GALACTIC, THE DEPOT, Monday, March 10, 8 p.m., $21 advance/$26 day of show
New Orleans funk and soul crew Galactic have undergone an incredible amount of evolutions over their career, working through a variety of lead vocalists–on the songs that need voices–while remaining consistently engaging. In a live setting, it’s easy to understand why the band has managed to grow its audience at a slow but steady pace through the years–they have an ace group of musicians capable of jamming out to improvisational nirvana, or locking into tight grooves and shifting moods, collectively, on a dime. The albums, like many awesome live acts, are a bit more spotty, but even Galactic’s recorded work has gotten better later in their existence. Their most recent release, Carnivale Electricos, is an excellent collection of Mardi Gras-inspired fare. On the band’s current tour, Maggie Koerner is joining the fun; she’s featured on the band’s new single, “Dolla Diva.” Brushy One String opens the show Monday.
12:00 pm Samsara
2:00 pm Lawrence of Arabia
7:00 PM From Here to Eternity
9:30 PM 2001: A Space Odyssey
12:00 pm Lawrence of Arabia
4:00 pm From Here to Eternity
5:00 PM Samsara
9:30 PM 2001: A Space Odyssey
Monday 3/10-Thursday 3/14
12:00 PM From Here to Eternity
2:30 pm Lawrence of Arabia
7:00 PM 2001: A Space Odyssey
10:00 PM Samsara
DR. DOG, THE COMPLEX, Friday, March 7, 8 p.m., $20 advance
Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog have spent the past few years establishing themselves as an elite live band, one capable of turning newcomers and casual observers at their shows into fervent true believers. Now the band could be well on its way to making its recordings as memorable as its concerts. To put together their new album, B-Room, the band first built its own recording studio in an old mill. Then they used the space to create an album full of soulful tunes that blend their own rock moves with some of the classic soul sounds of their hometown. Mostly recorded live, B-Room could easily become the Dr. Dog album that makes them more than simply a great live act.
GARDENS & VILLA, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Wednesday, March 5, 9 p.m., $10
One wouldn’t expect a band based in sunny SoCal–Santa Barbara, to be exact–to look to the remote, cold hinterlands of Michigan as an ideal recording environment, but Gardens & Villa found just that when they headed to Benton Harbor to work with producer Tim Goldworthy on the band’s winning new album, Dunes. Even with the dramatic shift in the world outside the studio door, the sounds on Dunes retain the vibrant, sunny styles of the band’s debut. You’ll find some funky moves on songs like “Bullet Train,” and synth-pop along the lines of Depeche Mode in other places, with songs like “Colony Glen” and “Thunder Glove” offering dance-party firestarters. Contrast those songs with some pretty piano-led excursions, and you have a remarkably well-rounded album from a young band to watch. Waterstrider and Bright Whistles open the show.
THE ENGLISH BEAT/INSATIABLE, THE DEPOT, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 8 p.m., $26
Regular readers of this space know that I’ll never pass up a chance to sing the praises of The English Beat, the ska crew led by original Beat singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling and including a crew of stellar musicians fully capable of evoking the classic ’80s sound of the two-tone pioneers. Wakeling is a cheeky frontman, constantly chatting up his audiences with witty between-song banter, and his voice hasn’t lost anything in the decades since we first heard him on songs like “Best Friend,” “I Confess” and “Save It For Later.” Throw in a few songs from his post-Beat band General Public, and you have a couple of solid hours of killer dance music. And for this week’s show at The Depot, you also get local ska cats Insatiable, always a worthy live band in their own right.
On paper, the set-up of Plan-B Theatre Company’s Clearing Bombs is a risky proposition.
Take two economists who disagree, trap them on a roof to debate the merits of various economic theories, and expect an audience to come along for the ride? In less sure hands than those of playwright Eric Samuelsen, the 90 minutes of Clearing Bombs could have made the audience feel like they were trapped on that Cambridge, England, roof along with John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, hoping for an explosion to end their suffering.
Instead, Samuelsen delivers a script that is hilarious, passionate and never less than enthralling as Keynes (Mark Fossen) and Hayek (Jay Perry) parry and thrust their way through a night-long debate for the benefit of Mr. Bowles (Kirt Bateman), an English everyman who joins the two academics for a turn watching for German bombers atop King’s College Chapel at the height of World War II.
The economists, of course, are real, and their debates between laissez faire economics–Hayek’s preference–and an economy regulated for the good of the populace (that’d be Keynes) make for some inspired dialogue. Keynes mocks Hayek at one point for his insistence on letting the markets run themselves free from regulation–”That’s your religion, isn’t it? Freedom”–while Hayek counters Keynes belief in using regulation to push the economy to help the citizenry: “An economist cannot afford the luxury of compassion.”
Mr. Bowles is a fictional character, a worthy stand-in for the viewing audience, who is being educated by the two economists while being swayed back and forth by their arguments as they proceed.
Samuelsen’s script could not be in better hands; Fossen, Perry and Bateman all give stirring performances. It’s difficult to listen to the debate without being convinced along with Mr. Bowles. And Bowles is easy to empathize with as he describes his five children, all serving the war effort in way or another; as Bowles puts it repeatedly, his family is just “doing our part.”
The sound effects of approaching bombers help give the proceedings an urgency that helps heighten the drama on stage, the period costumes are on point, and the set ably captures the rooftop environs. But Samuelsen’s words and the performances of the actors are the reason to see Clearing Bombs. You’ll find yourself gripped by economic theory in ways you never thought possible.
Clearing Bombs runs Thursday through Sunday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center; visit the Plan-B Theatre Company website for showtimes, tickets and more information. Photos by Rick Pollock, courtesy of Plan-B Theatre Company.
There are those who accuse fans of The Bard for constantly making much ado about William Shakespeare’s works, but those folks are missing out, especially when the playwright delves into comedy.
Case in point: Pioneer Theatre Company’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable, oft-performed comedies. Even if you’re intimately familiar with Much Ado, there is plenty to love in this creative adaptation by director Matt August, from several excellent performances and new twists on old dialogue, to the stunning set design and costumes.
August sets the tale in the late Middle Ages, and the music by composer Scott Killian and ornate costumes by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward–a veteran of projects around the globe, including the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics–immediately evoke the era. A striking, sparse set of metal, candles and flowing fabrics makes for an engaging space for characters adorned in armor, fur and gauzy robes to tell their story.
The story remains a winning one–all the more so in the capable hands of August’s case. Benedick (T. Ryder Smith) and Beatrice (Rebecca Watson) jab and jive through numerous bouts of verbal sparring as the two jaded non-romantics set up as juxtaposition to the passionate youngsters Claudio (Terrell Donnell Sledge) and Hero (Ashley Wickett). Smith and Watson often steal the scene whenever they are on stage, delivering confident performances. Sledge was a bit more reticent in running through Shakespeare’s dialogue, but Wickett picked up the slack in that coupling.
Among the other noteworthy performances are John Ahlin as Leonato, Hero’s father, David Manis as Don Pedro, the returning military commander who enjoys a bit of fun at Benedick’s expense, and Max Robinson as Dogberry, the town constable who in this version leads a band of children.
The mix of stinging one-liners, mistaken identities and comedic comeuppances, while familiar, come through as fresh in Pioneer’s production. August’s gamble on placing his Much Ado in the Middle Ages pays off. For both audience and performers, the twist makes the show feel new–no easy task with such well-worn source material.
Much Ado About Nothing runs Mondays through Saturdays until March 8. For showtimes, tickets and more information, visit the Pioneer Theatre Company website. Photos by Alexander Weisman, courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Company.