Friday
January 19, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 03
 
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Where It's At
Where It's At: Emily Haines headlines at The Crocodile Café; Joan Rivers mouths off at Skagit Valley Casino Resort; Grammy-nominated Ladysmith Black Mambazo harmonizes at Nordstrom Recital Hall
by Albert Rodriquez, Richard Kennedy, and Jessica Browning SGN A&E Writers

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, plus guests
Saturday, January 20 - 9:30pm
The Crocodile Café- $15

Emily Haines isn't just another flirty alternative darling teetering around in her heels and short skirt. Although, when I saw her headlining a show with her primary band, Metric, at EndFest 13 in summer 2004, that's exactly what I thought. Admittedly, I'm not much of a Metric fan. When I saw them live I thought Haines, Metric's vocalist, had some charismatic star potential, but nothing that tempted me to run out and purchase their record. And neither was I convinced by the throng of lovestruck hipster boys and their Gay counterparts, so enamored with her style and sass. Metric struck me as interesting but devoid of anything personally affecting to set them apart from the trendy, synthy bands being peddled in the wake of Fischerspooner. Yet, when I heard frontwoman Haines had just released a solo album, I was curious to see what she could do on her own.

For starters, vocalist, lyricist, and piano-playing Haines is no brand new vixen on the block. Now 32, Haines penned the bulk of this material before and during Metric, and throughout the recent loss of her father, the Canadian poet Paul Haines. Incidentally, her father can be credited for turning a young Haines onto experimental music and handpicked-mixed cassettes. Although the startling Knives Don't Have Your Back is her "debut" solo effort (Last Gang Records), Haines tentatively put out another album as far back as 1996 called Cut In Half And Also Double.

As soon as I gave my attention to the gorgeous and deeply personal Knives& I knew I had misjudged. Here was the stamp of personality and originality I felt was missing in Metric; Haines' talent very apparent in the arresting, wistful, sometimes wry observations and delicate swells of piano. Wisps of strings, drums, and bass fill the space in most tracks, but never clutter. Haines' voice, instead of the confrontational seductress, is lovely and the songs enchanting. Presto. This is a grownup record from a lady hitting her songwriting stride. Emily Haines is rapidly catching up to her idols. Gay fans of PJ Harvey's more stripped down, haunting moments or fans of Feist should take an interest in this show. Even fans of diamond in the rough Tom Waits might find a common thread here - something in the drunken, fragile atmospherics.

On stage, Haines will be joined by select members of her backing band, The Soft Skeleton, who also collaborated on the album- Sparklehorse's Scott Minor will be on drums, and New York-based musician Paul Dillon will moonlight on bass. Other collaborators on the album include various members of another band Haines works with, Broken Social Scene, as well as members of Metric and Stars. Haines herself is nominated for Best Female Artist in the Plug Independent Music Awards next month in New York. The lovely, metallic gold cover with the translucent "soft skeleton" paper inside is also rightly nominated for Best Album Art/Packaging of the Year. Additionally, the video for the woozy "Doctor Blind" was one of Pitchfork Media's Top 25 videos of 2006. This concert has limited seating, so get tickets as soon as you can. J. Browning

Artist Essentials: My picks for most arresting songs on Knives Don't Have Your Back are the opener "Our Hell" and "Doctor Blind". Check out the accompanying video on the band's MySpace page.

Joan Rivers
Sunday, January 21 - 4pm, 7pm
Skagit Valley Casino Resort - $47

Many comedians mellow out as their careers span not just years, but decades. Their performances soften, get less crude and shocking. They usually break into movies, like Whoopi Goldberg and Eddie Murphy did. Once they reach a certain point of fame they can no longer use the crass shock tactics that made them stars in the first place. Fortunately, that is not the case with Joan Rivers. She is a pioneer for female comedians, and at the age of 72 she is even more brazen, political and hilariously honest than ever. Recently, she launched a scathing attack against Mel Gibson after his pathetic drunken tirade, calling him an "anti-semitic son of a bitch. He should fucking die!" Soften with age? I don't think so.

Of course, we all think of Rivers now as the red carpet diva, schmoozing with the stars, doing fashion commentary and never really taking herself too seriously. You know you want to see her in person just so you can catch a glimpse of that face, which at this point is a work of art. Don't bother trying to make fun of her infamous plastic surgery, she's already beat you to it. Like everything in her life, she is completely unapologetic about her "surgical enhancements." Check out some of the public appearances she has made lately on YouTube. In Australia, she received a specially commissioned award at the Logies after having a little too much to drink. She keeps the audience in stitches while at the podium, completely mocking them and the show. Rivers even grabs the award statue and tosses it over her shoulder exclaiming, "This is the UGLIEST award I have ever seen!"

Rivers has joked that the only people who now come to her shows are the Jews and the Gays. She has enjoyed a Gay following since the beginning of her career. Her campy, self-deprecating humor, raspy voice and over-the-top glam style have inspired many a drag queen. She always promoted Gay performers on her television show, even before it was considered trendy. Gay disco icon Sylvester was a favorite of hers when she guest-hosted The Tonight Show, and her own talk show periodically had drag queens and other Queer performers.

Considering she hawks fashions on QVC, sells her own line of jewelry, hosts various television specials, blogs on her website, spends time with her grandchildren and tours the world; I'd have to say this is a rare opportunity to catch a legend. Make a day of it and get there early to play some slots, hit the buffet or even plan to arrive the night before and make it a weekend getaway in one of two hotels the Skagit has to offer. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, or through Ticketmaster. The Skagit also offers hotel packages with tickets. Get all the show and casino information you need at www.theskagit.com. R. Kennedy

Artist Essentials: Joan Rivers: Live at the London Palladium DVD featuring her most recent stand-up concert during her European tour.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Monday, January 22 - 8pm
Nordstrom Recital Hall - $35

When the Grammy Awards are handed out at Staples Center, three weeks from now in Los Angeles, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will proudly take its seat in the massive sports arena and await the outcome of Best Contemporary World Music Album and Best Surround Sound Album. Win or lose, the multi-person ensemble will celebrate music's biggest night alongside fellow nominees Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, Arctic Monkeys, and the Dixie Chicks. The weeklong festivities, a series of invite-only industry parties and social events that climaxes with the awards ceremony on February 11, could be beneficial to Ladysmith Black Mambazo should they be in pursuit of collaborators for future projects. Anyone who's anyone in music is there.

The support and respect for Ladysmith Black Mambazo runs deeper than award recognition. The all-male chorus has recorded with some of music's top musicians. You might recall their perfect harmonizing on Paul Simon's Graceland album, primarily on the song "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes". The latest work from this globetrotting-touring act, Long Walk to Freedom, features guest vocals by Melissa Etheridge, Emmylou Harris, Sarah McLachlan, and Natalie Merchant. "Rain Rain Beautiful Rain", with Merchant, and "Shosholoza", with fellow African artists Vusi Mahlasela, Hugh Masakela, and Thandiswa, are standouts from the album - music you won't hear on any major radio stations in Seattle, but certainly deserving of a listen.

At the Nordstrom Recital Hall, located inside Benaroya Hall, Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform selections from Long Walk to Freedom, as well as music from previous releases, including 2002's Grammy-nominated No Boundaries. Under the direction of Joseph Shabalala, the ensemble has been a peaceful and artistic ambassador of African arts and culture to worldwide audiences. Anyone that loves world music or those wanting to expand their musical horizons should make note of this show. For ticket availability, visit www.ticketmaster.com or call (206) 215-4747. Have pre or post cocktails at The Triple Door, across the street from the venue, and avoid parking hassles by taking a bus or cab to the concert. A. Rodriguez

Artist Essentials: Long Walk to Freedom (2007 Grammy nominee), or ear-sample Ladysmith Black Mambazo songs on MySpace and videos on YouTube. by Lorelei Quenzer - SGN A & E Writer

Joan Rivers
Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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