Billy goes inside.
Review and Photos by Barry BrecheisenIt's not often you get to see the likes of Billy Corgan, Steve Earle or the legendary Ronnie Spector grace the same stage. And you probably never will unless it's for a good cause. Saturday proved to be just such a night as The Metro hosted The Waltz IV, the fourth annual benefit concert raising money for the Heartland Alliance's Neon Street Program for homeless teens.
This year's lineup continued in the tradition of previous Waltz's bringing together unique artists and showcasing the strength of diversity into one night of musical harmony. Taking it's name and format from the famous final concert by The Band called "The Last Waltz," the event was once again hosted by the Nicholas Tremulis Band, who served as the house band backing up one artist after another as they collaborated together on mostly cover tunes.
Last night Chicagoans were treated to 14 wonderful artists performing 26 songs including a very special Ramones medley. Nicholas Tremulis and his band opened up the evening warming the crowd with an old Delta Blues song called "Cat Squirrel." Without a moment to catch your breath, the beautiful Kelly Hogan appeared with the local favorite Sonia Dada to play the '70s classic "Drift Away." By the song's conclusion everyone was inspired to join in.
Decked out in brown suede pants, Alejandro Escovedo was next with guitar in hand ready to be the first tonight to truly rock out. Last year he was, without question, one of the highlights when he brought down the house with his rendition of The Stooges' classic "I Want to Be Your Dog." This time around he surprisingly chose to perform his own full-throttled anthem from last year's release "A Man Under the Influence" entitled, "Velvet Guitar," which left the crowd famished for more.
The most unusual moment was to follow when David Amram took the stage. Far from a household name, this legendary composer who's been described as "the Renaissance man of American music" has, nonetheless, been around for decades. In fact, he's collaborated with everyone from Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Willie Nelson and Jack Kerouac, as well as composing famous film scores. "This piece we're about to play tonight hasn't been performed in 40 years," Tremulis informed the sold-out crowd. Complete with horns and woods, the eccentric David Amram sat down behind the keyboard wearing his signature collection of necklaces that would make even Mr. T blush. The piece was a small portion of the haunting score Amram composed for the 1962 political thriller "Manchurian Candidate," a cult classic directed by the great John Frankenheimer and, arguably, Frank Sinatra's strongest performance. Images from the beautiful black-and-white film were projected behind the musicians during the performance. Moments such as these is what makes the Waltz concerts so special, because you never know where they are going to take you.
Next up were stellar performances of Wilco's John Stirratt and Graham Parker. Steve Earle came out next to perform a quick but sweet number entitled, "Outlaws Honey Moon." Ivan Neville followed sporting a quirky Curly Howard shirt but wasn't joking once he sat at the keyboard to deliver his own brand of unique, soulful funk. On a very serious moment, Paris Delane of Sonia Dada announced the sad passing of his Mother Lillian, who died only a few hours earlier. "I wouldn't be here without that woman," a very emotional Delane shared with the crowd before going into a unscripted rendition of "Amazing Grace." Jon Landford, along with former-Smashing Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlin behind the skins, changed the mood by bringing a punk sensibility to the event with a Ramones medley that included "Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Don't Care" and "Teenage Lobotomy." Chamberlin stayed at his post to do his best John Bonham on the Zeppelin instrumental classic, "Moby Dick." Bandmate Billy Corgan followed after the intermission with a song about friends and lovers. Despite whatever your perception of him as a guitarist might be, Corgan's amazing solo performed that evening was enough to win over the toughest skeptic.
Other performances included Ken Nordine's spoken word piece and slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth. One of the standout performances of the night was from the South African artist, Blondie Chaplin, who has worked with everyone from the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones. When he sings you believe it. Like the lines in his face, his gospel rendition of "Change is Gonna Come" was deep and real.
It was hard to top that performance but leave it to the legendary Ronnie Spector to come out and steal the spotlight. The minute the familiar beats to the Ronette's classic "Be My Baby" were heard the audience was given a special gift to an already incredible night. Ronnie looked wonderful and appeared delighted to be back on the stage, if only for a few songs. Everyone minus Corgan came back afterwards for one last tune, a spectacular version of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." Spector, Parker and even Steve Earle took turns sharing in the vocals to conclude a beautiful night of rock and roll for a good cause.
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