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By Andy Argyrakis
Famed ongoing summer festival boasts Cocker, Costello, Blondie and Bennett...
Mar. 24, 2009
With South By Southwest in Austin, Texas winding down and rumors for Lollapalooza headliners heating up, the festival season is indeed in full swing. But this summer wouldn't be complete without the famed Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Illinois' ongoing summer soirée boasting the best in pop, rock, jazz, soul, classical and a slew of fine art performances. In terms of the top concerts, there are plenty to choose from, including a series of Ravinia debuts merged with some perennial favorites. Here's a look at ten top shows from the recent line-up announcement with more coverage to come on these very pages as the summer progresses.
"Three Girls and Their Buddy"/ Sunday, June 7
The name of this tour might not jump off the page, but the performers are amongst the most innovative and acclaimed in all of folk history. Headliner Emmylou Harris returns to the venue with fellow troubadours Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin, plus their sole male pal Buddy Miller (a frequent Harris collaborator and solo star in his own right).
Joe Cocker/ Sunday, June 28
In honor of Woodstock's 40th anniversary, legendary blues rocker Joe Cocker makes his Ravinia debut by dusting off over four decades of chart toppers. While he's best known for a highly stylized treatment of The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," his arsenal also includes "You Are So Beautiful," "When the Night Comes" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (to name but a mere handful).
Tom Jones/ Saturday, July 11
Forget the fact that women used to (and sometimes still do) throw lingerie at the aging superstar and look to his past cannon of hits when considering tickets to this relatively rare touring appearance. Outside of "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat?" and "She's a Lady," there's always later hits like "Sexbomb" (a feisty funker as silly as it sounds), alongside a signature cover of Prince's "Kiss."
Steve Miller Band/ Friday, July 17
After filming his 2008 DVD Live From Chicago (Koch) at this very venue, its only fitting to have Steve Miller Band back on the calendar this season. The psychedelic singer/songwriter is sure to address his Windy City blues roots along with sing-a-longs like "The Joker," "Fly Like An Eagle," "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Jet Airliner."
John Legend/ Tuesday, July 21
Rising soul star John Legend titled his latest album Evolver (Sony) and that's a fitting adjective to chart his progress across three studio CDs to date. With comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, the piano player combines old school R&B nuances with neo-soul appeal.
Jackson Browne/ Thursday, July 30
Now that all the dust has settled from political race and the whole world knows Jackson Browne doesn't like candidates he doesn't endorse using his songs, it's back to business on the road for this celebrated tunesmith. And there's plenty to be excited about across a career that's spanned over 40 years and boasted timeless tunes like "Running on Empty," "Doctor My Eyes," "The Pretender" and "Somebody's Baby."
Pat Benatar and Blondie/ Monday, August 17
If "Love Is a Battlefield," how will those with a "Heart of Glass" be able to stand this double bill of female ferocity? Even if their styles are slightly different (Benatar as the rough necked rocker and Blondie as the dance floor divas), both female fronted acts are linked together by ideals of empowerment and enjoyment.
Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal/ Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22
Considering she sells out every appearance at Ravinia, it's only fitting to find Bonnie Raitt headlining two shows sure to pull from her alternative country career with a handful of pop hits mixed in to highlight the familiarity factor. But Raitt faithful are best arriving early for opener Taj Mahal, a firehouse on the blues/jazz circuit in his own right that continues to dazzle even at 66.
Elvis Costello and The Sugarcanes/ Wednesday, August 26
This brand new addition to the line-up doesn't just star pub rock icon Elvis Costello, but also introduces his latest collaborative band The Sugarcanes. Leading the pack for those players is Jerry Douglas of Alison Krauss & Union Station (who's front woman captivated Ravinia last summer alongside Robert Plant).
Tony Bennett/ Friday, August 28
Even at 82, Tony Bennett is a regular on the road who's voice is like a delicate instrument that continues to stand the test of time. One of the last living vintage male vocalists has too many hits to count, but he remains active in the studio cranking out 2006's Duets: An American Classic and last year's A Swingin' Christmas (featuring The Count Basie Big Band). This Ravinia regular sells out every single summer, so be sure to grab tickets sooner than later.
For a complete list of performers and full concert details, log onto www.ravinia.org.