Top Five Must-See Shows This Week
Pat Benatar (in the '80s)
Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it Mondays suck (we've read Garfield). But it means the start of a new week, which means a bunch of killer shows in and around Phoenix.
And here are a few of the coolest, our top five must-see shows this week.
If Simon Joyner weren't already living the life of a world-weary singer/songwriter, he could probably find success as a fiction writer. Armed with a dozen releases and a dedicated cult following, Joyner's songs flow like well-developed novellas, yet each is but a few minutes long. There's a focused clarity found in each ballad, more than enough to evoke powerful feelings and relationships with each character and his struggles.
"I want to depict a real situation even if it's a difficult one -- characters who are acting like real people do or are suffering like real people do," Joyner explains from his home in Omaha, Nebraska. "For me, the process of writing in a realistic way is about interpersonal conflicts. It's not just woe-is-me kind of stuff. These are usually pretty serious struggling characters who are conflicted, but I don't really have an interest in any kind of wallowing. The fact that the characters are struggling at all shows there's also hopefulness there."
Joyner's characters come from real-life situations, but not necessarily his own. He admits to frequently being affected by events close enough to him to be personal, like a divorce or suicide, that compel him to put his deeper feelings to song. Still, he says, he tries to take a fictional approach and stay out of the picture.
"[My songs are] generally informed by living," he says. "But there have been times in my life where certain events have taken over my imagination because of the gravity of the situation and dealing with it. It occupied my artistic base. as well. Even in those instances where I'm writing about a failed marriage or the death of someone close to me -- actual events in my life that lead to songs -- the song is worked into something more imaginative and fictional." -- Glenn BurnSilver (Read more about Simon Joyner.)
Along with the Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams and Joan Jett, few '80s women sounded like they could straight-up kick your ass into oblivion like Pat Benatar. Her 1979 debut album, In the Heat of the Night, held ten sassy tracks including "Heartbreaker" and a handful of covers (John "Still Cougar" Mellencamp and others).
The next five years would bring other femme-rock anthems like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "You Better Run." Benatar's output grew more infrequent after the birth of daughter Haley in 1985 and her sound softened, but vocally she was still fiery. The past decade or so, Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo have resumed touring the world, recapturing her '80s audience while bringing a new generation of women who gravitate to the ageless whoop-ass girl-power jams into the fold. --Craig Hlavaty
The Jacksons have a reputation as the most dysfunctional family in pop, but the name of their outing, The Unity Tour, is nothing cheeky or ironic. Except for a 2001 one-off show at Madison Square Garden, "Unity" is their first since 1989. It's been a rocky road for the brothers: Marlon left the group in 1984, and Jermaine's relationship with Motown Records (he married Motown founder Barry Gordy's daughter) caused plenty of friction with the rest of the family (signed to CBS). But the tour name is fitting.
Backed by an unflappable band (with Tito on lead guitar and Jermaine on bass), the boys (don't expect appearances by Janet or LaToya, also somewhat estranged) still style on the stage with killer costumes and dynamite dance moves while churning out vintage hits such as "I Want You Back," "ABC," "I'll Be There," "Dancing Machine," and more late-period showstoppers including "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," "Nothin' (That Compares 2 U)," and "This Is It," recorded for the Michael Jackson documentary of the same name. While problems seem to follow the Jackson family everywhere, rest assured, the concert will undoubtedly be a class act. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Talk about a lineup -- half of this bill appeared on our 100 Songs That Defined Arizona list. Al Perry's cover of Bloodspasm's "We Got Cactus" functions like an unofficial state anthem, and Hans Olson's "Western Winds" helped rep the year 1973. Add in rockabilly legend Kevin Daly, and jazzy singer/songwriter Nina Curri and you've got a smattering of some of Arizona's most revered musical figures. Perry discussed "We Got Cactus" with New Times.
"'We Got Cactus' is the ultimate Arizona and Tucson song," says Tucson's Al Perry, a member of the Tucson Music Hall of Fame, a weekly DJ on local community radio station KXCI and an enthusiastic collector of all Arizona music (he's also running for president, FYI).
"It hit me right off the bat. The greatest songs you can write are the ones that stick right in your head. It's not just a song, it's an anthem, plus with the local lyrics, you've got something that's very special."
Perry recorded his own version of "We Got Cactus" at the end of a WaveLab Studio session with Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino. He lifted the country-ish arrangement from Tucson musician Slack Mac, whose version Perry heard in the late 1990s.
"It never occurred to me until we were sitting in the studio and we needed one more song. All of a sudden it went viral. It took on a life of its own after we did it. I cannot go out and do a gig without somebody requesting that song. Everybody associates this song with me, but I didn't do a thing. I didn't write it, I didn't arrange it, I just sang it at one session."
"The thing about that song is it will be great no matter what style you record it in. We could make a disco version of this and it'd sound great. It passes every test you would want to make of a great song." -- Eric Swedlund (Read more about "We Got Cactus.)
Henry Clay People
This year, bands like Japandroids and JEFF the Brotherhood have offered varied flavors of back-to-basics rock, all of them commendable in their un-self-conscious energy. But it comes at a time where some baldly question the relevance of stadium rock ethos. However, frenzied power-chord jammers The Henry Clay People, hailing from L.A., are aware of this fact: they know the cruise ship is sinking but aren't about to leave the buffet line. Singer Joey Siara likes to take his high-pitched voice to the hilt, slinging angsty kiss-offs and two-sided Malkmus-isms. His snarled shouts rarely hit the final resolution note, doing a flared bend at the end of every vocal phrase as if it pains him to admit the losses.
Still, the songs are full of anthemic group-call choruses. "Every band that we every loved / is selling out or breaking up / but we learned to drink for free," he yelps on the super-charged "EveryBandWeEverLoved," effectively summing-up the diminishing returns of following your idols' path. I'll throw in one more genre tag for the 2012 revival stew: resignation rock. The Henry Clay People know something's been lost, that manic guitar-driven heroism no longer rules the school. Despite the decline, their commitment to giving it another exuberant spin is what makes their raucous stomping so infectious. --Chase Kamp
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