Lovers Lane
Rialto Square Theatre
Avondale Music Hall
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Stage Buzz: The Wailers and Dwele

| January 10, 2013

The Wailers

Losing your iconic lead singer would be a death knell for any band, but The Wailers prospered on after Bob Marley succumbed to cancer in 1981. Lead and guided by bass shaman Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the group dusts off Survival for a night devoted to the 1979 classic and Marley’s legacy. Largely militant, the album brings the pressures and issues of Africans to light with its often somber lyrics. Songs like “Top Rankin,” “Survival,” and “Ride Natty Ride” show conflict in the culture, while others, like “Zimbabwe” and “Babylon System” are dedicated to independence and freedom. Peppered with civil and political unrest, the Wailers call for solidarity and unification. Bringing reggae to an international audience, The Wailers are unmatched in popularity and success, defining the genre with their sound and lyrical accessibility. These days, those lyrics are delivered by one of Jamaica’s newest singers, Koolant Brown. He has big shoes to fill, but Brown brings a similar intensity, if not charisma to the stage. (Wednesday@Viper Alley; Thursday@Old Town School of Folk Music.)

— Mary Scannell

Following successful collaborations with Chicago artists like Kanye West (on “Flashing Lights” in 2007 and “Power” in 2010) and Common (in 2007 on “The People”), Detroit native Dwele returned in August with Greater Than One. Combining elements of neo-soul with early Motown influences, the album heralded Dwele’s fourth consecutive top 10 appearance on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart. West’s influence is unmistakable on “Going Leaving” where the bassline gives a nod in the direction of 2004’s “Through the Wire.” Elsewhere, solid drumming alongside trumpet set the tone for a sultry jazz affair on “Swank” while guitar and a quick-paced electronic beat offers listeners something “Special.”

One of only a small handful of confirmed dates, this weekend’s show features Dwele’s full band and marks the artist’s first appearance in Chicago since an aborted set in September at the African Festival of the Arts. Often featuring as many as six members, Dwele’s capable band can change the pace from an R&B swing to a meandering jazz interlude at a moment’s notice. As frontman, Dwele can croon like his Motown heroes or join the band on a number of instruments giving the set a range that would make Stevie Wonder proud. (Saturday@The Shrine.)

— Jim Ryan

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