Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Fall, The Empty Bottle, June 28 and 29

The great thing about real rock and roll is its unpredictability. Big pop lip-synched productions may offer precision- timed choreography and costume changes, but you're going to get the same show every night of the tour. No highs. No lows. But the fun of a genuine rock concert is the gamble: how will the artist feed off the crowd, the venue, their own mood. The Fall have always been a gamble. With frontman Mark E. Smith's dentist's drill-like vocal punctuation and the band's throbbing rhythm, one can see why the Fall are a tough sell. (Someone joked that the Fall never sell any records in the U.S. because anyone who might buy one is already on a record label mailing list.) But when the cantankerous leader is having a good night, the Fall are the greatest band in the world at that moment.  On an off night, they are just dull.

That said, it's been a different kind of gamble with seeing the Fall lately. In just over a year, they have twice booked tours to include stops at the Empty Bottle only to have the tours canceled. There have been claims that they've finally worked out their visa problems (no doubt related to Smith having been charged with domestic assault in New York in 1998 after attacking his girlfriend and Fall keyboard player Julie Nagle). But I won't believe until I see them on stage.

The Fall play the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 7743.276.3600 on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m. with TV on the Radio.

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