Best shows to see: Ellie Goulding, Soundgarden, Jose James, and more

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Ellie Goulding
  • Ellie Goulding
On Monday night the great roots-rock singer Lucinda Williams plays the relatively intimate confines of City Winery (she also plays Space in Evanston on Wednesday night; sold out), while down at the Skylark cellists Fred Lonberg-Holm and Tomeka Reid improvise with drummer Charles Rumback. On Tuesday night Bitchin' Bajas, a filmic side project of Cave guitarist Cooper Crain, concludes its January residency at the Hideout, while clarinetist James Falzone's excellent quartet Klang winds down its residency over at Bar DeVille. I had no idea that air guitar was the kind of art form that required formal study, but over at the Cobra Lounge Chicago's own champion wailer (and B-Side cover subject) Justin "Nordic Thunder" Howard will give a workshop, including some history of the, uh, genre.

Tue 1/29: Ellie Goulding at Aragon Ballroom
Says Miles Raymer, "[Ellie] Goulding isn’t afraid to challenge her listeners. Last year’s Halcyon—which she released while its predecessor, Lights, was still charting—has some genuinely aggressive sounds and a nice spooky vibe that recalls Kate Bush and Tori Amos in equal measure, but it doesn’t sacrifice the mega hooks that rope in casual fans. She’s toured with Katy Perry and with Grimes, proving that she works just as well with a pop idol as she does with a more experimental musician."

Tue-Wed Jan 29-30: Soundgarden at Riviera
Discussing the recent reunion album of onetime Seattle grunge kids Soundgarden, Monica Kendrick writes, "there's no way it could sound as fresh and wild as the band did in 1989, [but] it's a great gift to their fans, as well as to anyone who needs a little schooling in just how incredibly influential they were in their prime. It's 52 minutes that never let up, with a refreshing variety in theme and tempo, and Chris Cornell's snarly rock-god pipes are as strong as ever; founding guitarist Kim Thayil is here too, as are drummer Matt Cameron (who joined in 1986) and bassist Ben Shepherd (aboard in 1990)."

Wed 1/30: Jose James at Lincoln Hall
A lot of people categorize the up-and-coming singer Jose James as a jazz vocalist, but as I write this week, "it's obvious that James's focus is on modern R&B, with a heavy dose of D'Angelo. He does little to disrupt that comparison on his newest and best record, No Beginning No End (Blue Note), which succeeds in large part because he's no longer searching for his sound. It features bassist Pino Palladino (who also coproduced), a key player on D'Angelo's Voodoo, and its terse, velvety horn charts and stuttery hip-hip grooves also recall that paradigm-shifting album."

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