Thursday, August 6, 2009

Too high to get over

Tributosaurus, the Civil War reconstructionists of pop music, have performed a full live set as a different rock act every month for the last seven years. They're serious musicians and they bring whatever is necessary to play the show: extra keyboards for Genesis, a chorus of angels for Pink Floyd, surplus dry wit for XTC, etc. They're also seriously good, doing justice to their source material no matter how complex.

Every August, "Tributo" plays a superstar set in homage to a giant performer in the world of rock: Zeppelin, the Stones, Mandy Moore. This year, in a decision made months before death, headlines and hoopla, they elected to play as Michael Jackson. Predictably, given Tributo's extant popularity and all the M.J. hype, the two shows sold out immediately and became a much-discussed must-see around Chicago.

Last night I caught the early Michael Jackson show and it was excellent, packed with faithful note-for-note recreations of all the hits you'd expect, not just from Thriller but also Off the Wall and elsewhere, plus the soulful, introspective material you rarely hear on the radio. (The Jackson Five catalog was left untouched, as that will be a future show of its own.) The appreciative crowd was dancing and singing along as Tributo blew the roof off of Martyrs, their longtime base of operations.

At one point I counted 22 people on stage, including full string and horn sections, two drummers, five background vocalists, and more people playing guitars than you'd find in the parking lot at a Dead show. I won't reveal what songs they played, but if you asked me whether an adult woman ably sang one number as a 9-year-old Michael Jackson, much in the way that a grown woman provides the voice for Bart Simpson, I won't deny it. In fact, six different people in turn handled the lead vocals, each competent and interesting in his or her own way.

The Martyrs shows sold out so fast that the band decided to add another night to give more people a chance to catch this special go-round. Tributosaurus plays again as Michael Jackson at 7:30 tonight at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn (if that sounds far away, don't worry, it's across the street from Oak Park).

The show will play outdoors under a big tent, an appropriately festive setting for a celebratory night of great music. Children are welcome with adult supervision. More information is here, tickets here.

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