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Prine: A Tribute Concert

By Michele Lenni in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 28, 2011 8:00PM

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One of the most forgotten musical treasures of the grand history of music in Chicago has to be John Prine. Born and raised here in the city limits, he is probably one of the most prolific and discerning lyricists of his or any generation. Prine began his musical journey at 14 when he learned the guitar from his brother David Prine and ended up being lauded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson to name a few. After serving a term in Vietnam in the mid '60s he returned to Maywood Illinois to take a job as a postman. In his spare time he attended open mic nights at Fifth Peg on Armitage Avenue, where eventually he brought his compositions to the stage. He was then reviewed by Roger Ebert and eventually rose to fame as a central figure in Chicago Folk Revival, which also included such singer-songwriters as Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc, Jim Post and Fred Holstein.

Years later, after much critical success, he has recieved a Grammy, a Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting by the UK's BBC Radio 2 and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. It is no surprise to us that his hometown is choosing to honor his ability and achievement this weekend with a Tribute concert at Roscoe Village's Viaduct Theater.

Prine: A Tribute Concert, directed by Bryan Fonseca, is a stellar line-up of 30-plus Prine compositions, and a prestigious cast including Chicago-based singer-songwriter Megon McDonough. The Sun Times recently heralded the virtues of this production:

"...Fonseca lets the songs unfold organically in a simple barroom setting. There is no dialogue, no real storyline. Yet hints of a story about relationships come through thanks to Prine’s story songs and the subtle interactions of the performers, all of whom are actors as well as fine musicians and singers."

In the dark and velvety theater musical director Tim Brickley is setting Prine's pennings center-stage with no narration what-so-ever. Minimal lighting, staging and an ever-so-subtle multi-generational ensemble characterazation. The shining star of these performances is truly Prine's poetic and complex songs, which really, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Prine: A Tribute Concert, Viaduct Theater, 3111 N Western Ave, Through 2/6: Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., $20-$25, All Ages