This Texas-born singer has never made straight country music, but there’s always been a twang to his sound. Last year’s Singing Saw—his third release, named for and featuring the distinctly rural musical instrument—was a work of evocative songwriting, rooted in the tradition of desert-dwelling journeymen like Neil Young. Morby’s latest effort, City Music, applies that same naturalistic approach to his adoptive urban landscape: L.A.
Details:Lincoln Hall. 9 p.m. $18–$20. lh-st.com
This deep chamber group plumbs Beethoven’s full gamut of 16 string quartets in three days, about nine hours of music considered the peak of the four-strings form. In each of five concerts, the musicians sample from Beethoven’s early, middle, and late quartets, quintuply tracing the composer’s (and Western music’s) evolution from the classical era to the Romantic.
Details:Ravinia. $10. ravinia.org
African Festival of the Arts
Every Labor Day weekend, Africa International House hosts this massive celebration, resplendent in art, food, and music of diasporic cultures from across the continent. The crown jewel this 28th year? A Sunday night performance by Haitian rapper and actor Wyclef Jean.
Details:Washington Park. $5–$20. aihusa.org
Jennifer Blackmer adapts Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel based on the real-life case of 16-year-old Grace Marks, convicted of a double murder in 1843. Imprisoned for life, Marks becomes an object of fascination for a young psychiatrist whose interviews gradually reveal the mind of the infamous Canadian criminal.
Details:Rivendell Theatre. $18–$50. rivendelltheatre.org
United Flight 232
The House Theatre remounts its acclaimed docudrama about a 1989 flight bound for Chicago. When the plane suffers engine failure in midair, it coasts for 44 minutes toward a crash landing, the passengers and crew helpless. Tense and riveting, the play takes audiences on a trip that’s both tragic and transcendent.
Details:House Theatre at Chopin Theatre. $15–$45. thehousetheatre.com
Coinciding with its own 35th anniversary, the legendary Lake View dance club Smart Bar toasts 20 years of Superjane, the country’s first all-female DJ collective. Since its formation in 1997, the members—most famously DJ Heather and Collette—have found global success, individually and with their bandmates. Consider this basement set a househead reunion for the ages.
Details:Smart Bar. 10 p.m. $15. etix.com
Few artists churn out music as feverishly as Phil Elverum. The Washington State native has penned dozens of albums—first as the Microphones and later as Mount Eerie—each of them as confessional as a diary entry. His latest, this year’s A Crow Looked at Me, is a breathtaking eulogy for his recently deceased wife, French Canadian artist Geneviève Castrée.
Details:Thalia Hall. 8:30 p.m. $18–$20. thaliahallchicago.com
Collaborative Works Festival
The annual art song exhibition from the city’s leaders of lieder aims for a storybook beginning and ending this year. The opener, free at the Poetry Foundation (seats guaranteed for pass holders), displays Schubert’s settings of German Romantic poems based on Greek myths. The closer spins yarns from story-songs by Schumann, Jake Heggie, and others. In between, the pearly-voiced soprano Susanna Phillips sings a solo recital.
Details:Various venues. Free–$60. caichicago.org
When one of standup’s all-time greats comes to town, you clear your calendar. In addition to wielding comedy cred that speaks for itself, Rock has emceed every awards show under the sun—winning half of an EGOT along the way.
Details:Chicago Theatre. $50–$125. thechicagotheatre.com
The mental health nonprofit Erasing the Distance, which uses theater to combat the stigmas of mental illness and addiction, presents its flagship conference, Sparkfest. Among this year’s exhibits and workshops are three new one-act plays: Stacy Stoltz’s Walk a Mile, about the power of family ties; Adam Poss and Mariana Green’s The Lies We Tell, about a high-functioning addict; and Millie Hurley and Maura Kidwell’s Breathe with Me, which delves into the pressures of caring for an aging relative.
Details:Filament Theatre. $15-$20. erasingthedistance.org
Francis Guinan stars as a museum guard in Jessica Dickey’s dark comedy about a priceless masterwork and the artist who painted it. Homer and Rembrandt share space with modern-day artists in the grief-stricken affair, centered on a staff tasked with protecting centuries-old works of art.
Details:Steppenwolf. $20–$99. steppenwolf.org
Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park
Lyric puts on a one-night-only freebie that samples from almost all its 2017–18 main stage selections, performed by many of the company’s marquee names. Hitting the high notes and cranking up the drama will be such familiar faces as Eric Owens (Die Walküre this season), Matthew Polenzani (Rigoletto, The Pearl Fishers), Andriana Chuchman (Orphée et Eurydice), and others, under the baton of music director Sir Andrew Davis.
Details:Jay Pritzker Pavilion. 7:30 p.m. Free. lyricopera.org
Fall Gallery Opening Weekend
Consider this marathon weekend of gallery openings the dinner bell for the local art world, a time to take stock of the city’s thriving contemporary scene as each gallery trots out its finest artists for the first show of the season. The cluster of galleries on Superior Street in River North is a good starting point to see works by established artists; on Saturday, prowl west down Chicago Avenue for art by up-and-comers.
Details:Various venues. Free.
Festival de la Villita
Mexican Independence Day falls on September 16, so our southern neighbors tend to fill the month with fiestas patrias (celebrations of country). One such local shindig is Festival de la Villita, which fills the streets of Little Village with Mexican food, music, and carnival rides. A Sunday parade anchors the fest; expect traditional dancers, colorful costumes, and more mariachis than you could shake a guitar at.
Details:26th and Kostner. Free. chicagoevents.com/events/fiestaspatrias
Nathaniel Mary Quinn
In Nothing’s Funny, the Chicago-born artist debuts nine new paintings inspired by his troubled childhood. See “Nathaniel Mary Quinn Transforms His Fractured Past into Arresting Art.”
Details:Rhona Hoffman Gallery. Free. rhoffmangallery.com
Let Me Be an Object That Screams
Can objects have feelings? That’s the question behind this group show by sculptors who imbue their craft with emotions and myths. If you’ve ever kept a quirky souvenir because it embodies a personal memory, you’ll relate to Goo Goo Too, Jennifer Chen-Su Huang’s outlandish installation of childlike sculptures.
Details:Gallery 400. Free. gallery400.uic.edu
Lifeline Theatre takes on novelist Georgette Heyer’s romantic thriller about a handsome nobleman with a heinous personality. The plot thickens when the duke finds himself entwined in the life of a charming young writer. High society hijinks ensue in this British rom-com by a master of the form.
Details:Lifeline Theatre. $20–$40. lifelinetheatre.com
If you missed Nicks’s arena tour last fall, consider this double bill—two of only eight shows she’ll play in the States this fall—a second chance. After more than 40 years in music, the singer is in retrospective mode, having released an album of reimagined demos (songs originally recorded between 1969 and 1987) back in 2014. But don’t fret: The requisite classics will be ever in tow.
Details:Ravinia. Sold out; see resellers.
A View from the Bridge
Ivo van Hove’s take on Arthur Miller’s 1955 classic strips the piece of period costumes and sets. What’s left is a searing whirl of emotions that builds in intensity until the story, about doomed longshoreman Eddie Carbone, wields the gravitas of a Greek tragedy. Hove’s final scene in particular cannot be unseen.
Details:Goodman Theatre. $25–$95. goodmantheatre.org
The young New York City painter may have more in common with the old masters than with her contemporary peers. Her portraits and interiors evoke a quiet intimacy lacking in today’s overscheduled world. Though only in her early 30s, Packer gets a major toast in this high-profile solo show, Tenderheaded.
Details:Renaissance Society. Free. renaissancesociety.org
Chicago’s famed hip-hop muralist—who counts among his fans Lebron James, George Lucas, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé—premieres new work in a show called Forced Field.
Details:Elmhurst Art Museum. $8–$9. elmhurstartmuseum.org
Into the Mystic
The new-music conglomerate Access Contemporary enters into a concert series in a movie theater with a program inspired by religion, spirituality, and altered states. Some highlights: music by Peteris Vasks and Seth Boustead.
Details:Davis Theater. 7:30 p.m. $10–$25. acmusic.org
A refurbished 1881 building on the campus of the DuSable Museum of African American History becomes an exhibition of French and Chicagoan art. Curated by the prestigious museum Palais de Tokyo, Singing Stones features work by 15 artists, including Dorian Gaudin’s gigantic animated sculptures: a must-see for fans of experimental art this side of the Atlantic.
Details:Roundhouse. Free. expochicago.com
Elgin Fringe Festival
More than 100 performances take over Elgin’s downtown district for a fest that offers something for everybody. Theater, dance, music, visual arts, and more are all bookended by an opening blimp raising (the fest’s version of a flag raising) and a closing-night bash at the Martini Room.
Details:Various venues. $3–$10. elginfringefestival.com
More than the see-and-be-seen art party of the year, Expo is where collectors stake out their next serious purchase. If you don’t have the bills to burn, simply window-shop at more than 40 international galleries (or take your pick of countless panel discussions). First up: a collaboration between artist Nick Cave and starchitect Jeanne Gang on September 13. See “What Happens When Two Geniuses Collide? We Asked Jeanne Gang and Nick Cave.”
Details:Festival Hall. $15–$40. expochicago.com
Three interconnected pieces explore the politics of being a woman in Ladies First, a multidisciplinary show by the eight-year-old group Laboratory Dancers, born out of Columbia College.
Details:Athenaeum Theatre. $14–$20. athenaeumtheatre.org
The Legend of Georgia McBride
In this Matthew Lopez comedy, a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator discovers the power of high heels and contouring—all in the unlikely confines of a Florida panhandle bar.
Details:Northlight Theatre. $30–$62. northlight.org
Installation artist Hartt makes the Graham Foundation headquarters, a 1901 Gold Coast mansion, into his gallery for a new film about Puerto Rico Habitat, Moshe Safdie’s famous unfinished housing project. To tell the story, Hartt peppers the film with ceramic sculptures, photographs, and tropical plants.
Details:Graham Foundation. Free. grahamfoundation.org
The sneaker-wearing, snicker-inducing brass quintet, who make the medium unstuffy without sacrificing a whit of musicianship, tour a grab bag program that keys into Dixieland, jazz, and ballet as well as classics by Schumann and Brahms. A brass arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor looms over the concert.
Details:Edman Chapel at Wheaton College. 7:30 p.m. $10–$45. wheaton.edu/artistseries
Green Tie Ball
Break out your emeralds for this 26th annual soiree benefiting Chicago Gateway Green, the nonprofit dedicated to installing gardens and public art along Chicago expressways. Appearing this year: DJ Whiteshadow and Chicago Fire’s Taylor Kinney.
Details:Artifact Events. 7 p.m. $150–$400. gatewaygreen.org
Their friendship with Taylor Swift and myriad celebrity endorsements aside, the three sisters of Haim are making simple, stripped-down garage rock. On their sophomore album, Something to Tell You, the trio doubles down on a not-so-secret love for ’70s rock, with especially clear nods to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. Live shows up the charm even further, with synchronized guitar swaying and plentiful three-part harmony.
Details:Riviera Theatre. 8 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
What is trapsoul? It’s a subgenre of R&B that Tiller himself created, which pairs hip-hop’s heaviest beats with rich, warm vocals. (Trap Soul is also the title of the Louisville singer’s 2015 debut album.) Tiller’s second album, the 19-track True to Self, released earlier this year, finds the singer working with a cast of hip-hop superproducers, including Boi-1da and Wondagurl.
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 7 p.m. $50. ticketmaster.com
Love him or hate him, Sheeran is singularly responsible for the recent rise of the male pop star. After the global success of his sophomore album, x, Sheeran returned this year with ÷, an equally intoxicating collection that proves that radio rock about the highs and lows of a relationship is still king when it comes to selling records. Feed your obsession with “Shape of You” with 10,000 of Sheeran’s biggest local fans.
Details:Allstate Arena. $40–$100. ticketmaster.com
American Craft Exposition
Some of the nation’s best jewelers, ceramicists, and metalworkers (not to mention basket weavers, glass cutters, and leatherworkers) congregate among the fall foliage. In this 33rd juried craft showdown, 145 artists participate within a dozen creative disciplines, but the real winners are the spectators, who can scoop up museum-grade works directly from their makers.
Details:Chicago Botanic Garden. $13–$30. chicagobotanic.org/craft
Music of the Baroque pops the Champagne on its 2017–18 season with Mendelssohn’s oratorio on the Old Testament prophet. The quartet of soloists consists of four bona fide opera superstars: Susanna Phillips, Elizabeth DeShong, William Burden, and Eric Owens. “Cast Thy Burden” will never feel lighter.
Details:September 16: Harris Theater; September 17: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. $25–$78. baroque.org
The Taming of the Shrew
Director Barbara Gaines casts exclusively women in Shakespeare’s tale of a forced marriage that leads to starvation, beatings, and some creative verbal abuse. Gaines sets the protagonists dead center in the fight for women’s voting rights, which makes for a radically alternate reading of the famously problematic comedy.
Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. From $45. chicagoshakes.com
Chicago Architecture Biennial
No mere home-improvement fair, this fete is the largest of its kind in North America. For its second iteration, curated by Los Angelenos Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, prototypes from European, Asian, and local architecture firms will fill the Chicago Cultural Center.
Details:Various venues. Free. chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org
Near North Side
The Northwestern professor Michael Rakowitz has risen to global prominence for Enemy Kitchen, a food truck that serves Iraqi Jewish dishes made from his own family recipes. His first major museum show includes looted Mesopotamian artifacts meticulously refurbished using common materials, like food packaging, from the Middle East.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $15. mcachicago.org
The Toad Knew
Chicago Shakes opens the Yard—a new multimillion-dollar theater on Navy Pier—with a description-defying show from Compagnie du Hanneton. Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin’s grandson James Thiérree (who also stars), the piece casts surreal circus arts over a fever-dream set built from oversize mechanical creatures—all experienced by the titular toad. See “Chicago Shakes’s New Venue Will Literally Let People Reshape the Theater Experience.”
Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $48–$88. chicagoshakes.com
Bon Appétit’s annual ode to Chicago’s dining scene may sound suspiciously like a fancier version of Taste of Chicago—but this event sports its own unique pleasures. To celebrate the 10th anniversary, this year’s festivities include a series of one-off dinners at notable locations (the Riverwalk, the 606, the Robie House), cooked by local chefs (Sarah Grueneberg, Rick Bayless, Matthias Merges). The party starts on Tuesday with a hamburger cookout on the roof of the Harris Theater.
Details:Various venues. From $185. chicagogourmet.org
Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s musical (based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel) tackles growing up—and coming out—with Broadway-grade show tunes. Gary Griffin directs a laudable cast led by Danni Smith, who plays a young woman reckoning with her own sexuality.
Details:Victory Gardens. $15–$75. victorygardens.org
A South by Southwest darling of years past, Australian musician Oliver Perry made a name for himself with naught but his trusty guitar, a drum kit, and a board of loop pedals, with which he constructs sprawling, shambolic music on the fly. It’s a thrilling process to watch live, and the resulting tunes are surprisingly danceable.
Details:Schubas Tavern. 9 p.m. $15–$17. lh-st.com
Father John Misty
Ahead of its April release, Josh Tillman (stage name Father John Misty) described his third solo album, Pure Comedy, as “the story of a species born with a half-formed brain.” Indeed, the album finds Tillman obsessed with learning and growth—and sick with confusion over the state of the world. It’s the often-satirical songwriter’s most politically straightforward record yet, offering a cynical-at-best point of view in a time where audiences increasingly look to artists to make sense of the world.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $30–$50. ticketmaster.com
Chicago Human Rhythm Project
Chicago’s longest-running tap company gets cozy in this mixed bill at Columbia College’s intimate Dance Center. A range of works spanning seven decades complement world premieres by artist-in-residence Dani Borak.
Details:Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. $30. colum.edu/dance-center
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Hubbard Street’s 40th anniversary series boasts four programs, each dedicated to the work of a single choreographer. First up is Peter Chu, whose interactive performance will lead audiences through the Harris Theater, the company’s home base.
Details:Harris Theater. $65. hubbardstreetdance.com
One of the longest-running LGBTQ+ film festivals in the world, Reeling revels in both the strides made by queer actors and the tremendous amount of work left to be done. Expect a range of stereotype-smashing works that straddle nearly every genre of cinema. Last year’s lineup included a documentary about a New Orleans gay club destroyed by arson and a heartfelt comedy about two teens obsessed with sci-fi erotica.
Details:Various venues. $7–$140. reelingfilmfestival.org
There are bad blind dates, and then there are blind dates that end at the police station. The latter sparks the bad romance in Gina Gionfriddo’s pitch-black comedy, which abounds with terrible choices, worse sex, and blackmail.
Details:Windy City Playhouse. $15–$55. windycityplayhouse.com
The Afghan Whigs
After an 11-year hiatus between 2001 and 2012, this Cincinnati sextet has penned two surprisingly progressive albums. The latest, In Spades, released in May, was a critically beloved return to form for the band, rich with heady lyrics and darkly humorous angst.
Details:Metro. $30. etix.com
The glamorous violin virtuoso plays concertos in two programs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the CSO’s season opener (also the preamble to its Symphony Ball gala), Mutter whirls out Mozart’s “Turkish” concerto before the orchestra alone does Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty suite. On September 23 and 26, Mutter plays the crowd-pleasing Tchaikovsky concerto before the orchestra performs Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.
Details:Symphony Center. $43–$250. cso.org
Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak
A master of improvisational dance, Shanahan, who performs as Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, returns to Chicago to perform a spinoff from My Name Is a Blackbird, the evening-length performance that defined her aesthetic when it premiered in 2007. This solo piece, dubbed Blackbird’s Ventriloquy, features music by percussionist Kevin O’Donnell.
Details:Links Hall. $10–$20. linkshall.org
This Chicago premiere by Topher Payne tells the true story of Bob and Norma, two gay U.S. State Department employees who married each other’s partners at the height of the Red Scare.
Details:Pride Arts Center. $10–$30. pridefilmsandplays.com
Garrison Keillor: Just Passing Through
While this Minnesotan may have left Lake Wobegon for the last time (he stepped down as host of the long-running NPR show A Prairie Home Companion last year), Keillor continues to find outlets for his homespun humor and old-timey charm. On this national tour, expect reflective stories, wry anecdotes, live music, and poetry delivered in Keillor’s legendary one-of-a-kind timbre.
Details:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. 8 p.m. $64–$90. northshorecenter.org
Natya Dance Theatre
Chicago’s premier Indian dance company performs two works by Mallika and Revanta Sarabhai, which probe contemporary political themes such as global warming and sexuality within the strictures of the ancient dance form bharata natyam.
Details:Oswego East High School. 5 p.m. $20–$25. natya.com
Hyde Park Jazz Festival
In its 11th year, the annual alternative to Chicago Jazz Fest toasts Thelonius Monk’s centennial. The mercurial pianist is the focus of four different events, including a lecture by Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley. Also on the bill: Ari Brown, Nicole Mitchell, Dana Hall, Dee Alexander, Katie Ernst, Makaya McCraven, Xavier Breaker, and a collaboration by Tomeka Reid and Nick Mazzarella.
Details:Various venues. $5 donation. hydeparkjazzfestival.org
Shen Wei Dance Arts
Chinese choreographer Shen Wei is best known for staging the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Here, he makes his Chicago debut with two contemporary pieces: the ethereal Folding, considered a signature work, and his own version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. $29–$68. auditoriumtheatre.org
Orphée et Eurydice
Two of Chicago’s highbrow heavyweights, Lyric Opera and the Joffrey Ballet, collaborate for the first time on the dance-infused French version of Gluck’s baroque masterpiece Orphée et Eurydice. The singing cast includes the nimble tenor Dmitry Korchak (in his Lyric debut) and the surging soprano Andriana Chuchman as the tragic couple. The baroque specialist Harry Bicket conducts.
Details:Civic Opera House. $35–$319. lyricopera.org
William Blake and the Age of Aquarius
For years, Blake was just another genius artist who died in obscurity. But during the Summer of Love in 1967, the work of the 18th-century mystic, printmaker, and poet was adopted as hippie credo. In the first exhibit of its kind, Blake’s psychedelic artwork and poetry are paired with works by those they inspired: Jimi Hendrix, Diane Arbus, Allen Ginsberg, Agnes Martin, and more.
Details:Block Museum of Art. Free. blockmuseum.northwestern.edu
Las Minas Puerto Flamenco
In 100 continuous minutes of live music and dance, this award-winning tour takes audiences through the history of flamenco by exploring its cultural origins and various evolutions over time.
Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $25–$70. harristheaterchicago.org
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, the popular music director of the CSO, premieres All These Lighted Things, a commission by Elizabeth Ogonek, one of the orchestra’s composers in residence. Muti’s meat and potatoes for the program comes in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, evoking morning horn calls, birdsongs, a hunt, and barrel organ dinner music.
Details:Symphony Center. $34–$220. cso.org
Broken Social Scene
This Canadian supergroup is known for taking their time releasing albums, but this year’s Hug of Thunder marked a new record. Dropped unannounced after seven years, Hug, like so many other recent spur-of-the-moment releases, is a protest record through and through, exploring themes of hope in the face of darkness. Sop up this live show before the band disappears for nearly another decade.
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 8 p.m. $36–$115. ticketmaster.com
Formerly Chet Faker, this Australian singer-songwriter killed off his cheeky stage name last fall. His glitchy brand of soul music, on the other hand, remains unchanged. Murphy’s warm vocals and experimental production continue to set him apart from the pack, and this live show at the intimate Riviera is the perfect setting for him to preview tunes from his new record (the first under his real name).
Details:Riviera Theatre. 8 p.m. $35–$99. ticketfly.com
They may not be making the same dreamy dance-pop they were in the ’90s, but this UK band is relevant as ever. The trio’s June release, Home Counties—its first in five years–is Saint Etienne at its finest: wonderfully weird dance music for those who don’t necessarily like to dance. Don’t miss this ultrarare appearance stateside.
Details:Park West. 7:30 p.m. $30. ticketfly.com
The Making of a Modern Folk Hero
A down-on-his-luck actor goes from suicidal to superhero in Martín Zimmerman’s graphic novel for the stage. When a political publicity stunt goes further than anyone expected, the actor and a politician find themselves imbued with superpowers that transcend spandex.
Details:Other Theatre Company at Chicago Dramatists. $15–$25. theothertheatrecompany.com
The Rocky Balboa Picture Show
Chicago’s masters of movie mash-ups, Corn Productions, splice together two iconic Rockys: the one from Rocky and the one from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The result? Rocky Balboa in a corset and heels, singing while boxing.
Details:Cornservatory. $10–$15. cornservatory.org
Ariane et Bachus
Haymarket Opera Company, a group that has labored long for the cause of forgotten baroque operas, mounts a piece of mythic proportions for its fall engagement. The three-hour Ariane et Bachus, the story of the hard-partying god Bacchus falling for Ariadne, the one who strung Theseus out of the Labyrinth, sprang from the quill of Marin Marais, a French baroque composer well known in the time of Louis XIV but not so much now. Haymarket marshals a 21-piece orchestra, baroque dancers, period-appropriate sets and costumes, and a big cast for the first performances of the opera since its 1696 premiere.
Details:Studebaker Theater. $55–$85. haymarketopera.org
The Civility of Albert Cashier
Albert Cashier became a war hero fighting for the Union army in the Civil War but ended up an outlaw. Born Jennifer Hodgers, Cashier lived as a man for most of his life—until some 60 years after the war when his secret was discovered and he was prosecuted for “impersonating a soldier.” Here, composers Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden and lyricist Jay Paul Deratany tell his story.
Details:Permoveo Productions at Stage 773. $30–$40. albertcashierthemusical.com