Christmas concerts: Straight No Chaser, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Chicago, Brave Combo, more

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 11/25/2011, 05:00am

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As Loudon Wainwright once sang: “Suddenly it’s Christmas / the longest holiday!” — and it begins now. Despite the hardy nature of Chicagoans, however, there’s no need to carol outdoors or wander frigid, public-space tree-lighting ceremonies to get a musical dose of holiday cheer.

Here’s a roundup of holiday-themed concerts — at warm, indoor venues — worth some Christmas greenery …

DAVE KOZ & FRIENDS: Smooth-jazz saxophonist and radio DJ Koz is supporting his new album, “Ultimate Christmas” (a hand-picked collection of his three previous holiday records), by touring with some of his pals, including trumpeter Rick Braun, South African singer-guitarist Jonathan Butler and fellow sax star Candy Dulfer. This 14th annual show is usually more beige than silver and gold, but Butler’s chops are reason enough to attend.
– 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Tickets: $47-$87. Call (800) 745-3000;

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA: Christmas is no excuse to stop listening to your favorite prog-rock records, and that’s how Paul O’Neill’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra found an audience for its annual wanky, over-the-top Dickensian blowout. These ghosts of arena-rock past bring pyrotechnics, a laser show, tinselly guitar solos and grandiose symphonic-metal arrangements, touring two separate versions of themselves during December to meet the annual demand. It’s Mannheim Zeppelin on Mannheim Road!
– 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd. Tickets: $25-$68. Call (800) 745-3000; NOTE: WTTW-Channel 11 will air “Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Birth of Rock Theater” at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 26.

STRAIGHT NO CHASER: This male a cappella group with roots at Indiana University was a sensation before “Glee” made this style of singing cool again — and the frenzy began five years ago with a YouTube video of their inventive take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” That led to two popular albums, “Holiday Spirits” and “Christmas Cheers.” Now these guys are a Chicago holiday tradition, so much so that they’ve had to schedule three shows across the area to accommodate the fans.
– 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets: $27.50-$47.50. Call (800) 514-ETIX;
– 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd. , Rosemont. Tickets: $27.50-$47.50. Call (800) 514-ETIX;

MANHATTAN TRANSFER: The evolution of this harmony and vocalese quartet, one of the most successful in jazz, has mirrored and contributed to pop music trends since the ’60s. They wrap their voices around a song like the stripes on a candy cane, and their “Cool Yule — Manhattan Transfer Swings at Christmas” concert likely will make due on the swinging.
– 2 and 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, North Central College, 171 E. Chicago in Naperville. Tickets: $45-$50. Call (630) 637-7469;

CHICAGO: Our city’s namesake rock band and horn section just released its third new album of Christmas songs, “Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three,” and are celebrating not with a tour but with a special performance broadcast to movie theaters around the country. The band will play hits and holiday classics, plus the program features behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and more.
– 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and 15 at participating movie theaters; for a complete list, visit Tickets: $15.

CELTIC THUNDER: This Irish sextet, a staple of PBS fund-raising weeks, released its latest album, “Storm,” in September. (Speaking of “Glee,” Thunder member Damian McGinty won the first season of the reality show “The Glee Project,” earning a seven-episode arc on the show.) The group’s fall tour supporting the new songs now turns into a Christmas tour, mixing in seasonal chestnuts.
– 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont. Tickets: $34.50-$75. Call (800) 514-ETIX;

BRAVE COMBO: When Bob Dylan recorded a Christmas album, he borrowed Brave Combo’s version of the song “Must Be Santa.” This veteran Texas polka-rock band is back on the road with its annual Christmas Blast show, featuring their unique take on the holiday spirit — like “O Christmas Tree” rendered as a hot samba. It’s a hip show, and it usually sells out.
– 9 p.m. Dec. 17 at FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn. Tickets: $15. Call (708) 788-2118;

Holiday music and more

BRIAN SETZER — The ’80s hitmaker brings his Rockabilly Riot back to town, and with three Christmas albums under his leather belt you can bet part of this show will be merry. 9 p.m. Dec. 2 at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $42.50. Call (312) 923-2000;
KENNY ROGERS — He’s a country legend, and he fries a mean chicken. He’s been touring with holiday-and-hits shows for 30 years now. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee in Waukegan. Tickets: $39.50-$79.50. Call (800) 982-2787;
SISTER HAZEL — The Florida alt-rock band was becoming something of a holiday tradition before their 2007 album “Santa’s Playlist.” They’re back each December for shows. 9 p.m. Dec. 16-17 at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $28-$30. Call (312) 923-2000;
‘COLORS OF CHRISTMAS’ — A soulful lineup of Peabo Bryson, Jennifer Holliday, Lea Salonga and Ben Vereen makes the season bright. 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Star Plaza Theatre, 8001 Delaware Pl. in Merrillville, Ind. Tickets: $45. Call (800) 745-3000;
PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS — One of my favorite holiday albums was the 1967 oddity from these Vietnam-era goofballs, still rocking and roasting chestnuts. Also on the bill: Gary Puckett. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont. Tickets: $29.50-$75. Call (800) 745-3000;