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Barbara Cook & Janis Ian

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What an inspired pairing of talents for a gay and lesbian rights fund-raiser. Barbara Cook, an unchallenged master of luxuriously lyrical singing in the classic Broadway style, is teaming with folk-pop singer-songwriter Janis Ian in "A Statement for Freedom/A State Meant for Freedom," a benefit for the Illinois Federation for Human Rights' efforts to pass statewide antidiscrimination legislation. Cook, star of the original Candide and The Music Man, has built a devoted cult following since her comeback as a cabaret and concert artist in the 1970s; no one matches her ability to combine a big soprano sound with conversational intimacy. Her specialty is songs by the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Peter Allen, and Allen's ballad "Love Don't Need a Reason," written with AIDS activist Michael Callen, is set to close this performance. Ian, whose waifish soprano and sensitive lyrics gave voice to a troubled, socially conscious new generation in "Society's Child," her mid-60s hit about interracial teen romance, has never been one to shy away from controversy; her songs have also addressed domestic violence and incest, and last year she came out as a lesbian. Opening for Cook, she'll alternate between old hits ("At Seventeen," "Jesse") and material from her 1993 comeback album Breaking Silence; among the newer songs should be her delicately erotic "Ride Me Like a Wave." Despite their different styles, these two emotionally expressive artists should complement each other splendidly. Thursday, August 4, 8 PM, Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; 559-1212 or 477-7173.

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