightly with a taut groove surprisingly in step with modern alternative music.
Devo once feared overly high
expectations for a new album, but now they’re inviting them. In interviews,
Casale has repeatedly described Something
for Everybody as Devo’s best album yet. (Evan Rytlewski)
U.S. Cellular Connections Stage, 10 p.m.
When the Silversun Pickups returned
home to Los Angeles
in 2008 after two years largely spent touring, it should have felt like a
victory. After all, during their time on the road the group had earned
considerable alt-rock radio play for their single “Lazy Eye,” which turned
their 2006 debut album, Carnavas,
into a belated hit. On returning, though, Los
Angeles seemed a darker place than they remembered it.
Singer Brian Aubert’s mother passed away, and he found his friends weren’t
doing so well, either. The economic downturn had turned the bright-eyed artists
he remembered into hungry job seekers, desperate to take on any work to pay
All that set the mood for a more somber
album from Silversun Pickups. Without taming the electric charge of their debut
album, the group’s 2009 follow-up, Swoon,
is caked in extra tension and paranoia. Seeking to tap the eerie sweep of
Italian horror film scores, the band recorded parts of the record with a
16-piece string section.
For an album so tormented, though, Swoon is a remarkably pretty record.
Produced like their debut by former Milwaukeean Dave Cooley, Swoon retains the opulent, shoegazey
sheen of Carnavas. The album also
affirmed the band’s commercial appeal, with its lead single “Panic Switch”
peaking at the top of the alternative-rock charts. (Evan Rytlewski)