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Sons of the Silent Age (Metro, 1/11/13) – Review

I got my flu shot on Thursday. By yesterday afternoon, I had a fever and the chills. The fever and chills weren’t because of the shot, as any doctor will tell you. They happened just because. Pure coincidence.

By about 7 p.m. last night, I felt significantly better, which was bizarre but totally convenient. My improved condition meant that I felt well enough to head out to Metro for the Sons of the Silent Age performance at Metro.

As Matt Walker explained on my January 2 podcast, Sons of the Silent Age was a (one-time only?) David Bowie tribute band created to headline a concert benefitting the Pablove Foundation‘s work in treating, educating, and empowering children and families affected by pediatric cancer.


The Sons of the Silent Age line-up included close to a dozen of Chicago’s finest players (Walker among them), and was primarily fronted by Chris Connelly, whose solo work had been channeling Bowie for countless years.

After a ramshackle, boozy, run-through of T Rex songs (including a gleefully punked up “20th Century Boy”) by mid-bill openers the Waco Brothers, the temperature inside Metro started to swell. Adding the outside’s relative warmth to the achingly sold out, capacity-filled, venue, Metro became an oven. I could swear I saw heat shimmers coming off the ground.

Sons of the Silent Age opened with my all-time favorite Bowie song, “Station to Station,” the dark and epic (in the non-overused sense of the word) title track from 1976. As the band kicked in with swirling and foreboding atmospherics, Connelly emerged from side stage wearing a black sport coat, white button down shirt, and dyed orange hair. He stood and waited for his moment; and sure enough, with “the return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers’ eyes …,” it was clear — Connelly was Bowie, if only for the night.

Walker had prepared me for what he described as a “fan’s setlist,” mostly specific to Bowie’s fertile mid-late 70s output. Not only was it a fan’s setlist, I swear it was one I would have created. With meticulous focus on recreating every nuance from the source material, the band delivered hair-raising versions of fan favorites like “TVC 15,” “Scary Monsters,” “Look Back in Anger,” and “Queen Bitch.” A handful of sourpusses standing a few people away from me were loudly complaining about the set list and their lack of their familiarity with it. I willed them to Let’s Dance their way to the exit.

bowie connelly

In addition to Connelly’s eerily spot-on conjuring of Bowie, Shirley Manson of Garbage stepped in to sing a few songs midway through the show (before returning for two encore duets, “Changes” and “Heroes”). As wonderful as she is as a frontwoman, her vocal turn was, in some ways, distracting from the show’s flow. The band’s performance, combined with Connelly’s presence, had been so “on” up until that point, that Manson was too much of a good thing (how many shows leave you thinking that?).

To her credit, Manson gender-bended “Boys Keep Swinging” beautifully, and delivered a powerful and emotional “Life on Mars?”.

Beyond Connelly, it’s hard to single out just one MVP performance from Sons of the Silent Age, although the guitar combination of Robert Byrne and Steve Gerlach was spectacular. There were moments when it sounded like Carlos Alomar and Mick Ronson were trading licks on stage.

I loved the one-off nature of the event. If the band were to do this again, it would feel much less special. Furthermore, this performance ruined me for any future cover or tribute bands (all due respect to Tributosaurus).


Chicago bands – it’s time to celebrate LOCALCEMBER

I’ve had a very memorable year podcasting with the Steve Dahl Network. Most recently, and shockingly, my show was nominated for the national Podcast Awards. Once I get more information on how to vote for a winner, I’ll probably be asking for your help (In fact, I think voting officially starts tomorrow).

I’ve been lucky to have had some big-time guests on this year, mostly from the world of music (go figure). It occurred to me, however, that I should probably take a few steps back and spend more time focused on an area I love and have unintentionally underserved: Chicago music.

December, 2012 is LOCALCEMBER on the James VanOsdol Show, featuring nothing but Chicago bands. I’ll be interviewing cool up-and-coming local bands all month and, if the bands are willing, also playing their music on the show.

What does this mean to you? If you’re in a band, I want to hear your stuff. If you know someone in a band, please tell them about Localcember. It’ll be just like when I hosted Local 101 back in the day … only this time around, I don’t need to edit out profanity from songs. Well, that, and I’ll have to get formal permission to actually play the songs.

Genre is unimportant. I’ll play rock, metal, alt, blues … whatever sounds good.

Contact me at Localcember: it’s a Chicago thing.


Local bands: you can follow in the footsteps of these honorable folks, who have all been interviewed on my show this year (listed in no particular order):

Jenny McCarthy
James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins/A Perfect Circle)
Alan Parsons
Queensryche (Geoff Tate)
The Yardbirds (Jim McCarty)
The Tubes (Fee Waybill)
Steve Howe (Yes/Asia)
Thomas Dolby
Johnny Winter
Rebirth Brass Band
Dick Dale
Pat Travers
Soul Asylum (Dave Pirner)
actor Paul Adelstein (“Private Practice,” “Prison Break”)
Eve 6
The Toadies
Smoking Popes
musician/producer Butch Walker
The Last Vegas
Martin Atkins (Pigface, Public Image Ltd.)
Die Warzau (Jim Marcus)
Girl in a Coma
Chantal Claret (solo artist/Morningwood singer)
JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound
Off Broadway
Emilie Autumn
author/rock critic Jim DeRogatis
author Brian Cronin (“Was Superman a Spy?”)
author Will Murray (Doc Savage)
horror film host Svengoolie

Smoking Popes/Josh Caterer: New interview coming Wednesday for the Steve Dahl Network

I just finished producing my latest podcast episode, featuring an interview with an old pal: Josh Caterer of Smoking Popes. Since I’ve interviewed Josh dozens of times, I decided to take a different angle with him–I asked him to prepare a top 5 list to share on the show.

The result? You’ve honestly gotta listen when the episode hits next week (update 3/1/12: it’s up!). I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the list he made, but I was really impressed with how passionate and articulate he was about the topic.

The interview clocked in at over an hour, and I swear it’s entertaining throughout.

In addition to talking about topics related to Josh’s top 5 list, we also talk about the band, Iggy Pop, Alkaline Trio, Morrissey, the academic credibility of Columbia College, and … Steve Dahl.

In the meantime, please follow these Popes links and support the band!

The band
The band on Twitter
Josh on Twitter

New podcast episode: Mike Tyranski of Janus

I just recorded and edited my latest interview, with Mike from Janus. It should be up soon–check out for information on how to subscribe to the network!




Kevin Guilfoile-Podcast Interview 1/25/12

This week’s podcast finds me talking with author and humorist Kevin Guilfoile, whose last two books, Cast of Shadows and The Thousand, are can’t-put-’em-down, provocative, ready-for-Hollywood, thrillers.

During the length of the show, we talk about the writing process, publishing, the Gilmore Girls, Chicago culture, parenting, baseball (Kevin worked for both the Astros and Pirates), and the late Wesley Willis (Rock over London, Rock on Chicago!). If that’s not enough enticement, listen to find out what Kevin calls “the most self indulgent, narcissistic, place on earth” (hint: you’ve probably been there).

I loved talking with him–hope you enjoy listening!

And seriously, if you have an idea for the show’s name I’m all ears.


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Michael McDermott: Podcast interview 1/8/12

Michael McDermott is the kind of guy you can’t help but root for. Debuting at the front end of the 1990s with a well-received major label release (620 W. Surf), his songcraft has only improved in the years and decades that have followed.

Most recently, McDermott successfully crowdfunded his next release through Kickstarter, with plans to release the project this summer. Over 30K was raised by 142 people who wanted to see the album come to life. Michael McDermott may not be a household name, but damn it all if his fans aren’t believers.

I never got the chance to interview Michael during my radio days, and I wanted to make up for lost time by having him on the podcast. For those unfamiliar with his music, this album remains a favorite of mine. You may also like “Unemployed,” which is referenced during the interview. That song couldn’t be more timely, despite it being ten years old.

Please give this episode a listen, then take some time to discover (or get reintroduced to) a true Chicago treasure.


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Urge Overkill Interview: Boarding the Rock and Roll Submarine

Urge Overkill has returned with their first album in over 15 years, Rock & Roll Submarine.

What does it sound like? Urge Overkill. It’s like they pushed a “pause” button after Exit the Dragon, and came back this year to pick up from the exact point where they left off.

Old pals Nash Kato and Ed Roeser jumped on the phone tonight for an interview about their new album, the band’s history (“it was so ‘Behind the Music,’ I’m ashamed of it”), and the state of UO in ’11.

Listen to the conversation here: