Live Shots


ROSIE FLORES

Antone's, November 22

While Flores' latest LP, Rockabilly Filly, is flat and lifeless, her live show reveals a performer with substantial stage presence, excellent guitar skills, and a venerable voice that animates material with personality equal to or lesser than that of a pet rock. Flores' performance this night gave me the feeling that perhaps the record company folks forgot to put the 3D glasses in my copy of the LP. There was spark and sometimes an outright fire on much of the material she played from her latest album, and the presence of country legend Wanda Jackson pouring some gas on a couple tunes didn't hurt matters much. The really powerful renditions of some of Jackson's classics from the late Fifties and early Sixties were a further boost to the wonderfully volatile atmosphere, but this show belonged to Flores. Nervously bouncing about the stage in a girlish vintage dress, awfully shy grin, and askance pony tail, she was `Little Bop Peep,' a retro-music shepherdess who possessed a magic that could turn an Edsel into a Mercedes, a frog into a prince, and an asshole critic into a goddamn fan. Maybe a live LP is in order. -- Joe Mitchell


CHRIS ISAAK

Austin Music Hall, November 26

With an effort to keep the gushy, florid prose at a minimum, Chris Isaak and Silvertone executed one of the most perfect concerts I've ever seen. It would be too easy to dismiss Isaak as a just another pretty face, but it's clear he's the closest thing this generation may see to the brilliance of Roy Orbison in Ricky Nelson-type matinee idol garb. While his band Silvertone was decked out in matching black jacquard jackets and vests, Isaak strolled onstage wearing a Nudie-style black suit with rhinestone sunbursts. Together, they were sublime and sensual, quickly sending sighs through the distaff portion of the audience with a combination of old and new material like "Goin' Nowhere," "Wicked Game," and "Somebody's Crying." Just as the songs were well-cut, polished little gems, the Austin Music Hall was a superb setting for the dreamy-eyed Isaak and material like "Baby Did a Bad Thing," "Two Hearts," and "Blue Spanish Sky." But it was his self-deprecating humor and stage clowning with sax man and Texan Johnny Reno (drummer Kenny Dale Johnson is also from here), that was the evening's highlight -- especially when a Martin & Lewis-style routine led to Reno's offbeat performance of "Pablo Picasso" and then the dancefloor throb of "Diddley Daddy." So was this Ladies Night out? Yes, certainly the profusion of dressed-to-the-nines women dragging somewhat less-than-enthused male companions indicated so. Does that make him any less good? Absolutely not. Now where's my copy of Heart-Shaped World .... -- Margaret Moser


POCKET FISHRMEN, ANTI-MEN,
MATA HARI

Voodoo Lounge, November 30

Austin needs a club like the Voodoo Lounge. Since Kilimanjaro closed over a year ago, entry-level local bands have had no place to go, except maybe for the cramped environs of Hole in the Wall and the Blue Flamingo. Every good music scene should have a club that's little more than a mid-size converted warehouse with a big stage, a decent sound system, no liquor license (so BYOB, laddies), enough room to make a truly slammin' mosh pit, and a booking policy that permits any band, even yours, a shot at getting booked. Well, Our Town's got one now, but how long it stays open is anybody's guess. Thursday night, the cops visited the Lounge not once but twice. Seems those residents in the Railyard Condominiums don't cotton too well to all that noisy punk rock shootin' through the VL's roof, and are makin' a powerful stink about it to the long arm of the law. Never mind that this begs the question of why the voodoo makers moved in there in the first place, since the condos are within hollerin' distance of Sixth Street. But, until the fuzz do show up with their nightsticks, earplugs, and tear gas, the Voodoo Lounge is a nice spot to go check out some promising up-and-comers. The music? Well, there were more places to sit in the club than there were frills in any of the three sets; all three Austin bands were good, loud and angry, and rightfully so. From what I saw Thursday, something I had long suspected to be true was proven: The so-called Live Music Capital of the World hates its children. -- Chris Gray


JOSHUA REDMAN

Paramount Theatre, December 1

Bring on the young lion. And make him play...

8:10, house half full... "The Parmount presents Warner Bros. recording artist, Joshuuuaaa Redddmannn." The upper-balcony spotlight bears down and Redman grimaces. Get that thing outta my face, he smiles. Laughter. It fades slightly and he starts to play. His opening statement is strong, but he hasn't found the wind in his alto, so he gives the music over to his trio. Drummer Brian Blade is in his domain, playing the entire surface of his cymbals, tapping his stick on the edge of the snare, his arms crossing back and forth. His third-song solo is a symphony of rhythm -- he hits everything, explores every sound, and never loses the pulse. An Ellington jungle-beat is introduced and assorted "yeahs" and "go's" are tossed on-stage. The bassist, chin almost touching his Forties sweater, smiles a sad, serene smile as his fingers walk the strings attached to my septum. Redman watches from the shadowy wings. A half-hour later, he's at the microphone saying good evening, his charismatic smile gleaming in the light; "Nice to see you all out here." By now, the house is a healthy two-thirds full. A small segment of Austin's black middle class is in the house. Nice to see some integration here. Redman is pleased. He introduces his own composition, "Sweet Sorrow," and uncorks his lively mid-range alto muscle. Three or four minutes into the ballad, the band stops and his popping beeps and boops bounce around the absolutely silent hall. Not a cough or a sneeze within miles. He takes over right then, and commands the show until the end of the set break -- unlike his appearance at the Bates Recital Hall last year where he let his band do most of the playing. The second, hour-long set is that much better featuring Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas," that hints at Redman's having seen the master doing it; I saw Rollins do it at Jazz Fest early this year, and he had the whole tent in an uproar. Redman's version isn't quite as volcanic, but his interplay with Blade makes it rousing nonetheless. "My Foolish Heart" follows, tickling the romantic, while Redman's clarinet ferrets in and out of his ballad "Second Snow." "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and "Hit the Road Jack" finish the set, and Ornette Coleman's "Peace" sends the audience home. Good stream-of-consciousness music played for the masses, and played by someone who carries the genre into that bright spotlight of center stage. Nice. -- Raoul Hernandez


KINKY FRIEDMAN

La Zona Rosa, December 2

As versatile as he is, Kinky Friedman may not be able to have it both ways. Friedman wisely hinted that this show may have been his last as a musician, since brisk sales of his new novel make "author" a more enticing calling card than "Jew, Texan, and country artist" (in that order). Even so, in fairness to both his readers and record buyers, whatever the concert stop that came before Austin should have been his last. The La Zona Rosa gig would've made a better first stop on this leg of a book-signing tour. So on this low-budget, solo acoustic stop, Friedman stayed on stage only slightly more than hour, read from God Bless John Wayne for a portion of that time, and occasionally sang -- a bargain at Book People, a disappointment as a concert. And although Friedman was completely likable in his delivery of the anti-hits, notably "Asshole From El Paso" and "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore," it's Friedman's legendary song set-ups -- usually stacked politically incorrect -- and one-liners that are longer than the songs themselves, that make for the most endearing Friedman moments. Yet, when he noticed a group of a dozen or so children in the crowd and announced he's a good family entertainment value because he never says "`fuck` in front of a c-h-i-l-d," it was hard to imagine that Kinky hadn't been just as funny for free at the hotel bar before the show. And so, ironically, for a guy who's made a career nicely balancing two hats, the yarmulke and ten-gallon variety, this show only proved the musician, author, and comedian hats may have finally become two too many for any one show.

-- Andy Langer

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