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By Andy Argyrakis
John Legend Weekend Report: Jazzfest jambalaya, Elvis' intimacy
Friday, May 4, 2007
Musical pilgrims descend upon New Orleans for the second weekend of this year's Jazz & Heritage Festival. The first installment saw throngs of concertgoers taking in sets by older schooled rockers such as Van Morrison and Rod Stewart, though this Friday, Saturday and Sunday skews a bit towards younger crowds. Top attractions consist of acoustic heartthrob John Mayer, who's recently shed his pedestrian college rock skin for a much more bluesy approach, along with soulful piano man John Legend. Other notables include the Allman Brothers Band, Stephen Marley, The Holmes Brothers, Galactic and local legend Irma Thomas (paying tribute to gospel great Mahalia Jackson). For a complete list of acts and set times, log onto www.nojazzfest.com.

Hot on the heels of its latest CD Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks), electronic/ambient duo Air is staying incredibly active on the road this month. Tonight marks a highly anticipated show at Chicago's Riviera Theatre, followed by a Saturday appearance at Toronto's Kool HausAir
Though he's not touring behind new material at the moment, there's never anything wrong with Elvis Costello pounding through his catalogue of pub rock classics. And that's exactly what he'll be doing throughout an intimate run that includes the Silver Legacy Casino in Reno tonight and the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver on Sunday. The guitar slinger is currently celebrating an extensive reissue campaign, which includes a handsome box set packaging his first decade's worth of projects. However, don't expect to find the collector's item in stores, but only as an online exclusive to www.amazon.com.
The Nightwatchman Nightwatchmen news, Boy's blunder, Baez banned
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Even though all eyes were on Rage Against the Machine last weekend during its reunion concert at the Coachella Festival, guitarist Tom Morello is already turning his focus back to The Nightwatchman. Part solo effort/part split personality, the entity generally takes on an acoustic tone for a series of introspective reflections and politically charged anthems. Rather than planning a full Rage reunion, the player is staging an extensive American tour throughout May and June, popping up at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 16.

It's been so long since Boy George performed either as a solo act, with Culture Club or a club DJ that fans are actually starting to forget he's an entertainer. Instead, they're watching his perpetual downfall of embarrassing incidents, from a drug arrest, to community service, to a brand new sex scandal. The latest reports indicate Boy is out on bail,Boy George though he was arrested over the weekend under charges of holding a male escort against his will. The messy details involved whips and sex toys, though the whole scenario provokes the grand question: "So Boy, did you really want to hurt him?"

Though not nearly as awkward, Joan Baez is also facing a troubling situation today after being banned from performing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The initial invitation came from roots rocker John Mellencamp, though as plans got underway for a show in front of recovering soldiers, the 66-year-old troubadour was told she could no longer continue as planned. Despite never being given an official reason for the undesired cancellation, Baez offered the following in a letter to The Washington Post: "I have always been an advocate for nonviolence and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago. I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that's why I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, four days before the concert, I was not 'approved' by the Army to take part. Strange irony."
Squeeze Squeeze reunites, Something Corporate's other side
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
In the rock n' roll history books, 2007 will unquestionably be known as a year of reunions, with English alt rockers Squeeze joining a lengthy list that already includes The Police, Genesis, Rage Against the Machine, Crowded House (and literally countless others). Even though it may look like the "Tempted" tunesmiths may be capitalizing on the trend, the re-teaming of main singer/songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook has been in the rumor mill for years. Each artist may have long since split for solo turf, but collaborated on a slew of projects, including a Squeeze book and several career compilations. Other than that pair, no other members have been announced for a summer tour, though all-star alumni include Paul Carrack (Ace, Mike & the Mechanics).

Something Corporate is going the opposite route, taking a hiatus so members can pursue offshoot projects (such as Jack's Mannequin). The latest of those sidesteps comes from guitarist Josh Partington, who steps up to the microphone in Firescape. The group releases Dancehall Apocalypse (We the People Records)Firescape on June 12, balancing aggressive and melodic indie rock, tied together through rich alternative textures. Aside from working feverishly to complete the album, Partington also turned to poetry alongside members of the Deftones, Fall Out Boy and Meg & Dia for Revolution on Canvas, Volume 2: Poetry from the Indie Music Scene (Ad Astra Books), which hits stores on May 9.

Fans who've followed the membership of From First To Last as of late may have noticed some significant changes. Though singer Sonny Moore has left his position, longtime guitarist Matt Good is now in the center seat and taking to self-production with his other band mates on a forthcoming summer release. Even with the switches, the band inked a new deal with Suretone Records and scored a tour alongside Hawthorne Heights, Powerspace, Brighten and Second Hand Serenade (kicking off June 12 in Urbana, IL and wrapping up July 14 in Hampton Beach, NH).
Tori Amos Street Date: Amos' intricacies, Rush's return
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
It may always take her two or three years in between albums, but Tori Amos is generally consistent with her ethereal outpouring. The piano girl remains at her creative pinnacle on American Doll Posse (Epic), once again showcasing crystal clear pipes and intriguing songwriting. Similar to her Strange Little Girls album artwork, the concept finds Amos dressed in several different outfits that represent various characters (inspired from the Greek and Roman feminine gods) throughout the album. It may sound a little unconventional, but than again, Amos often tosses the rule book out the window in favor of her own explorative viewpoints.

After tiding fans over with a hit and miss covers album in 2004, Rush officially returns with an album of all original material. The core trio of Geddy Lee, Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson are said to go back to their pure bred progressive rock roots on Snakes & Arrows (Atlantic), which in more recent years has arguably been somewhatNe-Yo distilled in favor of more modern sounds. But the timing is especially right these days as bands like The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree continue to bring prog foundations to the current generation.

R&B singer/songwriter Ne-Yo finally drops his long delayed Because of You (Def Jam), which includes a guest appearance by Jay-Z. The relative newcomer struck gold last year by writing Beyonce's smash "Irreplaceable" and he's currently on tap to help revive the fallen careers of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears. In rock and roll news, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club drop Baby 81 (RCA), while a reunited Dinosaur Jr. release Beyond (Fat Possum). Also on tap, African roots singer Angelique Kidjo turns in Djin Djin (Razor & Tie), which features a slew of special guests (including Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley and Joss Stone).
Bob Dylan Dylan's tour time, Stripes unveil summer shows
Monday, April 30, 2007
Throughout his lengthy career, Bob Dylan has always remained true to the road, rarely taking any breaks in between tours, aside from hitting up the studio to record a new album. Despite his latest Modern Times (Columbia) coming five years after the lauded Love & Theft, the timeless tunesmith has stayed active on tour, including co-headlining runs with The Dead, and more recently, Willie Nelson. But this spring and summer, he'll finally head back in solo contexts to fully showcase the current record and cherry pick from his illustrious past. Recent shows have found Dylan behind a keyboard or organ rather than his usual stance behind a guitar, though it remains to be seen what position he'll take on this upcoming run (which kicks off in Atlantic City June 22). No matter what instrument he plays, the troubadour's politically charged tunes from today and even yesterday couldn't be more timely.

After revealing a hint every now and then, the newly reconvened White Stripes have finally divulged its lengthy summer itinerary in support of the long awaited Icky Thump (out June 19 on Warner Brothers).Farewell The trek kicks off in Canada June 24 and winds through July 16 before hitting America July 22 (which includes 16 cities the band has never played before). Though the band never disappoints with a live performance, the true ticket to score is for the July 14 gig in Nova Scotia, which celebrates The White Stripes' tenth anniversary.

On less established fronts, Epitaph Records recently announced the signing of its latest act Farewell. The North Carolina-based power poppers formed in 2004, merging a wide array of current and classic influences that pales in contrast to its local screamo scene. "We draw from all areas of music- everything from the Beach Boys to Green Day," says front man Marshall Davis. "We like to have really catchy songs that you want to sing along to, but we also try to focus on substance." Before listeners can judge for themselves, the group will hit the road hard, continuing to refine its chops in time for a fall release.

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