5) Cyndi Lauper (Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI July 13th)
Cyndi Lauper came out with both barrels blastin' away. Appearing from the darkness of the middle of the audience she charged the stage while darting away from over eager fans like Walter Payton in his prime.
Her beautifully angelic voice put the edge back into the 80s classics "True Colors" and "Time After Time." Cyndi was smartly dressed in a black and white striped blazer and vertically striped pants and shortly cropped blonde hair. She moved about the stage like a sly penguin bent on stealing her neighbors regurgitated fish.
Their is a genuine realness to her performance that is flamed by her passion for her music. Still punky and pouty with all the New York trash attitude still intact, Cyndi Lauper proved to be quite a refreshing prelude to an otherwise predictable evening with Cher.
4) Incubus (Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI Oct. 14th)
"Warning" found the backdrops flickering starlight nicely silhouette Brandon's prancing and preying body as the band slowly built the pyramid from the top down. Layered without proper structure, it came together in a chaotic and swirling maelstrom that found the melodies hiding behind the phat putter-putter bass overtones until it's time came to assert itself and let Boyd take command.
"Are You In?" had the ghost of Bono help Brandon along in the chorus. Ripe and round in it's delivery, the nasally lyrics mixed nicely with the spacey backing from the entire band. "Pardon Me" found Boyd once again making love to the mic. With everything to gain he went introspective and pushed the physical barrier between matter and what matters into a fight for survival and left the soft techno accents to wilt in the sun.
Incubus has set a course that will sail over their dying contemporaries as surely as they will mature and build a bridge to tomorrows new music.
3) Hank Williams III (Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI Mar. 21st)
Hank III's Jeckyl and Hyde, double barreled sets were as different as night and day. On the first set Hank III could have easily been mistaken for his long dead grandfather. The rail thin country boy and his able bodied band, played some rootsy and nasally versions of "7 Months, 39 Days," Mississippi Mud" and "Trashville." Not only does he look like his grandfather his voice strangely takes you back to the dusty floored honky tonks of the 1940s.
Hank III has declared "I put the dick back in Dixie, and cunt in Country." Nothing would be farther from the truth on the next hour's surprising set.
With a black Route 666 t-shirt and long hair flailing everywhere, Hank and company morphed into some badass hardcore death metal. These boys' demonic playing had Shank Hall and it's fans shaking to their very cores. Insulting in it's intensity and brutal in it's delivery, Hank III might want to stay out of the psychiatrists office a little longer only to see where his split personalities might take him.
2) Nelly Furtado (The Rave, Milwaukee, WI Apr. 3rd)
Nelly Furtado's rise in the spicy world of new pop has been fast and furious. With the platinum success of Whoa, Nelly! still in rotation on millions of CD players around the world, the Grammy-winning singer is screaming loudly to notice her on her terms.
Furtado threw a bubble-filled party for the predominately 20 something female audience. Bouncing on the stage with enough energy to recharge any fans dead batteries, Nelly charged into the reggae/pop of "Baby Girl" followed by the happy jams and up-tempo beats of "Party." Clad in a torn yellow blouse, tight-fitting jeans that hugged her petite yet shapely figure and woven scarf, that held back her jet black braided hair, Nelly worked her stage magic from hip to shaking hip. She spread her melodic world-beats, fused with pop rock, rap, disco and Portuguese fado as easily as Cupid flings his arrows at young lovers.
1) David Bowie (Area 2, Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, IL Aug. 8th)
David Bowie has never seemed happier than when he skipped onto the Area 2 stage to an absolutely reverent audience. Looking healthy and fit in a tight fitting dark suit, and probably influenced by the recent birth of his child, Bowie's enthusiasm carried through the entire performance.
Bowie ran the gamut on his career from the intensity of Low's "Breaking Glass" to the the star power of such freshly sounding hits like "China Girl," "Let's Dance" and "Life on Mars." His voice was as intense and as crisp as ever. The 55 year old's pipes never faltered and hit the languid high notes with an absolute confident authority.
David Bowie's place in rock history as one it's most influential, creative and enigmatic figures was secured years ago, but what Bowie did on this night was chart a course for a truly vibrant and exciting future.