Show Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Jenny Hval and band at Chicago's Constellation May 15th, 2022 - photo by Dave Robbins

Jenny Hval and band at Chicago's Constellation May 15th, 2022 - photo by Dave Robbins

Jenny Hval
May 15th 2022 - Constellation Chicago IL
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: May 2022
(91) Page Views

On Jenny Hval’s bandcamp page there is a quote. “In 2020, like everyone else, I was just a private person. No artists were allowed to perform. I was reduced to ‘just me.’” For those who have experienced her previous theatrically crafted performances and followed her perceptive conceptual albums tackling imposed meaning, language games and sensual connections, the question, who exactly is Jenny Hval was hidden inside her electronic conjurings stalking her personal thoughts and fearless queries with evocative abstractions.

Embarking on her North American, a six-city tour with five fellow musicians, Jenny stepped out from behind her art to reveal the artist, a direct, sweet and funny person. Gone was the large intestine feather boa, the miming clowns, couture costumes and computer accompaniment. Jenny’s co-vocalist, percussionist and supplementary keyboard player Jenny Berger Myhre said the band felt somewhat naked playing without all the theatrical trappings and apparently, a large orange tent was abandoned for her stage design due to its musty smell. Instead, Jenny presented her latest album, “Classic Objects,” as an opportunity to connect to her fans on a personal level.

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The Weather Station - High Noon Saloon February 24th 2022 - photo by Dave Robbins

The Weather Station - High Noon Saloon February 24th 2022 - photo by Dave Robbins

The Weather Station with Helena Deland
High Noon Saloon Madison WI February 24th 2022
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Feb 2022
(241) Page Views

As a light snow fell on ice-covered streets, a warm and level-headed The Weather Station provided a safe haven under a steadily heady session of beautiful tunes wrapping thoughtful lyrics inside teasing keyboards, ghostly guitar and subtle percussive touches. In a set list favoring last year’s, “Ignorance,” with a smattering of cuts from the previous two albums, the storm outside and the news of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict proved a suitable backdrop for the band to highlight an album concerned with environmental issues and our responsibility as caretakers. Singer-songwriter and frontperson Tamara Lindeman delivers fascinating compassion with cultivated urgency and she let her strong songs carry her narrative at Madison’s High Noon Saloon with barely a sentence between songs beyond a thanks for wearing masks so she and her bandmates could safely return to their native Canada.

In a flawless hour plus performance, The Weather Station impressed with their creative adventurousness and expressive sentiments, a telepathic galaxy summoned from restless tenets and nurtured worries. Occasionally crouching and frequently pacing between synthesizers, claves and guitar, Tamara’s black suit and tie hid a bright spirit, a firefly lighting moonless skies in formal attire, as her serious subjects betrayed a comforting optimism in their common sense and practical magic keeping the storm outside at bay. 

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CHAI Cactus Club Milwaukee WI - photo by Dave Robbins

CHAI Cactus Club Milwaukee WI - photo by Dave Robbins

CHAI with Su Lee
Cactus Club - Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 5th, 2022
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Feb 2022
(307) Page Views

Only the second stop on their North American WINK TOGETHER tour, CHAI’s Milwaukee debut couldn’t have been more dazzling. Dressed in silver Lycra ponchos and fluffy pink taffeta, the four-piece pep rally filled the cramped Cactus Club stage busting moves, posing and voguing while strapping on guitars and shuffling between drums and synths. Between crowd-rousing party-funk and swooning bedroom-pop ballads, the band’s non-stop bop never let up for over a dozen songs in the packed hour set.

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OHMME & Alex Grelle present Full Bush - photo by Dave Robbins

OHMME & Alex Grelle present Full Bush - photo by Dave Robbins

Full Bush
OHMME & Alex Grelle's celebration of Kate Bush - December 11th, 2021 - Co-Prosperity Sphere Chicago, IL
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Dec 2021
(384) Page Views

Theater. Adding a magnifying glass to life’s conflicted head-trips. A manufactured illusion to infuse a universal feeling, a shared experience with shining lights and added colors.

In choosing Kate Bush as their muse, OHMME and Alex Grelle’s The Full Bush overflows in impressive expressions, presenting a tribute saluting not only Bush’s extraordinary songs but her sensual independence and ever-curious spirit.

Video projections, costume changes, choreographed theatrics, Full Bush revealed a musical mentor inside Bush’s vibrant insights on identity and creativity. Beginning with, “Wow,” the live performance stated its case early. The human spirit can fill rooms, priming the senses and ignite imaginations. Caressing the restless existential, “Big Sky,” “Deeper Understanding,” “Cloudbusting” and. “Running Up That Hill,” the dynamic staging transported Co-Prosperity’s art-gallery space into epic dimensions; visceral, physical drama sparking spectacles exemplified by melodic heights, outstretched limbs and breathless messages.

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Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker at Madison's High Noon Saloon - photo by Dave Robbins

Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker at Madison's High Noon Saloon - photo by Dave Robbins

Adrianne Lenker
High Noon Saloon Madison WI November 19th, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
(354) Page Views

Possessing a voice that holds both child-like wonder and secretive meanings, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker’s enigmatic presence radiates a disarming charm through honest modesty, timid contradictions and beguiling shyness. Known as a talented lyricist, her solo performance at Madison’s High Noon Saloon highlighted an incredible guitarist whose classical flourishes danced beneath sophisticated folk licks. “Tuning is a big part of my show,” Adrianne offered as a sort of apology to her frequent breaks between songs before she put her acoustic guitar through its paces with sharp finger-picking styles that moved with fluid grace and laser focus.

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Wood Brothers at Stoughton Opera House - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

Wood Brothers at Stoughton Opera House - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

The Wood Brothers
Live at The Stoughton Opera House
Show Review By Tony Mueller
Posted: Nov 2021
(326) Page Views

The Wood Brothers brought their talents back to the beautiful Stoughton Opera House for a very warming performance on a cold November night.

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Fred Wesley & The New JBs - photo by Michael Sherer

Fred Wesley & The New JBs - photo by Michael Sherer

Fred Wesley & The New JBs at BRIC Fest - Brooklyn, NYC, 10.23.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Oct 2021
(249) Page Views

Trombonist Fred Wesley got his big time start playing with James Brown’s group in ‘69, and remained through ‘75. This was a golden era for Brown, but more importantly for Soul and Funk music at large. Wesley’s precise, powerful and tasteful playing and solos have always been a distinguished and recognizable part of the sound of the many artists he’s played with, ranging from Count Basie to Parliament-Funkadelic.

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Jay Cocks & Steven Van Zandt - photo by Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography

Jay Cocks & Steven Van Zandt - photo by Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography

Steven Van Zandt in conversation with Jay Cocks - 92Y, NYC, 9.29.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Oct 2021
(271) Page Views

Steven Van Zandt has a brand new memoir entitled ‘Unrequited Infatuations,’ and to accompany it a discussion was had between him and an old close friend, screenwriter Jay Cocks. It was a very relaxed, down-to-earth and engaging one, as they’ve known each other for 46 years.

Their association is an interesting one: In ‘75, when Cocks was a cultural critic for Time magazine, he found out that Newsweek magazine’s counterpart Maureen Orth was doing a piece about Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, which Van Zandt had joined that year. Cocks then convinced his editor that they were about to be beaten out to the story by their main competitor. The unprecedented result was that both weekly magazines featured Springsteen on their covers on the same day of October 27th. This was the first time that a musician had achieved that. It stemmed from the breakthrough success of Springsteen’s third record ‘Born to Run,’ which had been released two months earlier and had rocketed to number 3 on the Billboard top 200 chart, after his first two records had hardly made any splash at all.

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Heartless Bastards Majestic Theater September 23rd 2021 - photo by Dave Robbins

Heartless Bastards Majestic Theater September 23rd 2021 - photo by Dave Robbins

Heartless Bastards with Tela Novella
Majestic Theater - September 23rd, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(259) Page Views

Dressed in cowboy boots and a black rainbow-trimmed jump-suit, singer-songwriter and moving force behind Heartless Bastards, Erika Wennerstrom embodied the band’s power-roots love-in ethos, leading the crowd down that rocky road to the Promised Land with unrepentant strength and six-string wisdom. Playing the title cut to their latest album, “A Beautiful Life,” Wennerstrom sort of shrugged her shoulder as explanation of the song’s positive outlook and asked, “what’s ya gonna do?”  The crowd knew; enjoy the moment. Delivering rousing tunes with big rhythms and sizzling solos, the Bastards encourage living in the present with double-barreled renditions of “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” “Doesn’t Matter Now,” and, “Revolution,” which reminded everyone, “the revolution is in your mind.”

The band felt right at home despite the fact they hadn’t played Madison since opening up for The Decemberists at the Orpheum Theater in 2009. Accustomed to life on the road as detailed by the slinky mid-show banger, “Went Around the World,” Ohio-bred Texas transplant Wasserstrom recounted spending time in Appleton at a monastery run by some friends while writing songs for the new album. She also professed her love for West Texas desert before launching into the haunted tumbleweed waltz, “The Arrow Killed the Beast.” A restless curious spirit, it made her band’s visit to the Majestic all that more special. A somewhat rare treat to be relished and cherished.

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Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

Japanese Breakfast with Luna Li
Majestic Theater Madison WI September 18th, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(236) Page Views

For some reason Japanese Breakfast has always played Madison in September; from 2016 – 2018 they played the High Noon Saloon, UW’s The Sett and Majestic Theater. So, when Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner announced after the first song how cold she felt, I wondered if in their three-year absence she had forgotten what September was like in Wisconsin. A crisp night and a near full moon greeted the band’s fourth visit to Madison and a sold-out return to the Majestic, where whatever cold may have visited the band was soon removed by warm love filling the venue.

Madison holds a special place for Michelle, whose first Yelp review ever was to praise East Washington’s Five Star Barbecue. Sticking to her praise, she dedicated the closing number, “Everybody Wants To Love You,” to the Korean restaurant. Food is very special to Michelle, as detailed in her recent New York Times best seller, “Crying in H Mart,” and it seems only natural the only dedication of the night would be to a restaurant.

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Lindsey Buckingham - photo by Michael Sherer

Lindsey Buckingham - photo by Michael Sherer

Lindsey Buckingham - The Town Hall, NYC, 9.16.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Sep 2021
(274) Page Views

NYC is, of course, a special place to perform, especially at the fabled and classy The Town Hall, just east of Times Square. It was the tenth stop on Buckingham’s thirty date U.S. tour this year, which began September 1st in Milwaukee. Most of the 1,500 hundred seats here at The Town Hall were full. This great sounding, 100 year old hall is an ideal venue to attend concerts and talks.

Buckingham was in fine form vocally, musically and physically, as was his whole band. They sounded taut and thoroughly rehearsed, which they have been, as seen from notices online. Co guitarist Neale Heywood, an Englishman, has been playing alongside Buckingham since 1997, when he first played with Fleetwood Mac at the concert known as “The Dance.” Heywood has toured with the Mac throughout the years since, as an added guitarist.

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Pitchfork Festival 2021 - Andy Shauf The Weather Station Special Interest Kim Gordon Tomberlin Horsegirl Bartees Strange Ela Minus Dog Leg

Pitchfork Festival 2021 - Andy Shauf The Weather Station Special Interest Kim Gordon Tomberlin Horsegirl Bartees Strange Ela Minus Dog Leg

Pitchfork 2021
Pitchfork Music Festival Sept 10 -13 2021 Union Park Chicago IL
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(240) Page Views

Pitchfork Festival has always managed to be a diverse inclusive gathering that looks both into the future and back to its past with a reasonable set-up and eclectic roster. Beyond moving to September with mask protocol and vaccination mandates to ensure a safe environment to enjoy music, mosh pits and merch, the 2021 version was no exception. For some bands this was the first time they played since the pandemic, for others, recent natural disasters made the trip to Chicago particularly challenging. New Orleans’ punk powerhouse Special Interest barely escaped from Hurricane Ida. The Weather Station, whose latest album, “Ignorance,” tackles climate change, only hinted at difficult logistics when they claimed to have climbed seventeen mountains to get to the festival. Jay Electronica was the only last-minute cancellation with the remaining forty-one bands arriving well-rehearsed and ready to play.

From the one-handed cartwheel from Dog Leg’s guitarist to St. Vincent ’s rotating stage and choreographed nostalgia, the performances were uniformly impressive and energetic. Amaarae’s emotional intensity, Bartees Strange’s souful hopefulness, Tomberlin’s delicate declarations, Cat Power’s compassionate folk-blues; the entire spectrum of human feelings were articulated while black midi, Ty Segall and Thundercat unleashed feelings words couldn’t quite convey. The pandemic and the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 were occasionally mentioned, but an overall sense of appreciation and gratitude wove through the between song chit-chat and as in past years, the festival created a sonic bubble where lyrical wisdom and socio-political willfulness floated over life’s more immediate needs to chill out and rock on.

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