Friday
June 23, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 25
 
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Where It's At
Dierks Bentley beefs up Kenny Chesney's country outing at Qwest Field; Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint team up at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Vernon Reid and Masque collaborate at Jazz Alley, Bela Fleck plucks at the Moore Theatre
by Albert Rodriguez & Lorelei Quenzer - SGN A&E Writers

Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Dierks Bentley, Blaine Larsen, Big & Rich

Saturday, June 24 - 4:30pm, Qwest Field, Tix: Ticketmaster.com / $34.50 - $79.50

Where's the beef? At Qwest Field tomorrow night, that's where. With the exception of redneck heroine Gretchen Wilson, the menu for "The Road and The Radio Tour" at the outdoor sports arena reads like an all-meat buffet at a Southern barbeque. Award-winning hunk Kenny Chesney headlines the five-artist bill, and I'll get to him in a minute. My first priority, however, is to take care of Dierks Bentley. The Phoenix-bred cutie pie has climbed to big name status, pocketing major nominations and awards at recent country music showcases, like the CMA's and ACM's, and is celebrating platinum sales for his sophomore album Modern Day Drifter (SGN's Top 25 Albums/CDs, 2005). Add a handful of chart topping hit singles, an opening slot on George Strait's 2005 sold-out tour, an induction into the Grand Ole Opry, a just-released live DVD, appearances on several highly-viewed TV talk shows (Good Morning America, Tonight Show, ESPN's Cold Pizza) and a sold out performance at NYC's Times Square, and you can understand why Bentley has gone from country music's minor leagues to MVP overnight.

In a macho-driven industry where the leading men are usually decked out in cowboy hats and steel-tipped boots, Bentley has gained tremendous popularity as a boy-next-door type in regular street clothes and curly, neck-length hair. The non-traditional look, also sported by Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Josh Turner, has helped draw new fans to a genre that has often resisted change. Urban hipsters and Gay men, two consumer groups with healthy bank accounts, comprise a small percentage now (finally!) of country music's fan base. And if Nashville produces more singer-songwriters like Dierks Bentley, we might just see a day when Nascar rowdies and trendy queens can share the same concert bleacher. I met Bentley in person last year after his sold-out performance at The Showbox. He actually requested a snippet of the Seattle Gay News to include in a collection of press reviews to put up in his home. He was sweet and so damn cute, and his backside - which I've commented on before - should be labeled a tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee. You thought the Appalachians had curves? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Moving on to Kenny Chesney. This guy exploded on the music scene in a very short timeframe. One year he's holding a best new artist trophy at a country music awards show, the next year he's nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the same fete. Chesney skipped big and went directly to huge. 2002's No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems is the album that pushed the Knoxville-born artist to superstardom. For the record, it sold over five million copies domestically. Two years later, he'd expand on his success with another well-received offering, When the Sun Goes Down. I like to describe Chesney's music as bits of Jimmy Buffet, Tom Petty and Tim McGraw, though I respectfully give him props for coming up with a homegrown sound that has found its own audience. Once married to Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger, for about a minute, Chesney is touring in support of his 2005 effort The Road and the Radio, which doubles as the name of this monstrous summer tour. This is his first in-city performance here in Seattle.

Chesney and Bentley join forces with three other acts tomorrow for a gigantic show that will bring people in from everywhere. Gretchen Wilson, a trailer park-to-mansion true story, is the lone female on the impressive roster. I loves me some "Redneck Woman" and "Here for the Party", and I'm so glad the Missouri native is enjoying a booming career thus far. I'm very, very excited to see her in concert at Qwest Field. The show starts at 4:30 in the afternoon, and I expect newbie Blaine Larsen will kick things off. Either Bentley or Big & Rich, Wilson's longtime buddies who've risen to fame on their own merit, will go onstage next. Wilson and Chesney will close it out, with the concert scheduled to finish around 11:30. It's Pride weekend, but if you're a country music fan - don't miss this show. Have a great lunch or early dinner in the International District (Uwajimaya food court, Ho Ho's, Kau Kau are suggested) and walk to the venue from there. Chesney, Wilson, Bentley, Big & Rich and Larsen will be kick-ass! - A. Rodriguez

Pre-concert CD recommendations: Modern Day Drifter by Dierks Bentley, When the Sun Goes Down by Kenny Chesney, Here for the Party by Gretchen Wilson.

Elvis Costello & the Impostors with special guest Allen Toussaint

Sunday, June 25 - 7:00 pm

Chateau Ste. Michelle -

Tix at www.ticketmaster.com

or (206) 628-0888 / $45, $75

I think I really fell in love with Elvis when I played the soundtrack to the 1998 film The Big Lebowski and heard "My Mood Swings." Lebowski is a big deal in my family. We watch it every Christmas - because you "don't fuck with the Jesus," as John Turturro says - but I don't think I really appreciated the movie until I picked up the CD. I knew Elvis, of course. Who could go to a college campus in the 80s or 90s and not know "Brilliant Mistake" (1986, King of America), "Veronica" (1989, Spike) and my graduation present to myself, The Juliet Letters (1993, with the Brodsky Quartet)? Elvis got around, even to Hawaii.

What, you mean there's another Elvis? Oh yeah, him. Hey, at least Elvis Costello hasn't, as far as I know, tried to sing the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Badly. In Hawaiian.

Well, if you're already a fan of this Elvis, you saw him at last year's Bumbershoot and you remember his gritty solo rendition of "Freedom for the Stallion," by New Orleans native Allen Toussaint. That song, and a subsequent fundraiser for victims of hurricane Katrina at New York's Lincoln Center, lead to the pair recording The River in Reverse. The album is a soulful love song for New Orleans featuring new compositions and seven covers from Toussaint's catalogue (including "Freedom"). The songs stick in your head like gumbo sticks to your ribs - if you're not positively blown away by "Ascension Day," then I'm going to pretend I don't know you when I see you - so I'm thrilled we get to see them perform together. - L. Quenzer Pre-concert CD recommendation: The River in Reverse, featuring "Broken Promise Land," "Ascension Day" and "Six-Fingered Man."

Masque featuring Vernon Reid

Monday, June 26 - 7:30pm

Dimitriou's Jazz Alley -

Call for reservations (206) 441-9729

or visit www.jazzalley.com / $22.50

Vernon Reid's new album is difficult to define, kind of like Reid himself. A visual artist, poet, essayist, film composer, father and husband, Reid is also one of the world's great guitar players. A Renaissance man, indeed. But that lack of definition is probably just the way Reid likes it.

His newest collaboration with Masque, Other True Self, is full of the searing guitar licks Reid's been known for since the mid-80s when he was in the metal band Living Colour. He shreds on the new album's opener, "Game is Rigged," until it's almost hard to listen to the massive sound he generates. The band follows this up with a cover of Radiohead's "National Anthem," then "Flatbush Church Revisited" hits a straight-up reggae groove.

His label's website quotes Reid as saying "Masque is about identity: Who am I? Really, that question has informed everything I've done, from the beginning of my solo career." Apparently Reid's True Self identity is also part Middle Eastern (the penultimate "Mind of My Mind") and part Depeche Mode (a cover of "Enjoy the Silence"). What is going on? And how the hell did he get booked into Jazz Alley, of all places?

I, for one, wouldn't care if Reid were playing the bouzouki. He is part guitar player and part visionary, collaborating with a diversity of great artists like Public Enemy, Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana and the Roots. This should be a once-in-a-lifetime show for the jazz club. The other Masque members are Leon Gruenbaum (keyboard), Steve Jenkins (bass), and Don McKenzie (drums). - L. Quenzer

Pre-concert CD recommendation: Other True Self, featuring "Flatbush and Church Revisited," "Enjoy the Silence" and "Mind of My Mind."

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, Chris Thile and The Duhks

Wednesday, June 28 - 7:30pm

Moore Theatre - / Tix at

www.ticketmaster.com

or (206) 628-0888 / $28-$38

Ask your average Joe-on-the-street what he thinks of banjo music, and you're probably going to get a response along the line of: "You mean like in Deliverance?" Invariably this will be accompanied by a shudder. And while "Dueling Banjos" has its place in the musical panoply, I'm happy to report that this, dear readers, is not the kind of banjo music Béla Fleck plays.

Nope. Although Fleck can certainly make a banjo perform unnatural acts& um, I mean, not sound like a banjo. Their newest album, The Hidden Land, opens with a Bach Fugue. But then, Fleck and the 'tones have never been comfortable in any box like "bluegrass" or "jazz," - and certainly not "easy listening," although the term "blue bop" makes me smile. Fleck has received Grammy nominations for performances in a staggering number of categories: jazz, bluegrass, pop, spoken word, contemporary Christian, gospel, classical, and country. 1996's Live Art won for best live album, and 2000's Outbound won for best contemporary jazz album. To date, Fleck is the only artist to receive nominations in as many diverse categories.

Their inventive fusion of genres should be even better in a live setting, and I can't wait to see Roy "Future Man" Wooten wailing on his SynthAxe drumitar (basically a drum synthesizer held like a guitar). Future Man's brother Victor Wooten, on bass, and saxophonist Jeff Coffin round out the Flecktones. Make sure you get to the Moore on time! Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek) and new-kids-on-the-block The Duhks open for Béla and the 'tones. This should be a great acoustic evening. - L. Quenzer

Pre-concert CD recommendation: The Hidden Land, featuring "Who's Got Three?", "Weed Whacker" and "Chennai."

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