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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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Italian pop star Zucchero is in town to play at Turner Hall Ballroom.
Italian pop star Zucchero is in town to play at Turner Hall Ballroom.

Wait?! Is that an Italian pop star in Milwaukee?

It's true, the appearance in Milwaukee of an Italian pop star is so rare that a blog post about the event warrants a headline like the one above.

When Zucchero Fornaciari, who is a towering figure in Italian pop music, arrives to perform at Turner Hall Ballroom tonight, it may well be the first appearance by an actual Italian pop star since Carmen Consoli played at the Miramar Theater in 2008.

Though an indie Italian band or two has swung through in the intervening years it would be a stretch to describe them as "pop stars." Two that perhaps come close – but in very, very genre-specific examples – were the 2010 Marcus Center performance by pianist Ludovico Einaudi and the 2013 appearance of prog legends Il Castello di Atlante at Club Garibaldi. Stars in their respective galaxies, but not pop by any measure.

Fornaciari, who has performed alongside Eric Clapton and Sting – which offers a clue not only to his stature but to his style of music – has toured the U.S. a number of times, having been signed to a few different record labels here across the years.

The Italian community here is buzzing about Zucchero's Milwaukee performance, which, if not his first, is surely his first in a long while.

But, why don't we get the likes of Subsonica and Negramaro in Milwaukee? Likely for the same reasons these bands – and, honestly, Zucchero, too – leave nary a trace in the wider American market. They sing in Italian.

Other than novelty hits, there is no real mainstream demand for foreign-language music – other than perhaps Spanish, but even that is a mostly separate market, aimed at and consumed by the Latino community.

Zucchero's latest disc, "La Sesion Cubana," was recorded with American producer Don Was in Havana with mostly Cuban musicians. The 13 tracks are sung almost entirely in Spanish and English.

All the same, Milwaukee's Italian ex-pat community – and some Italian-Americans – will be out to see the star shine bright upstairs at Turner Hall.

Ticket info and show details are here.

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