The weekend's coming right up, and your best live music choice isn't really live, per se - but it sure feels that way.
"U2 3D" opens tonight at the Esquire IMAX, a dazzling concert film of the world's top rock group in top form in stadium shows from around Latin American on their last, "Vertigo" tour in 2005. Having seen the tour itself, I can say that this truncated (but still 90-minute-long) concert film is the next best thing to being there. Better, in some ways.
Sure, you miss some of the immediacy of a live show, and a lot of the newer songs have been trimmed, but the power of the band is undeniable, and their stage show - always as important as their recordings - is absolutely gorgeous. The 3D, which can seem so gimmicky at times in other IMAX films, really does work in the concert context, isolating band members against the backdrop and giving great depth to the proceedings.
And U2 is deep. Forget whatever residual resentment you may have that they're too popular, or that they did an iPod commercial, or that Bono has "a messiah complex" or whatever your beef is. This is a band that means it, and they don't let up, ever, in any way. From the moment they blast into the impossibly catchy and relentless "Vertigo," the band lives up to its billing, every instrument in its right place and Bono in great voice, but still able to ad lib furiously and make it work. This is a band that does virtually everything right, keeps its edge and has a connection to its audience that rivals, and perhaps even surpasses, Bruce Springsteen's. The chilling segue between the then-new "Love and Peace or Else" and the decades-old classic "Sunday Bloody Sunday" gives ample proof that U2's heart has been in the same place for its entire career. It's just gotten bigger and bigger. U2 is THE rock band of our time, and that's clear - and three-dimensional - in "U2 3D."
If you don't believe me, go see for yourself.
The big actual live show for me this week is the local debut by Jason Isbell, once of the Drive-By Truckers, who will be playing Harlow's on Monday night with his band the 400 Unit. This guy writes some great country rock songs, with an emphasis on the rock, and really pithy and tight lyrics. His first solo album, Sirens of the Ditch, sounds like what Richard Thompson might sound like if he was younger, American and even more pissed off.
Otherwise, I've got to do a bit more self-promotion: tomorrow (Thursday) night, I'll be having a live, on-stage conversation with musical theatre composer Gregg Coffin. We'll be at the Geery Theatre at 22nd and L Streets in midtown at 8 p.m. The grand piano sounds great, and so does Gregg. This'll be great. Tickets are at the Beat, or at the door, while they last.
Something else to look into is tickets to see Tegan and Sara, who will be at U.C. Davis' Freeborn Hall on April 21. Tegan and Sara have been bubbling under on the alternative scene for awhile now, but they don't get around here much. This is your chance. Tickets don't go on sale to the general public - whoever that is - until Saturday, but if you go to the Another Planet Entertainment website, you can get tickets early. The password is "twins." Tickets go on sale Saturday.
Also on sale this weekend is Margaret Cho at the Mondavi Center for the Arts on May 9. Advance tickets are more crucial for this one, as it's not general admission, as Tegan and Sara will ostensibly be. The password at the Another Planet website is "beautiful." This pre-sale ends at 6 p.m. Thursday, and tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday at 10 a.m.
As far as going out this weekend, things are a bit thin. I haven't heard Brian Augur's Oblivion Express since about 1971, but this Hammond B3 player has been around since the early '60s, and he's still touring, so no doubt he's learned a trick or two. And the B3 is still one of the great keyboards. So check him out at the Torch Club tomorrow night at 9 p.m.
Elsewhere a bit further afield, Tower of Power will be at the Cache Creek Casino on Friday night, while singer and slide guitar player Kelly Joe Phelps plays the Sutter Creek Theatre in Sutter Creek on Saturday night.
Also, last week I wrote about the local group Knock Knock, discussing their new album, Girls on the Run, having only heard a bit of it. (I also described them as "new" when they are really just new to me - they've been around for years, but don't get out much.) I've listened more since then, and it's growing on me. The song "I Was Born" is a particular favorite, but the whole record's pretty good.