Saturday, March 25, 2006

One of rock and roll's great achievements is helping to bridge the racial divide. Rock made it acceptable for white people to listen music created by African-Americans (or why the term "race record" is now outmoded) and for blacks and whites to socialize to hear music together. Which is why I kept shuddering watching the profile of Lyrnyrd Skynyrd on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The Confederate flag was a ubiquitous presence at their performances; they might as well have hung a huge sign, "Black people not welcome."

I was never a fan of Black Sabbath, but at this point I must acknowledge that they have been hugely influential on an entire genre of music. The Sex Pistols recorded only one studio album, but its impact was utterly cataclysmic. I'm not convinced that Miles Davis is rock and roll, but he was one of the greatest innovators in music. Blondie has it all going in spades. But Lynard Skynyrd is a two-hit-wonder that did little to advance rock and roll, and they had a habit of endorsing racial segregation.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Concert Recommendation: Billy Bragg and Jill Sobule, Double Door, March 20

Especially after hearing that Jill Sobule is opening, I was crushed that I won't be able to attend this show. For those who have somehow missed him over the years, Billy Bragg is the world's leading punk-inspired romantic, socialist folkie. While his music and his shows are filled with leftist opinion, his humor, approachability, genuine concern for others and self-deprecation make him palatable whatever one's political leanings. I've never come across another artist who makes a habit of emerging after his shows just to chat with fans. Billy is touring in support of a new box set that collects much of his early work.

Casual observers might dismiss Jill Sobule as a one-hit novelty act for "I Kissed a Girl," but she is a wry songwriter with a gift for catchy melodies and an eye for unexpected subject matter. For example, her last album, Underdog Victorious, offered a sympathetic ode to '60s sex symbol Joey Heatherton.

Billy Bragg and Jill Sobule play the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, 773.489.3160, at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 20.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Concert Review: The Wedding Present, Double Door, March 12

As David Gedge wrapped up the Wedding Present's set last night at the Double Door, he commented that it was past their bedtimes and probably the same for some of the audience, too. Amen. I was conflicted all evening, wanting them to play forever but also needing to get home and to sleep. And praying that I wouldn't go into labor in the middle of the concert because I'm incredibly pregnant, was enjoying the show so much and it would be a logistical nightmare to get home.

This wasn't only joke about the age of the band. He introduced, "Go Out And Get 'Em Boy!" their first single from 1985, by noting that the song was older than their current drummer. Judging by the drummer's (Charlie Layton?) youthful appearance, Gedge may not have been facetious. The set list drew songs from throughout the band's history, including a few Cinerama numbers since Gedge pointed out that the line-up for the two bands is now the same. While it was a blast to hear "Brassneck" and "Click Click," the latter enabled by female bass player's Terry de Castro providing backing vocals, it was an unexpected disappointment for them to exclude "Interstate 5," the haunting lead single off their latest album, Take Fountain.

All in all, the band were in fine form, starting with opening number "Corduroy," since Gedge dove in trying to saw his guitar in half with just his bare hands and a guitar pick. No wonder I still love this band.