Tom Ze | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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On his first U.S. tour, 63-year-old tropicalia pioneer Tom Ze is using most of the Chicago avant-rock band Tortoise as his backing group, and it should be an interesting matchup. While Brazilian music has been at most a tasty tidbit on Tortoise's giant plate--it's far more prominent in the music of their labelmates the Sea and Cake--the now vaunted world-in-a-blender ethos of the tropicalia movement is close kin to their own philosophy. That said, John McEntire, John Herndon, Douglas McCombs, Jeff Parker, and Eternals percussionist Dan Fliegel will succeed best by being noticed least. As heard on last year's wonderful Com Defeito de Fabricacao (Fabrication Defect) (Luaka Bop), Ze remains one of his country's most beguiling and elusive musicians. Always the most radical of the tropicalistas, he ornaments his delicate but catchy pop tunes with crazy touches like rhythmically revved power tools ("Toc," from his 1975 album, Estudando o Samba) or a balloon rubbed against his teeth ("Xiquexique," from the new album), and his pixie-prankster persona and endearingly casual singing will be the undeniable focus onstage. The locals only practiced with Ze for about a week before they left for this tour, but even if there are occasional missteps, the pairing of these two generational vanguards, not to mention the opportunity to finally watch Ze perform, make this a must-see event. Jim O'Rourke opens (see separate Critic's Choice). Friday, 8:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Johnson.

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