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Summerfest: Saturday, July 3

Rush, Modest Mouse and John Hiatt

Jun. 10, 2010
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Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.

When you’re the three guys in Rush—the same three guys who have been in Rush since 1974—you can call your current North American trek the “Time Machine Tour.” This “evening with Rush” will feature the band’s most popular album, 1981’s Moving Pictures—“Tom Sawyer,” anyone?—performed in its entirety, plus other classics and new tunes from the Canadian prog-rock trio’s forthcoming 20th studio album.

“Everybody was kind of itching to get on the road and get in ‘peak playing form’ before we recorded the bulk of the record,” vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee recently told Rolling Stone. “In a way, we have this tendency to take a long period of time off, and then we kind of get our chops together and go record. We thought it’s kind of ass-backwards, really, because when you finish a long tour, you're in such amazing playing shape that that’s the time you should go in and start laying down tracks. But, of course, you're exhausted by then.”

It certainly would be understandable if Lee (age 56), guitarist Alex Lifeson (56) and drummer Neil Peart (57) are exhausted after this 40-date tour. But Summerfest is only the third stop, so expect a fresh, energized performance by a timeless band. (Michael Popke)

Modest Mouse w/ Avi Buffalo

Miller Lite Oasis, 10 p.m.


It took Modest Mouse four full-length albums and more than a decade on the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene to score a chart-topper (“Float On” from their 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News), making them one of the most unlikely commercial success stories in modern rock history. The group from Issaquah, Wash., overcame its share of troubles—drug abuse, mental illness, jail time, even criticism for selling their songs to beer and car commercials—to achieve platinum-selling status with Good News and No. 1 real estate on the Billboard 200 for 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Though Modest Mouse was getting major mainstream radio play, the band didn’t compromise its sound for the masses. The band’s music distinguishes itself with frontman Isaac Brock’s evocative lyrics, often delivered in a weird but compelling yelp-bark, arranged over a tight blend of bold guitars and a sharp, almost primal, rhythm section.

Opening for Modest Mouse’s 10 p.m. set is Avi Buffalo, a young Sub Pop group from Long Beach, Calif. Fresh from releasing its first album in April, the quartet will be sure to bring its short, snappy pop songs glazed with high-pitched vocals and guitar fantasias. (Sarah Biondich)

John Hiatt

Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, 10 p.m.


At his 1979 Summerfest debut, John Hiatt was hunched over and wary, as if ready to defend himself from bodily harm. He had just released Slug Line, an album indebted to the artful hostility of Elvis Costello, and drew a small new wave crowd to the side stage. Almost no one present had any idea that Hiatt’s recording career had already begun five years earlier with Hangin’ Around the Observatory, an album that sold almost no copies when released but would nowadays be embraced by Americana fans for its folk-country sound. Slug Line was the digression, an off-ramp on Hiatt’s journey. The work that followed in the ’80s would establish his legacy.

Hiatt began his career as a songwriter in Nashville, where the music industry stressed the verities of storytelling and simplicity that would continue to inform his writing through nearly 20 albums. But country music was always too small a category for a writer whose songs have been covered by everyone from Iggy Pop to Emmylou Harris, B.B. King to Paula Abdul. Not unlike Ry Cooder, with whom he has often recorded, Hiatt distills the essence of many American genres into a rugged, road-tested sound recognizably his own with inspiration from blues, gospel via ’60s soul, rock and folk.

Although he has received many Grammy nominations, and penned songs that hit No. 1 for others, stardom always eluded him. His greatest commercial success, Perfectly Good Guitar (1993), reached No. 47 on Billboard. Hiatt’s 2010 CD, The Open Road, reflects on the rambling life in weather-beaten songs by a musician who has never stood still for long. (David Luhrssen)


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