Live Shots

The King's Singers

UT Performing Arts Center, April 30

The King's Singers are the six Englishmen who perform a startling a capella arrangement of Billy Joel's And So It Goes that KUT's John Aielli occasionally plays on "Eklektikos." Even though I'd heard them live for the first time over 15 years ago, I was still shocked to discover that 1995 marks their 27th professional season. But, in spite of the years, and a complete turnover of personnel (baritone Simon Carrington, the last of the original six, retired last year), their musicianship and enthusiasm were as fresh Sunday night as they were that first night in college so many years ago. What truly amazes me about these men is the effortlessness of their performance. It makes no difference if the music is a Renaissance madrigal or a transcription of an orchestral classic (they ended their last formal set with Mozart's Figaro overture!). Their rendition of the Beatles' "Help!" was rhythmically tighter than some local acts I've heard, and provided a marked contrast to Gyorgy Ligeti's "Nonsense Madrigals," which were performed earlier in the evening (Ligeti's "Lux Aeternam" accompanies the first obelisk scene in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey). Now that the original boys from Cambridge have retired, The King's Singers have become a British institution right up there (for my money) with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Rolling Stones, and Masterpiece Theatre. Long live the King's!. -Don Palmer


RHYTHM CHILD Black Cat, April 7

It's no mystery why they call themselves Rhythm Child. They cleverly combine refined musicianship with youthful vigor, for an Ugly Americans-meets-Black Crowes groove that packs the Cat every Tuesday and Friday night. Rhythm frontman Paul Renna is a pseudo-Chris Robinson indeed - same stage presence and dynamism, but with a little more meat on his bones. When he's not singing (which is often - lyrics here are kept to a minimum), he's pounding on a set of bongos or charming the crowd with his goofy grin and antics. Jonas Saks, seasoned by stints with Guy Forsyth and Mike Kindred, can take his bass line from a pelting throb to a mellow funk in a drunken heartbeat. Drummer boy Brandon Elizondo grips the tempo with energy-intense fervor, and guitarists Jay Sheppard and Chris Rice keep the tunes grooving. Rice also doubles as the perfect complement on vocals: Renna's got the grit; Rice has the soul. But tonight, the essence of this band oozed and blared out of Chris Womack's sweet saxophone. His Coltrane-esque sheets of sound started pouring early in the set, and by the time "Thinking About It" rolled around, Renna had to tell the crowd to "Give us some room!" Womack nearly set the damn thing ablaze. Catch this band while you can: Come June 20, they're off to Chilkoot Charlie's in Alaska to teach the Northerners a thing or two about Austin funk. After that, there's no telling. - Stephanie Griest


GOO GOO DOLLS

Liberty Lunch, April 25

Must the scolding finger be wagged again? Bad, Austin, naughty, naughty, naughty. You've gone and made a perfectly dazzling band play to a practically empty hall. Again. Sure, you'll pour into Liberty Lunch for the Goo Goo Dolls milquetoast cousins Weezer (who share the same management), but then that's understandable: Those cuddly Weezer boys are considerate enough to only have one or two good songs to break up your titter and twitter time. You'd think that at least some of those old school indie geeks would still pull for the Goos - they performed with that rapid and revered 2/4 aggression, plus the sound really sucked. Then again, the highlights of the show were from the new album A Boy Named Goo, and we wouldn't want to be caught with any of those bandwagon fans would we? Then, there were the two encore covers, "Jenny (867-5309)" and "Don't Change." I mean, please, we were over that new wave cover thing months ago, right? Even without the deserters and the buzz-clip junkies, the Goo Goo Dolls played valiantly, road colds and all. After a couple of rock blocks of three-minute mania, they started warming up to the enthused pack of fans with the bassist's introduction: "Hi, I'm Robbie, and I'm a Libra." That his vocals were clear when he was telling Grateful Dead jokes, but buried when he sang, may have been some sort of divine intervention. The less cheerful guitar player's (Johnny, a Sagittarius) vocals were dead on, nailing the high "Don't Cha-aaa-nge" at night's end. Finally, Austin expatriate Mark Soloman (ex of the Clowns and currently working with the Tommy Stinson) joined the boys (did I mention the trio's new drummer is from Denton and used to play with Last Rites?) for a slapdash version of "Up Yours." And his point would be... - Mindy LaBernz


HAMILTON POOL

Cactus Cafe, April 27

Graham Parker wrote "passion is no ordinary word" because not everyone has passion. Hamilton Pool have no passion. First things first: Hamilton Pool (Iain Matthews, Michael Fracasso, Mark Hallman) consists of three great singer/songwriter guitarists, who harmonize beautifully together. The problem is, they're all SNAGs: sensitive New Age guys. The Indigo Girls sound as gritty as Henry Rollins compared to these guys. The intimate crowd of under 50 politely applauded after each bland song, and waited patiently while the boys retuned after each number. Matthews tried valiantly to keep the gathering entertained with his witty repartee between numbers, but, while he was mildly amusing, he's no Richard Thompson (they were in Fairport Convention together). In Matthews' defense, he got little help from Hallman, who just spoke the occasional word, and the usually mesmerizing Fracasso, who only smiled shyly. Plus, all their songs just lay there. Fracasso actually slowed down "One That Got Away," draining it of any energy it once had, and there should be a law that you at least have to know the definition of "soul" before you attempt to cover Van Morrison, especially "And It Stoned Me," which closed the first set. It's probably the major reason why one-third of the crowd didn't return for the lackluster second half. These guys were about as exciting as milquetoast without the milk. - Al Kaufman


PAM PELTZ

Ruta Maya, April 28

This was not the easy stroll down memory lane I was expecting. It was more a mad dash through a dark alley abutted by crackhouses and sanitaria. A mere 16 people showed up for this gig, but what Peltz delivered was far more and far better than any of the gaggle could have expected. Back in the mid-Eighties, Peltz fronted a locally venerated group of ethereal folkies known as Minus Grace. But rather than bank on this known quantity, Peltz is now on a path more akin to quirkmeisters Vic Chesnutt and Victoria Williams than Peter, Paul, and Mary bred with the Cocteau Twins. In content, she is a first cousin of Daniel Johnston, ranting about satanists, millionaires, and messiahs among other things. But ranting and meditations on the weird have never been so appealing. Peltz's voice is stronger and more haunting than memory serves, and her guitar riffs are impeccable. A song about religious conversion was still bouncing about my head three days post-gig. It's obvious that this Austinite hasn't missed a stride over the last 10 years despite not getting the notoriety her talent warrants. I guess real artists just don't care about such trifles.
- Joe Mitchell


FULL CIRCLE

Back Room, April 30

Yes, even headbangers need a night to chill - give the old neck muscles a chance to heal, and that boiling metal blood pressure an opportunity to simmer - so on the Seventh Day, I caught Austin's Full Circle at the Back Room for a little hard-rock levity. Their laid-back loungecore rides the same mellow-then-heavy power chords that alterna-metal slackers Collective Soul and Sponge are taking to the bank, which soundwise is convenient at least for now. But it was not until lead singer Brad Austin fought through his raspy Vedderish tendencies on songs "Rescue Me" and "Fly," and guitarist Brandon Ross let loose some severe solo showers on "Comin' Down" and the Hendrix cover "Little Wing" that this talented four-piece finally expelled bits of the loose elements of originality I knew they had in them. - Chris Marsh


TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS

Bass Concert Hall, April 21

One day you wake up and people like Tom Petty have suddenly been around 20 years. Sure, he hasn't exactly been a closet critic's darlin' since "American Girl" broke off of album number one, but then he never became a pop messiah a la Bruce Springsteen or Michael Jackson, either. Still, his career has been paved with one gold and platinum album after another on a middle road littered with AOR radio staples. So it's that much more surprising that Petty's greatest success has come with his last two solo albums, which have exposed him to an audience largely unfamiliar past glories like Hard Promises and Southern Accents, or singles like "Change of Heart" and "Jammin' Me." Not surprisingly, it was from his two wildly popular solo albums, and the Heartbreakers' Full Moon Fever hangover, Into the Great Wide Open, from which nearly all of Petty's 20-plus song set was culled. And although only "American Girl," "Listen to Her Heart," and "Refugee" broke that three-album set stranglehold, Petty and crew have never been better. Especially impressive was the a largely acoustic mid-set break, with new gems like "Time to Get Going," "Wildflowers" and "Girl on LSD," that confirmed a consistent pop-writing prowess rare in any up-and-down musical career. Guitarist Mike Campbell proved once again he's the best sideman since Keith Richards, with exactly the right touch on everything - from flowery to fiery, with his instrumental surf break "Diamond Head" being a standout. The raucous, capacity crowd shook the acoustically perfect Bass Concert Hall after every number, giving the show a stadium feel despite the intimate stage setting, which included Persian rugs, candelabras, and a lava lamp. Petty soaked it all in, roaming the stage with his sardonic smile plastered on his face, banging on his Fender when needed, and generally being the legend he's quickly becoming. It's good to be king. - Raoul Hernandez


RED DIRT RANGERS

Waterloo Ice House (38th St.), April 23

One little girl was running around with an untied shoe, clinging to a Snow White doll. A young mother was dancing with a baby in one arm and a squirming toddler in the other, and children ranging from infants to preteens sipped lemonade through straws while their dads drank cold beer, and ate all the fries off the kids' plates. It was a terrific scene as the Red Dirt Rangers twanged their way through a set of folky kids' tunes about tumbleweeds, lost shoes, bullfrogs, and treehouses at the latest installment in the Waterloo Ice House series of Sunday concerts for children. The Rangers (who play for grown people, too) put on a great show. Ben Hahn's lead guitar swapped solos with Benny Craig's steel, fiddle, and blues harp, and between song chit-chat included such gems as: "Kids, this here's a mandolin. That's Italian for `out of tune.'" A spirited version of "Old Dan Tucker" was the highlight, as one tot climbed up on a chair to dance with her folks, and most toes couldn't quit tapping. This series has included Bill Oliver as well as Aunt Beanie's 1st Prize Beets, and it's well worth checking out. Head on down, pull up a chair, give the little sprouts a quarter for the gumball machine, and take a look around. You won't be able to stop smiling.

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