Mar. 13 - Mar. 19
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, March 13
Tommy Chong @ Jokerz Comedy Club, 8 p.m.
As riotous as his altercations with the (often bumbling) law were in his classic stoner comedies with Cheech Marin, there was nothing funny about Tommy Chong’s real life run-in with the authorities. In 2003, Chong was sentenced to nine months in jail for financing a business that sold drug paraphernalia—not drugs themselves, mind you.
He wrote a furious book about the experience, 2006’s The I Chong: Meditations From The Joint, an odd but compelling break from the affable, slipshod stoner persona he seldom sheds. His stand-up appearances, however, are less about Tommy Chong, martyr activist, and more about Tommy Chong, perpetually dazed hippie. (Through March 15; various performance times.)
The Irish Tenors @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
A group that is said to be Ireland’s second-leading touring export behind U2, the Irish Tenors bring their trademark brand of epic, cinematic opera to the Pabst Theater just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Since joining forces in 1998, Anthony Kearns and Finbar Wright have gracefully performed all over the globe, both the Irish standards for which they are best known, as well as Celtic variations on more contemporary pop hits. When channeled through their flawless voices, even Celine Dion’s relentlessly overplayed “My Heart Will Go On” becomes listenable.
Hothouse Flowers @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
After a late-’80’s/early-’90’s peak sparked by a few noteworthy singles, Ireland’s Hothouse Flowers have released mostly hits compilations, B-sides and rarities. 2004’s Into Your Heart was a collection of new material that was well received in their native Ireland, but was too middle-of-the-road to make an impression stateside. After a few years of solo projects and a brief hiatus, the band reconvened to play some reunion shows at European festivals in the summer of 2007. On the strength of those shows, the group decided to embark on a more extensive tour, which stops at Shank Hall tonight.
Friday, March 14
Randy Newman w/ Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra @ The Marcus Center, 8 p.m.
After a career’s worth of notable hits and memorable tunes, piano man Randy Newman settled into a lucrative niche a decade ago as the resident soundtrack man for Disney/Pixar, snagging several Golden Globe and Academy Awards in the process. Since his 1999 album Bad Love, Newman’s only fresh output has been in the form of film soundtrack and composition work, but this weekend with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Newman will revisit his whole songbook, including hits like “Short People” and “I Love L.A.,” in addition to his more saccharine compositions for movies like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.
Grace Potter and The Nocturnals w/ Benevento/Russo Duo @ Turner Hall, 8 p.m.
With her obvious reverence for ’70s classic rock, Grace Potter is a terrifically magnetic stage presence—imagine a rootsier Karen O—who exudes a confidence far beyond her 24 years, whether she’s pounding on her organ or wailing away on her flying- V guitar. Potter and her Vermont-based band, The Nocturnals, are fresh off an appearance at Florida’s often-overlooked Langerado Festival, where a few covers nodding to the classic-rock era (notably Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time”) found their way into the band’s sets. Openers Benevento/Russo Duo are a spacey, jazz-twinged drum and keyboard outfit from New York and an increasingly reliable draw at jam-music festivals. Although their freeform, sometimes volatile jams often veer too far from the groove-based happy vibes that the tie-dyed set enjoys most, the duo fits right in regardless.
Grace Potter and The Nocturnals | Photo by Taylor Crothers
Saturday, March 15
The Scarring Party W/ Grant Hart and John The Savage @ Turner Hall, 7 p.m.
One of the most enticing curiosities on the Milwaukee music scene, The Scarring Party plays old-timey, tuba and accordion-driven jazz; classic American music as re-imagined through the lens of Tom Waits records and haunted carnival rides. Although they’re filtered through a quirky, vintage microphone, their lyrics are decidedly macabre, reading like excerpts of a George Romero script peppered with nods to Nietzsche. March is turning out to be a good month for Milwaukee’s Husker Du fans. Following up Bob Mould’s Shank Hall appearance, the band’s other songwriter, Grant Hart, will give an increasingly rare performance opening for The Scarring Party tonight. Hart hasn’t released an album since 1999’s easygoing Good News For Modern Man.
Sunday, March 16
Andy McKee w/ Nicholas Barron @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
The epitome of a “YouTube sensation,” guitarist Andy McKee has seen his videos garner more than 20 million views collectively. This Internet notoriety has allowed McKee a few late-night television appearances and afforded him the opportunity to recently release Gates of Gnomeria, his fourth studio album. His playing is versatile, but may be most comparable to finger-style guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. Using a variety of tactics to manipulate his acoustic guitar, McKee wrings a great deal of resonant sound from the instrument.
Monday, March 17
Bruce Springsteen @ Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m.
While his longtime followers at Rolling Stone were stamping five-star reviews on The Rising and his latest album, Magic, two glossy rock discs with a solemn side, the underground elite which had long been indifferent were finally warming up to him, as indie bands both big and important (Arcade Fire) and small but important (The Hold Steady) began to trumpet Springsteen’s pure-spirited populism. It’s finally official: Everybody loves Bruce Springsteen.
Pink Martini @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
With a delivery somewhere between Ani DiFranco and Leslie Feist, only more sultry, chanteuse China Forbes heads the 12piece Portland, Ore., outfit Pink Martini. Drawing from jazz, Latin and world music, typical concerts find the band performing songs in several different languages as the miniorchestra swells behind their effervescent lead vocalist.
Last year’s release Hey Eugene! and its title track were minor hits for the band. Aside from her work with Pink Martini, Forbes has also recorded a new solo disc, ’78, a more traditional collection of odes to the female singer-songwriters of the ’70s. A few of that upcoming album’s tracks have been played on this current Pink Martini tour.
Tuesday, March 18
Blind Melon @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
There’s something faintly unsettling about seeing a Blind Melon concert listing in 2008. It feels almost as if the concert promoter made an unfortunate mistake, or must be playing some sort of morbid joke. The “No Rain” group was so synonymous with vocalist Shannon Hoon that it had little choice but to disband after Hoon’s overdose death. But perhaps because of the ongoing demand for poppy, Southern-rock-inspired jam music, or perhaps because of VH1-induced nostalgia for that tapdancing bumble-bee girl, the band decided to give it another go in 2006, recruiting a new vocalist, Travis Warren (who sounds like an unfortunate hybrid between Hoon and Perry Farrell), and trying their luck with a new album, slated for release this April. Although early tracks posted to the group’s MySpace page are as tuneful as anything Blind Melon recorded in their heyday, the reunion will still feel creepy and opportunistic for many fans.
Jose Gonzalez w/ Mia Doi Todd @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Blessed with a rich, reverberating voice and an ear for easygoing guitar rhythms, Jose Gonzalez is a gifted songwriter, so it must be bittersweet that he owes his fame not to his originals, but rather to covers. A sparse and emotive take on The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” used prominently in a Sony commercial and a handful of TV shows, anchored 2003’s Veneer, a collection of spare, quiet tunes. On his second full-length, In Our Nature, the Swedish-born Gonzalez treaded the same musical ground, but filled some of the empty spaces with enriched instrumentation and employed a newfound need to express his brooding, moody, worldly views on the ills of war and greed. Though he’s grown less introspective in his recent studio efforts, Gonzalez hasn’t completely shied away from his sensitive troubadour role, as evidenced by live renditions of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and Kylie Minogue’s “Hand On Your Heart,” two emotional numbers he reinterprets in his own indelible style.