Classic Memphis power pop remembered and updated on two new releases. 

When Big Star co-founder and frontman Alex Chilton unexpectedly passed in March 2010, the group was already scheduled to return home for a May 15th show at the Levitt Shell.

The city missed the chance to celebrate the homecoming of a favorite son, but rather than cancel the date, it was instead transformed into a heartfelt and bittersweet tribute concert featuring the group's lone original member, drummer Jody Stephens, two latter-day members, guitarist Jon Auer and bassist Ken Stringfellow (both of the heavily Big Star-influenced Seattle pop group the Posies), and several surprise guests.

Throughout the night, the guest artists took their turns fronting the clearly still-in-shock Big Star trio, each performance coming with a heavy dose of reverence for the material and sadness for the loss of Chilton. And though there may have been names with higher profiles (REM's Mike Mills, the Raconteurs' Brendan Benson) and stronger local ties (Van Duren, Susan Marshall) on the bill that night, nobody was more on-point than Superdrag singer/guitarist John Davis.

Davis led the band through three Big Star classics, "In The Street," "When My Baby's Beside Me," and a particularly ferocious "Don't Lie To Me," all of which appear on the new seven-inch vinyl single Live Tribute to Alex Chilton, released earlier this month by Ardent Music. This keepsake — hardly a definitive or essential part of the Big Star canon, mind you — is a welcome reminder of a fairly magical evening and a lot of fun to listen to.

Grade: B+


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