Chaos Theory


Pop music isn’t designed for the ad-driven journalistic ritual of the fall preview, and good for pop music. Bitch all you want about TicketMaster extortion and four megacorps squeezing the art out of the biz they dominate. Or take the opposite tack and mock the young temps and old warhorses who make their if-you-call-that-livings faking orgasm with songs they know too well. The former are usually obscene, the latter pathetic. But don’t get all indignant about music’s brute capitalization or rote rationalization until you compare the book industry, where lists of highly intermittent literary merit are drawn up a year in advance, or Hollywood, where release schedules are laid down for months of Fridays, or Broadway, where the lowliest flop costs too much time and a million bucks, or classical music, where at this moment superstar draws are contracted into 2002.

I don’t mean to be too unilateral here. Of course independent films can still sneak up on us, or Yo-Yo Ma make magic on a given night. But if surprise is of the essence in artistic pleasure, then the seat-of-the-pants m.o. of popular music’s concert and club circuit (as it is called, though in New York it’s as mazelike as the streets of a medieval city) could have been designed to provide it, in part because the m.o. wasn’t designed at all. The simple fact is that we can memorize the engraved-in-granite schedules of the competitively prebooked arenas and the tentative advance sheets of the bigger clubs and not have any idea what the most exciting show of the week of October 15 is going to look like on October 8, much less whether it will fall on its face when the night arrives. The Go-Betweens reunion is the rock event of the fall from this desk. It should hit Gotham after Thanksgiving, when Sleater-Kinney will also be touring, so that Corin, Carrie, and (sigh) Janet probably but not definitely won’t be Grant and Robert’s backup band. Either way, it could be a rebirth—or it could never fully jell.

You never know. Black Uhuru‘s reunion with Sly & Robbie looked equally exciting, only the so-called original members turned out to include not Michael Rose nor Puma Jones nor even the unoriginal but effective Junior Reid. Caveat emptor. Will Tina Turner‘s valedictory prove a final triumph or reinforce the testimony of her recent records, which is that she should have retired when the movie came out? Will Barbra Streisand‘s rare and concomitantly priced concert epitomize diva drive or diva doo-doo? Will Emmylou Harris‘s equally rare cabaret appearance end up handcrafted intimacy or in-group zoo? Will trouper-songwriter John Hiatt‘s acoustic turn accentuate his melodies or hide his inability to support a band behind vocal contortions? Will we access John McLaughlin the noodling jazzbo, John McLaughlin the self-abnegating mystic, or (would it could be) John McLaughlin the godlike electric improviser?

None of these questions are rhetorical, because in pop, you can never fully trust an old pro. Freshness and energy impact the music so decisively that younger pros like the cresting Moby and the indefatigable Ani DiFranco are paragons of reliability by comparison. But the young generate their own kinds of questions. Will the up-and-coming Le Tigre strive to stage a show as nonstop as its pleased-as-punch CD? Will the been-and-gone Bettie Serveert finally achieve a musicianship worthy of their musicianly concept? Will Robyn Hitchcock take his lithium? Will Mark Eitzel take his Zoloft? Will the Tragically Hip blow Travis out of the zeitgeist? Will Hanson? And most important, what band or crew or DJ or singer-songwriter we’ve forgotten about or never knew existed will materialize one crisp autumn night and render all such speculations into the dust they are surely destined to become?


Date and venue TBA

We are assured this will be a band, not just Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, solo acoustic or with backup—a ploy just a touch song-dependent even for postpunk’s greatest songwriting tandem. Except perhaps for Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, who along with superdrummer Janet Weiss played with the Go-Betweens on the forthcoming Friends of Rachel Worth, but will not, it appears, on this tour. Which is sure to generate the huzzahs they always deserved, and almost sure to earn them. (Christgau)


September 6

Roseland, 239 West 52nd Street, 777-6800

These Scots get no points for originality or personality: Frontman Fran Healy croons like Jeff Buckley, writes only slightly smarter than Noel Gallagher, and performs with the self-effacing sincerity of countless faceless rock slugs. But the catchy Radiohead-lite charm of Travis’s tunes is substantial, and it’s to their credit that their flawless Britney remake is far more heartfelt than their Band cover. (Walters)


September 8

Jones Beach Theater, 1000 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, Long Island, 516-221-1000

Blessed with that genius “Genie” song, Aguilera was off to a strong start, but her Mariah Carey-isms are rapidly taking over. Meanwhile, Destiny’s Child have taken over from TLC, proving how fabulous songs, producers, and outfits can override personality conflicts, perfunctory voices, even personnel changes. Like Oasis, they force us to follow their implosion. (Walters)


September 9

Madison Square Garden, 2 Penn Plaza, 465-6741

Headlined by the new grandfather of all guaguanco—manic pianist Eddie Palmieri, guesting a tribute to Tito Puente with his surviving orchestra—the festival boasts an orgy of still-slammin’ soneros. There’s the flexible yet commanding Oscar D’Leon, Hector Lavoe portraitist Domingo Quiñones, the bugaloo Barry White-ish Tito Nieves, island romantic Tony Vega, new jack Michael Stuart, and ’70s favorite Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez. Not to miss: teen favorites, salsa-r&b fusionists Son by Four, and the dance-funk of Tito Puente Jr., which is a real curiosity. (Morales)


September 16

Jones Beach Theater, 1000 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, Long Island, 516-221-1000

Renowned as blues’ greatest showman for 40 nonstop years, King is permanently delighted with his own wondrous shtick. He never stints on openers, either, and this bill is more impressive than most. Many would call the rough-voiced, fast-fingered Guy our greatest living bluesman, period. As for young electric guitarist Tedeschi, she gets more respect than any woman ever to venture into this man’s man’s man’s man’s world. (Christgau)


September 17

Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, 545-7536

Even a song expressing the singer’s only semiforbidden cousin love becomes a strident but nonetheless moving protest anthem for “the voice of Kurdistan” (the disputed area straddling Turkey and Iraq), who bemoans the loss of his homeland in a dozen handsomely plaintive ways. Exiled from Turkey since 1976, this expressive singer accompanies himself on the lute-like tanbur, and will be joined by musicians on violin, flute, kanun (zither), percussion, and double-reeded zurna and duduk. (Gehr)


September 18-20

Joe’s Pub, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, 539-8777

Along with samplings from her eclectic 25-year career, expect the gorgeous-voiced Harris, backed by her superb crew Spyboy, to showcase the self-penned songs from her moody new Red Dirt Girl, the first album of her writing since 1985’s critically acclaimed Ballad of Sally Rose. (George-Warren)


September 19

Centro-fly, 45 West 21st Street, 627-7770

When he first arrived on the scene in the early ’90s, Bukem’s soft-spoken ambient take on drum’n’bass was a welcome change of pace for a genre that had grown increasingly sour-faced. Though his long-awaited debut, Journey Inwards, failed to crack the gloomy landscape—it needed a bit more teeth to do that—a live Bukem gig is a sultry experience, which is rare for drum’n’bass. (Romano)


September 23

Wetlands Preserve, 161 Hudson Street, 966-4225

The pimp-and-pussy poet and blaxxxploitation icon also known as Dolemite prefigured Blowfly and subsequent raunchy rap on ’70s house-party LPs like Eat Out More Often. His dirty dozens about cockpits and signifying monkeys are living links to narrative verse of black oral (and anal, and vaginal) tradition, and he’s been a filthy old man since before your stanky ass was born. Fuck the Titanic; get it in the water and swim like him. (Eddy)


September 25 and 26

Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 260-4700

They’re turning into road animals, braving the most unavoidable and dangerous of all musical challenges. The May show I caught seemed just slightly flat, but I’ve seen them peak, and sane reports from the next night were transported. Passionate Corin Tucker we knew about first, defiant Carrie Brownstein next. So listen hard to Janet Weiss and try to imagine them without her. Betcha can’t—even though they made two great records without her. (Christgau)


September 27 and 28

Madison Square Garden, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 247-4777

She insists it’s the last time she’ll reprise her greatest hits in person. Fans may believe her, especially longtimers who recall that early on she’d act out her live-performance aversion by not showing up. Listening now will be rewarding, natch, but here’s what to look for: how she allows only the left profile to be seen even if it means walking backwards. (Finkle)


October 1

Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, 840-2824

This 20-member group was the German record company Jaro’s answer to the original ensembles first recorded by Marcel Cellier as far back as the 1950s. More tightly composed than was originally suggested by the shrewdly marketed “Mystère des Voix Bulgares” albums, the chorus employs discordant seconds, mesmer- izing drones, and tunes tossed back and forth by groups of singers—all in colorful hilltop drag. (Gehr)


October 1

Nassau Coliseum, 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, Uniondale, Long Island, 516-794-9300

Though her voice retains considerable luster and her legs are as famous as Betty Grable’s, the living icon has elected to quit while she’s way ahead, at 61. She says this is the last chance to see her live, and she’s too proud not to try and amaze you. Support act Cocker, for whom luster has never been an issue, is only six years her junior, yet is guaranteed to seem both more ravaged and more immature. (Christgau)


October 21

Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street, 564-4882

Still riding the success of Play more than a year after its release, techno’s darling returns to the main arena. The vegan born-again Christian and great-great-grandnephew of Herman Melville surprised many critics—who were used to the artist’s bratty displays of self-indulgence—with the heartfelt Play, which combined tender Lomax recordings and Moby’s synthetic symphonies. (Romano)


October 24

Maxwell’s, 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken, New Jersey, 201-653-1703

Conceived as something between a one-off and recorded performance art, Kathleen Hanna’s latest band was an instant smash among sympa-thetic souls who loved Bikini Kill only in principle. With guitar thrash subsumed in keyb trash and the humor more pronounced and arty, the enthusiasm of the speedy tempos no longer betrays the slightest desperation. On this second try, we’ll find out whether they have the will and spirit to make their live show cohere as magically. (Christgau)


October 28

Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, 545-7536

This Pakistani qawwali group specializes in the classical (i.e., tighter) version of the ecstatic devotional music more or less popularized by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The nine-piece ensemble, which also performs in the looser contemporary style, consists of sons (including Farid) and grandsons of the venerated eightysomething qawwali singer Munshi Raziuddin, who is expected to be on hand as well. (Gehr)


October 28

Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, 496-7070

This double bill features key Buena Vista supporting castmembers Torres (the youngest of the bunch and purveyor of the son guajiro) and Portuondo (the haunting voice in that unforgettable duet with Ibrahim Ferrer). Torres is regarded as the preeminent laud (roughly analogous to Yomo Toro’s cuatro) player of Cuba, evoking the courtly balladry of the interior. Portuondo ranks with Afro-diaspora divas of Latin America like Susana Baca and Cesaria Evoria, a more subtle version of Celia Cruz with ’40s arrangements and deliberate rhythms. (Morales)


November 3-5

Westbeth Theatre Center, 151 Bank Street, 691-2272

Headliners of this year’s nugget-nostalgiaganza include Bronx ain’t-seen-nothin’-yetters the Blues Magoos, sleazeballs-from-where-the-wild-things-are the Troggs, and seminally sepulchrally organ-drenched L.A. legends the Music Machine (first live talk-talk in 33 years for these bowl-haired, black-gloved boppers, and Sean Bonniwell’s complication is still an only child!). Plus tribute-garage kiddies galore, most notably Japan’s Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. (Eddy)


November 3 and 4

Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street, 564-4882

She’s gotta run out of juice eventually. But after 10 years of building an audience her way, from coffeehouses and college rec rooms to two nights at the Ham, she shows no signs of giving up, slowing down, or repeating herself. Old fans who believe she’s lost excitement have simply outgrown her as she matures into a uniquely jazzy shade of folk or folk-rock and carries her many righteous messages to bigger and bigger audiences. (Christgau)

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