On their new “Rhythm Bandits,” Danish garage-glam doofuses Junior Senior cast themselves as Robin Hoods who’ll give you the b-b-beat back. On their new “The Rhythm Thief,” Weimar-via-Mars pre-punk terrorists and proto-electro duo Sparks advance a cackling manifesto for groove removal (“Lights out, Ibiza!”)—and sure enough, the whole album deploys hysterical strings and badgering vocals as the rhythm section. Jr Sr are equally single-minded; in their half of last Sunday’s odd-couple double bill at SummerStage, there were at least five number-one songs in heaven, and they all had to do with moving feet or feeling heat or shaking coconuts (until milk comes out). “The sun’s coming up!” the pogoing Senior shouted, apropos of sunset. For a few joyously concussed moments, we had no reason to doubt him.
Darkness had fully descended by the time Ron and Russell Mael commenced their multimedia recital of Lil’ Beethoven, the funniest, avantest high-concept pop record since 69 Love Songs. Russell’s castrato has lost some psychotic edge, but there’s still a Californian sprightliness to the fiftysomething brothers’ theatrics. While Russell flailed, Ron enacted a lunatic pantomime that involved furious interactions with the rear-projections: He donned giant prosthetic arms for “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?” (“Practice, man, practice!”), demonstrated a Calamity Jane gallop for “Ride ‘Em Cowboy,” catwalked alongside a leggy blond for “Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls,” and stripped down to wifebeater for the long-lost Gilbert and Sullivan libretto “Suburban Homeboy” (“She yo yo’s me and I yo yo her back”). The too-brief encore favored post-Moroder material: new romantic almost-hits “I Predict” and “Cool Places” and the autumnal Eurodisco splendor of 1994’s “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’ ” In the end, their first New York show in 20 years was such a lovefest it prompted habitually mute and stone-faced Ron to deliver a sniffly speech. Who’d have thought it? This town may finally be big enough for the both of them. —Dennis Lim
Shiva Me Timbers
The Carnatic classical music tradition of southern India is distinguished from its more improvisational northern sibling, Hindustani music, by an emphasis on devotionalism. And so the creator-destroyer Shiva, elephant-headed Ganesh, and floor-stomping Tina Turner were just a few of the deities evoked by singer Susheela Raman during her early show at Joe’s Pub last Wednesday. The British-Asian daughter of Tamil parents blends Indian hymns with Western rock and soul and then takes it one continent further by sucking up Nigerian Afrobeat, Ethiopian r&b, and whatever you call the traditional music of Guinea-Bissau. Raman stalked the audience like a crouching tiger, combining bestial belting and divine raunch in her new Love Trap‘s lingam-meets-vulva title track, based on a melody by Ethiopian star Mahmoud Ahmed. Bollywood excess informed other numbers, especially the filmi tune “Ye Mera” and the python song “Trust in Me” from The Jungle Book, in which she paid slinky sibilating homage to Eartha Kitt.
But Raman the smokey cabaret crooner or South Indian Sade (hold the Armatrading covers, please) doesn’t hold a joss stick to her funkier Indipop incarnation; she taps into the over-the-top otherness of Hindi spirituality more than either the more ascetic Sheila Chandra or more romantic Najma. Raman stripped the classical melody “Nagumomo,” from her 2001 Mercury Prize-nominated debut Salt Rain, down to its devotional essentials. None of her Carnatic music was meant to sound particularly authentic, accompanied as she was by a London guitarist, British-Indian tabla player, Bosnian bassist, and Guinea-Bissauan percussionist, but you couldn’t miss the music’s sense of renewal. And although Love Trap drummer Tony Allen’s relentlessly rolling beats were missed in person, Raman’s set ended with “Ganapati,” a psychedelic meltdown dedicated to Ganesh—the god of promising beginnings. —Richard Gehr
It’s been one Hades of a summer for old-school metalheads: Halford is back in Judas Priest, and Metallica and Ozzy are out there swapping bassists and playing the classics for the youth of the nation. But though those puppet-masters of yore never penetrated Manhattan, Iron Maiden filled Madison Square Garden last week in anticipation of their first new album since Y2K. With the recent announcement that starting next year, the seventh sons of seventh sons and their cackling ghoulbot mascot Eddie are limiting their live appearances to the international festival circuit, fans old and new gathered to pay respects.
Maiden’s set was a delirious death march. Not only did bassist Steve Harris and his three merry axmen unfurl from their fingertips some of the prettiest harmonies in metal; they also retained their title as the undisputed champions of foot-on-the monitor preening. As for Dickinson, he brought the howl in more ways than one by repeatedly joking about drummer Nicko McBrain’s run-in with the cops a few days earlier at Jones Beach.
Like Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio can still hit all the high notes. Guitarist Craig Goldy’s chops haven’t aged as well, but that didn’t stop anyone from flashing devil horns. Earlier, Lemmy made good on his show-opening promise to, um, be Motörhead and kick your ass. Ditching the fantasy world of the headliners, he dedicated the exuberant “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” to Joey and Dee Dee. Fellow Brits Maiden would later call NYC their second home, but it was Lemmy’s sincerity that lingered. —Sean Richardson