Music roundup for May 15-21, 2014

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By Bill Livick, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rodriguez at 7 p.m. Friday, May 16, The Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets: $35-$45. Call 414-286-3663.

Sixto Rodriguez's story is now well known, thanks to the 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” which received an Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Rodriguez is a Detroit-based singer-songwriter who recorded two albums in the early 1970s and toured Australia twice before being dropped from his record label due to poor album sales. He then returned to working as a laborer and essentially abandoned his dream of becoming a successful recording artist.

The sixth son of Mexican immigrant parents, Rodriguez wrote songs that dealt with racial discrimination and the hardships of the working poor.

Although his recordings sold poorly in the U.S., Rodriguez was unaware that they sold very well in southern Africa and Australia. In the country of South Africa, Rodriguez gained a level of fame was similar to such contemporaries as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens.

Some of his songs came to serve as anti-apartheid anthems in South Africa, where his work influenced musicians who protested against the government.

In 1991, both of his albums were released on CD in South Africa for the first time, which helped perpetuate his fame. But a rumor spread throughout the country that Rodriguez had committed suicide onstage during a performance.

In 1997, however, one of his two daughters discovered a website dedicated to Rodriguez. He or his surrogates contacted the authors of the website, which is when he learned of his acclaim in South Africa.

In 1998, he toured the country, performing six sold-out shows. His fame and remarkable personal history began to spread internationally, and Rodriguez performed in Sweden before touring South Africa again in 2001 and 2005.

With the success of the documentary, Rodriguez finally got some recognition in the United States for his insightful songs and singular voice.

In 2012 and 2013, he appeared on late night television with David Letterman and Jay Leno, as well as the news show “60 Minutes.”

He told Rolling Stone magazine last year that he's written enough new songs to make an album and expects to go into the studio soon to record it.

His performance Friday at the Riverside Theater marks Rodriguez's rise to fame, which is based on songs he recorded more than 40 years ago.

Suzanne Vega at 8 p.m. Friday, May 16, Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave., Madison. Tickets: $35. Call 608-241-8633.

In 1987, Suzanne Vega recorded her song “Luka,” a ballad about an abused child. It turned out to be her ticket to pop stardom, reaching No. 3 on the singles chart and placing Vega, along with Tracy Chapman, at the forefront of a new wave of thoughtful folk singer-songwriters.

Three years later, Vega's career got an unexpected boost when a pair of British remix artists brought her back into the Top 10 with a hip-hop version of her song “Tom's Diner.”

Vega grew up in New York City's Spanish Harlem and attended the High School of the Performing Arts. By the time she was 16, Vega was performing at Greenwich Village coffeehouses. She enrolled at Barnard College after high school and continued to perform acoustic folk at downtown clubs, eventually landing a contract with A&M Records.

Her 1985 debut album established her as a critic favorite in the United States. It reached No. 11 on the British pop chart.

Her 1987 release, “Solitude Standing,” was her breakthrough album in America, where it peaked at No. 11. The album reached No. 2 in the U.K.

Vega released three albums in the 1990s, but none achieved the commercial success of her first two. She has released three albums since 2001, including “Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles” this year.

It is Vega's first album of new material in seven years and has been critically acclaimed both in the U.S. and Europe.

David Lindley at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets: $20. Call 414-276-7288.

David Lindley is best known for his role as a sideman to Jackson Browne. However, as a virtuoso on numerous stringed instruments, he's been a critical accompanist to a plethora of star musicians: Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt, Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart.

In recent years, Lindley also has toured extensively and recorded with reggae percussionist (and Beloit native) Wally Ingram.

Lindley's extensive touring around the world has exposed him to an array of instruments that appear exotic to Western audiences.

He has released 23 albums under his own name since 1967, but none have been commercially successful. His influence on a host of musicians has been undeniable, and Lindley is one of the most sought-out studio artists in the industry.

Lindley joined Jackson Browne for a tour of Spain in 2006. “Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino,” a two-CD set of recordings from that tour, was released in May 2010, with Browne and Lindley touring together starting in June of that year. The duo won an Independent Music Award for best live performance album.

Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, The Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Featuring Warren Haynes. Tickets: $45.50-$75.50. Call 414-286-3663.

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Warren Haynes is a rare talent who has stood in for both Duane Allman and Jerry Garcia. He spent the past 25 years in the Allman Brothers Band and has toured frequently with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead.

Haynes is also someone who can see across the cultural chasm separating the Grateful Dead jamming on “Dark Star” for 20 minutes and a 43-piece symphony orchestra doing Dead standards.

Haynes will bridge that chasm next week when he performs a tribute to Garcia: the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration.

The challenge for Haynes will be to keep the spirit of the Dead's improvisation alive while performing with the symphony.

Between symphonic gigs, Haynes' calendar remains packed. His other band, Gov't Mule, tours Europe, Japan and Australia later this year. He also wraps up his final dates with the Allmans in the coming months—he and fellow guitarist Derek Trucks will leave the band at the end of the year.

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