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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summerfest Daily Highlights: Friday, July 8

Jason Aldean, Goo Goo Dolls and Leon Russell

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Jason Aldean w/ Chris Young and Thompson Square
Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.


It's been some kinda year for Jason Aldean, who emerged as contemporary country's latest success story with the 2010 release Some Kinda Party. The Macon, Ga. native kicks off the next leg of his tour at Summerfest with a string of hits already under his 25-gallon cowboy hat. Fans will get to hear the tunes that have placed him atop the country charts: "Why," "She's Country," "Big Green Tractor," "The Truth" and "Don't You Wanna Stay" (a duet with “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson). Like others in the “tall, enigmatic cowboy in taller cowboy hat” category, the 34-year-old singer struggled for a number of years with various record labels and contracts before hitting pay dirt with his 2005 self-titled debut. Since then, it's been a steady climb for Aldean, who was heavily influenced by the country group Alabama, which worked with Aldean on his third release, Wide Open. Aldean shares this bill with fellow country acts Chris Young and Thompson Square. (Harry Cherkinian)

Goo Goo Dolls
Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.


Formed in Buffalo, New York in 1986, the Goo Goo Dolls have weathered the storms of the music industry for close to 30 years. Such a lengthy career speaks volumes to a band once dismissed as a bunch of Replacements wanna-bes: These guys now live and play in no one's shadow. A crucial aspect of this success, and one of the things that makes the band immensely likable, is that they always seem to be enjoying what they are doing at the moment. Whether it be the thrash-influenced “Torn Apart” (from the band's 1987 self-titled debut) or the more polished sounds of “Name” (their breakthrough hit from 1995's A Boy Named Goo) and “Iris” (featured on the soundtrack for the film City of Angels and on the band's 1998 release, Dizzy Up the Girl), the band plays with an infectious spirit that is impossible to deny and easy to enjoy.

The Goo Goo Dolls have remained active into the 21st century, continuing to put out well received records, such as the darker Gutterflower (2002) and the more uplifting Let Love In (2006). The band's latest studio album, Something for the Rest of Us (2010), is a welcome addition to their catalog. While the album has plenty of radio-friendly ballads, the best material on the record hums along with a speed and vibrancy that hooks the listener in from the start. (Michael Carriere)

Leon Russell
M&I Classic Rock Stage, 10 p.m.


For fans of Leon Russell, induction of the Oklahoma-born singer and piano player into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past March was a question of when, not if.

Russell, 69, has had a seminal career playing rock and roll, blues and gospel both on his own and accompanying some of popular music's leading lights. Born Claude Russell Bridges in 1942, Russell began performing in Tulsa nightclubs at age 14. As a session musician, he has accompanied everyone from Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell to Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Russell's “Delta Lady” was a 1969 hit for British bluesman Joe Cocker, and Russell was the organizer of Cocker's 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. He also performed at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.

Russell, who also plays Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and bass guitar, slowed a bit in recent years, but saw his career revive after the release of The Union, a 2010 double-album he recorded with fellow keyboard artist Elton John. The pair appeared as musical guests on Saturday Night Live this past April, and Russell's star has once again begun its ascendancy. (Michael Muckian)