BY JEFF LEVEN
While I can’t take myself seriously using the word “Rocktober,” it should suffice to say that this particular month is one of the key periods in the touring calendar for most bands and that this year is no exception. Yes, you may have “interviews” (none of which, I assume, take place on Saturday nights) and yes you may have “memos to write,” but here are a month full of reasons to take off the suits and drop the books for at least one night on the town:
October 4: Bruce Springsteen & the E. Street Band (Fleet Center) — Hard to know how to bill one of the foremost musical voices in America. Aside from the fact that his latest album The Rising probably represents the nation’s best artistic attempt to come to grips with the tragedy of 9/11, Bruce has always been rock’s foremost big-tent revivalist, with his three-hour shows taking the most painful ambiguities of American life and politics and making you want to dance to them. In this time when so much healing is needed, one can be forgiven for thinking that Bruce is part of the answer.
October 6: Nelly (Tweeter Center) — Okay, so “Hot in Here” is on the radio approximately every 18 seconds, but the thought of shaking your booty to it at a place other than the Kong may be reason enough to take the trek to the Tweeter. Those less interested in persistent booty-shaking with the high school crowd should check out the classic Britpop of the Chameleons UK at the Middle East.
October 7: Tribute to Timothy White featuring Sting, Don Henley, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, John Mellencamp and Roger Waters (Fleet Center) — Yes, you are reading this right, and don’t ask me why you haven’t heard about this yet. A celebrity tribute to one of rock’s most important journalists, with benefits going to his family, this concert may be the biggest assemblage of talent Boston has seen in some time. Raw baby-boomer-oriented adult contemporary?
Undoubtedly, but when was the last time you saw members of the Eagles, the Police, and Pink Floyd on the same stage? Oh, and James Taylor and Billy Joel aren’t so bad, either….
October 8: Ryan Adams (Orpheum) — An oft-talked about up-and-comer (in these pages and others), Adams has kept a lower profile of late — his newest album of outtakes, Demolition, came out last week to muffled fanfare. This tour promises to be a more intimate and less bombastic affair than his previous rock revues.
October 9: Gov’t Mule (Orpheum) — Probably the best jam band still in existence, Gov’t Mule is now more than just a vehicle for Warren Haynes’ dazzling Southern guitar workouts — it’s a virtual institution. With Widespread Panic in mourning for Michael Houser and the Allman Brothers aging fast, expect Haynes and company to carry the flag for those for whom tie-dye and cowboy hats were never a contradiction.
October 10: Joshua Redman/John Scofield (Orpheum) — Two of modern jazz’s premier artists pair up for an all-too-rare night of top-flight jazz. A tenor saxophone player in the mold of Gene Ammons, former Harvard undergrad (and almost Yale law student) Joshua Redman is now more likely to haunt the legendary jazz clubs of downtown NYC. Scofield, meanwhile, is one of the foremost modern jazz guitarists, and also has a connection with Boston, having studied at Berklee. A triumphant homecoming, indeed.
October 14: Sleater-Kinney (the Roxy) — Okay, so I guess I’m supposed to call them “riot grrrls” and make some sort of limp “girl power” comment. Frankly, though, I’ve always thought Sleater-Kinney deserved a little more dimension than that label could ever provide. You see, unlike Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, or others of similar political stripe, Sleater-Kinney’s anger always seems to result in a wash of beautiful ambient guitar din and complex vocal harmonies in a way that is more reminiscent of Sonic Youth than Bratmobile. Their new release One Beat is a case in point, and undoubtedly their show at the Roxy will provide the uninitiated (even guys) a chance to hear them at the top of their craft.
October 15: Stone Temple Pilots, Staind, Static-X, Linkin Park et. al (Orpheum) — With Weiland apparently sober at the moment and back on the road for the first time in quite a while, STP sits curiously atop a bill of faceless MTV fashion-rock drones, the best of which is Linkin Park. Aside from pondering to reflect why the top grossing rock band of 2000 (no joke — Linkin Park was the biggest album seller of 2000) is midway in the midst of a bill of also-rans, it is also interesting to note that drug-addled chaos and all, STP remains a defiant survivor of rock’s last big revolution long after many of the bands that it followed, and occasionally copied, have burnt out or faded away.
October 17: Apples in Stereo/Clinic (Roxy) or Supersuckers (Middle East) or Kim Richey (House of Blues) — Variety night on the Boston club scene. People who like their indie rock smart and poppy would do well to check out the Apples in Stereo, replete with the scrub-garbed Clinic in tow. Those looking for more of a scummy Guns N’ Roses-meets-Lynyrd Skynyrd sound should check out Seattle’s Supersuckers. Closer to home, Kim Richey brings her acoustic guitar, angelic voice, and pathos-laden ballads to the House of Blues.
October 18: Billy Bragg (Somerville Theater) — Perhaps best known in the States for his Mermaid Avenue albums with Wilco (and Natalie Merchant), Bragg is, like Paul Weller, known to English music fans as the poetic rebel voice of a generation. Usually armed only with an electric guitar and a lot of European leftie idealism, Bragg’s music has documented the social ills and discontents of English society and the wears and tears of boyish love with equal depth and fervor. Love, politics, poetry, humor and a huge Cockney accent to round out the bill — not a bad night, if you ask me.
October 19: Wilco (Orpheum) — Still touring on the glorious collage that is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and fresh in the wake of their silver screen debut in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart — a film about their trials and tribulations in making said album — Wilco returns to Boston with nothing in particular to prove and a nice big room to fill with the faithful.
October 20: Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Apollo Sunshine (Middle East) — Mooney Suzuki are one of the New York garage band scene’s most incendiary acts. Sahara Hotnights are four punky Swedish girls who play blistering rock (Donnas anyone?), and Apollo Sunshine are poppy local rockers. Bring earplugs.
October 21: Elvis Costello/NRBQ (Orpheum) — Still on the road with his recent return-to-classic-form rocker When I Was Cruel, these days Elvis and the Imposters are winning converts, playing rarities, and taking names. And they’re all out of bubblegum…. Perennial and somewhat ancient good time rockers NRBQ open.
October 22: Badly Drawn Boy (Avalon) — Like Beck, Badly Drawn Boy had the experience of having the critical press in the UK fall all over themselves naming him the next big thing and, like Beck, he has thus far weathered the praise with amazing aplomb. His most recent work, the soundtrack to the Nick Hornby-adaptation About A Boy, was, excusing the obvious pun, a self-effacing affair, elegant in its subtlety. Expect something of the same mix of taste and genius in this rare Stateside appearance.
October 25: Violent Femmes (Avalon) — When I’m-a-walkin’-I-strut-my-stuff….do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do
-do-do-do-do-dododo-do (bang bang, bang bang)…. ‘Nuff said.
October 28: Beck, Flaming Lips (Orpheum) or Rush (FleetCenter) — With Beck’s brilliant new album challenging listeners everywhere, and the Flaming Lips quickly rising into their status as rock’s favorite surrealists, this gig at the Orpheum promises to be one of the true treats of the year. Those less interested in acoustic musings proceeded by a symphony of bleeps, blurps and tape-delayed whines, however, might prefer to see the mighty Rush back on tour at the FleetCenter for a night of drums, power anthems, drums, and high-pitched Geddy Lee whines.
October 29: Calexico/Black Heart Procession (Paradise) — If you’re into atmospheric, eclectic, consistently rich indie rock, it’s hard not to like Calexico. When they’re on a bill in a small room with the dirgy, panoramic, ethereal Black Heart Procession, that should pretty much seal the deal. Find a friend who did college radio or something and give it a shot.
October 31: Wow…Halloween has become such a huge concert night, and this year in Boston you have a variety of choices. You could throw on your scariest black pants and make the pilgrimage to see one of the world’s best trance DJ’s Paul Van Dyk at the Avalon. You could also go local, dress as Nomar, and check out Lou Barlow (of Sebadoh and later Folk Implosion) at the Middle East Upstairs. Or, of course, you could also dress as a rhinestone-encrusted Elvis imitator and go see rockabilly’s own high priest the Reverend Horton Heat at the Middle East Downstairs. My pick, though? Alice Cooper. Hands down. It’s Halloween. It’s Alice Cooper. Put on Kiss makeup or something and give in.