November 9-16, 2005

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The Rock Show

By Bill Forman

I'll Do What I Want

Choosing to attend the Mos Def show on Nov. 1 rather than face the riotous masses on Halloween proved to be one of the smartest decisions ever. Instead of wading through crowds of overly sexualized high school students and overly aggressive drunks, cruising into the Tuesday edition of the Breed Love Odyssey was easy. There wasn't even a security fence.

While reliable sources pegged the energy of the night before as frantically high, Tuesday's Catalyst show was much more relaxed and experimental. Talib Kweli brought out Jean Grae for "Black Girl Pain" and also included a number of new tunes. After attending three separate Kweli gigs, it's clear that while he is a lyrical master and a skilled freestyle emcee, he's a perennially flat singer. Maybe it's poor monitoring, but it's a problem that became more evident once Mos Def mounted the stage. ProTools can't fix pitch live.

Mos and Talib first worked through some duet material, including some cuts off the Black Star record, before Mos started rolling out solo material. Mos' show was one of the weirdest and funniest hip-hop shows I've ever seen. He didn't work from a set list, and favored new unheard material over his predictable hits. He justified his love of the "new shit" by telling the crowd, "What? I already got your money in my pocket. I'll do what I want." Cartman would be proud.

In fact, this mantra came up over and over. At one point Mos hopped off the stage, walked up to the balcony and then back through the crowd without even stopping the song. The best freestyle from this excursion was definitely "who grabbed my ass / now that ain't nice."

For a man who "hates to go out on tour" and only does it so he can buy his kids new bicycles, Mos seemed to be having fun. Other than one mean-spirited aside to the sound man, he was all smiles, making fun of his DJ, joking with the crowd and taking the piss out of the stragglers and stoners who hang out on Pacific. "Yo Mos!" he aped, "I love your stuff, I'll be at the show. Wanna get high?"

She'll Do What She Wants

"It's a poverty-stricken thing," Lacy J. Dalton joked about her status as an independent recording artist, "but I'm so glad to be free." Fronting an extremely talented trio, the erstwhile Jill Croston shared as many stories as songs during her second homecoming show at Don Quixote's last Sunday.

Fronting a talented trio, she favored sparse and simple arrangements, lacking all of the processing and overwrought orchestration that ruins so many contemporary country compositions. Dalton worked through a set list that hit all the high points of her career, including "Little Boy Blue," which she explained was written "for anybody that has had to work for a living and leave their kids in the care of somebody else," and Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)." The crowd was delighted at the return of their now departed local hero.

Virginia City, Dalton's new home, may have a herd of wild horses, but San Lorenzo Valley will always be her artistic home. As if to prove this point, she invited Larry Hosford onto the stage to sing "Slip Away," a song that was rejected four times by Nashville, but is nonetheless, as advertised, the "perfect Lacy J. Dalton song."

Peter Koht

Ain't Nothin' But a House Party

The recording industry may be floundering, but music itself is very much alive and well. Witness last Saturday's living room (!) performance by Tom Brosseau, a North Dakota by way of L.A. artist whose admirers include Bonnie Raitt (due in town herself Feb. 10). Brosseau, whose new album, What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye, was produced by Sam Jones (best known for directing Wilco's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), is a strikingly original singer/songwriter who sings in a reedy upper register (somewhere around Jeff Buckley or Thom Yorke) and whose original songs are every bit as compelling as his eclectic array of covers (which, on Saturday, ranged from Elliot Smith and Richard Buckner to Johnny Cash and the Ink Spots). The show was the idea of Ingrid Anderson, who talked her fellow grad students into donating their living room after she saw Brosseau play in Seattle. If Anderson decides to ditch her UC science studies, she can always get a job in A&R.

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