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Short Takes: Sheryl Crow gets loud and rowdy in first-rate Heinz Hall show

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Arts & Entertainment writers offer capsule comments on this, that and the other thing ...

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow roared onto the Symphony's home stage Friday night as a four-panel video showed black and white scenes of street drag racing and the band kicked into "Steve McQueen."

Crow drove her band through a very loud set of hits that included "My Favorite Mistake," "If It Makes You Happy," "Strong Enough" and "Every Day is a Winding Road." On "Leaving Las Vegas," a video montage of Elvis impersonators strutting down the road with Vegas showgirls added a touch of cool whimsy.

Crow tossed out guitar picks to the Heinz Hall audience, and they reciprocated with long-stemmed roses, custom-designed hats and even a few eager fans jumping onto the stage into the waiting arms of security.

The encore brought Crow to the piano with "Safe and Sound," and then on the piano to sing Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" with lead guitarist Peter Stroud looking and sounding like the great Jimmy Page. Crow's voice, guitar playing and songwriting are first rate and showed that she is still holding her own in the world of rock.

The nearly sold-out crowd was treated to an early, unbilled opening act by Greta Gaines, who was here and gone before most of the crowd arrived. Lucky for them they showed up for Joe Firstman. The multi-talented barefoot musician stomped the ground and his piano keys through a set that had echoes of Bruce Hornsby & the Range or The Band.

-- Review by Rosa Colucci, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Chicago

It's a good thing fans of this band love its older material so much, because the octet offered absolutely no new material Saturday night at Chevrolet Amphitheater at Station Square. (Disclaimer: I am one of those fans.)

To fit 20 years of music into a one hour, 45-minute show -- all the music the band performed was released between 1969 and 1988 -- Chicago actually skimped on some songs. The band only went one-third of the way on the opening "Introduction," with keyboardist Bobby Lamm on vocal instead of Bill Champlin, losing the interlude, solos and third verse; "Call on Me" similarly lost a verse; and the ending of "Look Away" was altered.

A nice surprise was "Alive Again," the first single released after original guitarist Terry Kath's 1978 death, with the background vocals on the coda especially clear. Jason Scheff added some active bass lines on "If You Leave Me Now."

One highlight of the show had Champlin playing some lead guitar on "You're Not Alone." It was good to get him out from behind the organ he usually plays, because he is a fine guitarist. Not that Keith Howland needs to be replaced, of course.

Although it wasn't explained, trombonist Nick Lane, who has worked with Maynard Ferguson, Rick Braun and Rod Stewart, was brought in to replace the band's resident alpha male Jimmy Pankow, and L.A.-based studio musician and Chicago native Larry Klimas took the place of reedman and band founder Walt Parazaider.

The show closed with "Free" -- during which a huge American flag was draped behind the band to cheers from the audience -- and the traditional "25 or 6 to 4."

-- Review by Rick Nowlin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

It's a Noe-ble experiment, this Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble series that plays with the traditional definition of a concert.

Led by artistic director Kevin Noe, Saturday night's event at the Hazlett Theater explored a serious and eerie group of works, most dealing with death, grief or personal angst. At first glance, it seemed incongruous subject matter for a summer evening.

But most often the concert was soothing.

The Satie-like simplicity of Arthur Jarvinen's "Three Gymnopedie" paid tribute to John Lennon, writer Richard Brautigan and Kent State victim Mark Cunningham; Eve Beglarian's "Cave" softly washed over the audience in embracing ripples.

More unsettling were the somber monotones of Osvaldo Golijou's faded memoir of concentration camps, "There is wind, and there are ashes in the wind." Another Jarvinen work, "Little Deaths," was intriguing for its measured spoken rhythms against ghostly white television noise, but it was hampered by microphone problems. David Stock's "Persona" was controlled and cool, musically, but became hotly intense in the accompanying dance solo by Rudolfo Villela.

Rhythms took a predominant role in two of the works. Laura Elise Schwendinger's "Buenos Aires" was rife with faded lacy vestiges of Latin syncopation. And Vincent Plush took an Ivesian approach in "On Shooting Stars: Homage to Victor Jara." It captured the life and spirit of the slain Chilean activist, while borrowing an Arlo Guthrie lyric and incorporating Jara's music.

-- Review by Jane Vranish, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Bright Eyes

While nearly every note he sang came across as a matter of life or death at the Bright Eyes show Saturday night at Club Laga, Conor Oberst may have saved his most impassioned delivery for the moment near the end where he wrapped that tortured young-Dylan-esque wail around "I could've been a famous singer if I had someone else's voice/But failure's always sounded better."

And he may be onto something there. On both counts.

Clearly an acquired taste, he packed the club with listeners who'd acquired it. He repaid them for their devotion by throwing himself into a set that retained a fair amount of the intensity that fueled the screaming climax of the "The City Has Sex" in other cuts, where all you could practically hear were Oberst's naked vocals.

Oberst closed the set with an attack on "the illegal president," telling fans, "I want to be on Team Love, and right now the country is on Team Hate." To turn the tide, he concluded, we need to "put that [bleeping] [expletive] out of office."

And with that, he poured what was left of the heart on his sleeve into "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," in which he sang about his voice and noted, "When you're asked to start a war that's over nothing, it's best to join the side that's going to win/No one's sure how all of this got started but we're going to make them [expletive] sure of how it's going to end."

-- Review by Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

Richard Anuszkiewicz

Richard Anuszkiewicz, one of the major figures of the Op (Optical) Art movement of the 1960s, will attend a free, public reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Artists Image Resource, 518 Foreland Street, North Side.

The artist, who was born in 1930 in Erie, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and under Josef Albers at Yale University School of Art and Architecture. After moving to New York in 1957, he began exploring optical phenomena and notions of perception, drawn from science and psychology, in his eye-teasing paintings, prints and sculpture.

Anuszkiewicz has been working with Artists Image Resource master printers Ian Short and Robert Beckman since January on an edition of 50 screenprints made in conjunction with the Master Artist/Master Printmaker Project at the Experimental Printmaking Institute of Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

He'll talk about the work tomorrow, which Beckman describes as "visually vibrating" and "loosely based on the Twin Towers," containing two tall vertical rectangles with borders of color. He'll also sign the triptychs, which will be available for purchase ($1200).

The edition is part of the first half of a two-year project initiated by Lafayette College that will include works by Sam Gilliam and Faith Ringold among others. Beckman hopes to exhibit both series in 2005, and portfolios may be prepurchased tomorrow. For information, call 412-321-8664.

-- By Mary Thomas, Post-Gazette Art Critic

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