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Keep on Scratching: Joe Bonamassa, April 19 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 16:20

Joe Bonamassa. Photo by Christie Goodwin.Roughly a quarter-century ago, B.B. King said of Joe Bonamassa that “he hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface.”

It was an undeniable compliment to somebody not yet in his teens, but it was also a challenge – one that the blues-rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter apparently still takes to heart. Bonamassa continually scratches and scratches to get deeper.

His performance April 19 at the Adler Theatre will be one example, featuring a set with his acoustic band and another with his electric – both covering roughly 10 songs. The acoustic sets demonstrate that Bonamassa isn’t content to skate by on instrumental virtuosity – unlike too many of his ace-guitarist peers. These shows require solid songs, nuance, and variety.

As he said in a phone interview last week, the two-set engagements are “very challenging vocally and on guitar, because you’re essentially switching gears tune to tune.”

Even better evidence of his range can be found in his recent discography. In the past two years alone, Bonamassa has put out the Driving Towards the Daylight studio album, live and studio releases with singer Beth Hart, the third and final album from the Black Country Communion super-group, a studio disc by the jazz-fusion Rock Candy Funk Party, Beacon Theatre: Live From New York, the live album An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House, and the four-disc Tour de Force: Live in London – documenting themed shows at four venues with different band lineups and more than 60 different songs. And he has a new studio album planned for fall release. (The old saw about the weather can be adapted for Bonamassa: If you don’t like his latest record, just wait a few minutes.)

 
Building to Moments: Decker, April 20 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 16:00

Brandon Decker. Photo courtesy Ashley Wintermute.

The band Decker calls its sound “psychedelic desert folk,” and each of those words carries roughly equal weight.

The folk influence is a carry-over from earlier incarnations of the band. Before its fourth album – last year’s Slider – leader Brandon Decker wrote the songs and brought people in to round them out. “I didn’t feel they were really musical,” he said in a phone interview last week. Rather, they were vehicles to say something.

But when the band performs at Rozz-Tox on April 20, Decker will be emphasizing the other two words. In its current form as a four-piece, the folk leanings are somewhat obscured by the wide-open space reflecting its home base of Sedona, Arizona, and the spaciness of psychedelic rock. (The band stylizes its name as “decker.”, but for readability I’m ignoring that.)

On Slider and the epic “Cellars” (from the upcoming Patsy EP), there’s a comfortable balance between direct simplicity and airy, patient exploration. Instead of being dense in any given moment, the songs wander purposefully, collecting detail to achieve their fullness.

 
Managing Mahler Magnificently: The Quad City Symphony, April 5 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 11 April 2014 09:32

From an Adler Theatre stage filled with more than 200 musicians, the Quad City Symphony forcefully premiered Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 3 on April 5. Moving from the dissonance of uncertainty to the transcendental climatic moments of harmonic resolution, the concert was abundant in gravitas, contrasts, and drama that revealed a thorough artistic vision from Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith and included a valuable collaborative process with other area musical organizations.

 
"Companion" Companion: The Bucktown Revue, April 18 at the Nighswander Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:41

The Bucktown RevueFor pianist Jonathan Turner, “It’s a really unique kind of entertainment experience in the area. There isn’t really anything like it.”

For performer Korah Winn, “It’s kind of like if you take the best play you’ve ever been in, with the best cast, with the best audience, and you get to do that once every month.”

Producer/writer/musician Mike Romkey, however, has a slightly different take: “It’s kind of like a local Prairie Home Companion ... but not in a way that would get us sued.”

 
“You Cannot Let Up”: Bedroom Shrine, “No Déjà Vu”; April 5 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 16:29

Bedroom ShrineFor all of about six seconds, the Quad Cities band Bedroom Shrine’s new album No Déjà Vu seems content to set a mood.

The first sound on “Brown Recluse” is the whirring of a tape machine, whose unsteadiness makes the opening notes of acoustic guitar tremble plaintively.

But before that old-time folk vibe can register, the wind chimes tinkle softly, leading to some gentle feedback that builds to the simultaneous entrance (at the 19-second mark) of hand claps and electric slide guitar. Those two elements pull against each other, the hand claps establishing a pleasant groove with the acoustic guitar while the slide concisely articulates its grudge.

The instrumental is clearly meant as a table-setter, but it illustrates that Bedroom Shrine has no interest in dawdling. At all of 85 seconds, the track musically sketches out the band’s Facebook blurb of “rock ’n’ roll gets lonesome” and scurries off.

That’s the basic method of the album, whose 12 songs run a total of 32 minutes. That by itself means nothing, but it relates to both the album’s charm and its shortcoming: The vivid, sharply drawn songs leave you wanting more (good!), but they also feel like sketches that would be even better given the time and space to grow into more-mature form (less good!). It’s telling that the only two songs that run more than three minutes – “You’re Gonna Lose” and the title track – feel most like they’ve reached the ends of their natural lives.

 
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