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Lisa Gerrard, former Dead Can Dance vocalist, live in Athens November 7, 2007

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Her dreamlike work communicates with a language from the heart > Lisa Gerrard, formerly of the otherworldly duo Dead Can Dance, in Athens for one show Friday > Gerrard, who had performed here with Dead Can Dance about a decade ago, returns as an acclaimed solo act.

Collaborating with Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard made up half of the duo Dead Can Dance, the arty goth-rock act that started releasing work in the mid-80s on the distinctive British 4AD label, home to a guild of ethereal and dark-sounding acts, among them the Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and Lisa Germano. The label’s airy roster also included hard-hitting yet innovative exceptions, such as The Birthday Party, The Pixies and Throwing Muses. Gerrard’s activity with Perry, her Dead Can Dance partner, lasted for a little over a decade, slightly overlapping with a solo career whose debut release, 1995’s “This Mirror Pool,” appeared a year before Dead Can Dance’s final album of new material, “Spiritchaser.” Since the end of Dead Can Dance, a project that started in Australia in the early 80s before Gerrard and Perry decided to relocate to the UK, Gerrard has released a steady flow of work, including major film scores, such as those for “The Gladiator,” “The Insider” and Whale Rider”, some of it on the 4AD label that helped establish her fame. The former Dead Can Dance vocalist, instrumentalist, and co-songwriter performs in Athens this Friday at the Pallas Theater, just under a year since her most recent album, “The Silver Tree,” her first full-length release as a solo artist since “The Mirror Pool”, 12 years ago. Tickets for Friday’s show have virtually sold out.

“The Silver Tree” highlights why Gerrard has drawn the attention of film directors. The album’s content is loaded with ambient soundscapes topped with Gerrard’s outlandish vocals. Sung nearly as prayers or meditative mantras, Gerrard uses glimpses of various languages, including some English, to create a dreamlike sound.

Commenting on her mosaic of musical influences in her website’s biography, Gerrard cites the Greek, Turkish, and Irish melodies “oozing into the streets” of her predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Melbourne as being instrumental in her work. In a previous interview, Gerrard remarked that her hometown’s multicultural aspect made her feel, from early on, that “there is an ability to speak in a language that all can understand, that we don’t need to communicate in a language that is academically defined, that there is a language we can communicate in that is a language of the heart.”

During her early years, in the early 80s while still in her teens, Gerrard had begun experimenting with her voice, including at various outdoor locations such as busy streets and city road tunnels, where she would improvise accompanied by the roar of rush-hour traffic. Highlighting the degree of her career’s success, a little over a couple of decades on, Gerrard and Perry, on a Dead Can Dance reunion tour, performed sold-out shows at the 15,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl and 7,000-capacity Radio City Music Hall in New York. In an interview following these reunion shows, Gerrard noted that: “Brendan and I have no plans to work together again.”

Her work is deep and spiritual, but Gerrard, who like Perry, has a background performing with punk acts in the late 70s, tends to feel flabbergasted when asked to analyze. Several years ago, in an interview with Melbourne daily The Age after having won a Golden Globe for her soundtrack to “The Gladiator,” Gerrard, responding to a query from Ennio Morricone, who was intrigued by her work and wanted to know about the secrets behind her voice, said she told the famed film composer: “I can’t tell you anything. I’m not an academic. I’m not an intellectual. There is no intellectual answer to it. He wouldn’t believe me.”

Her own film scores in recent years, Gerrard believes, proved to be an influence on “Silver Tree,” her latest solo album. “It is through the marriage of music and picture that I have discovered the powerful suggestive nature of the work… that it is not necessary to spell out every detail, instead simply point the listener to that which is subtly suggested there, allowing the listener freedom to continue on their own inner journey,” said Gerrard.

In an interview with German magazine Sonic Seducer, Gerrard, asked to describe what music is to her, noted: “work that opens the pathway of the heart. It makes me feel and keeps me sensitive. It has helped me to maintain my faith in humanity. It brings me joy and sorrow in a way that they can be celebrated. It is an absolute that cannot innately be corrupted; it is a vessel of inner learning and a blessing from God.”

In the same interview, commenting on how her relatively recent motherhood had affected her and her work, Gerrard said that “apart from bringing a deeper dimension of love and discipline into my life, the children made me utilize effectively the time available to me to work, because you understand they must come first. I am a normal mother and they have no responsibility to the boundaries that I am trying to cross artistically.”

“Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard,” a documentary on the artist’s remarkable career by English film producer and director Clive Collieron, was released late in 2006.

Dire Straits frontman in Greece next summer October 31, 2007

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Rock dinosaur. Mark Knopfler’s most recent solo album is a mature work with folk influences and traditional orchestration.

Early next summer a virtuoso guitarist, talented composer and songwriter as well as the former leader of a band that has left its mark on music history will hit town.

The 58-year-old Mark Knopfler, frontman of Dire Straits, a band that still has a powerful fan base and has made some impressive sales, will perform at the Lycabettus Theater on June 13 next summer, according to Didi Music Big Star Promotion.

Knopfler has been called a “dinosaur of rock” and he may in fact be the only artist in the world who deserves the title. Back in 2001, a team of British paleontologists that was carrying out excavations in Madagascar discovered a new king of small dinosaurs, with strange teeth.

The find was impressive enough in itself, but what was more striking was the name they decided to give it: They named it Masiakasaurus knopfleri, in honor of Mark Knopfler. Their explanation, simple and moving at the same time, was that when they listened to Dire Straits songs they came across more and more bones, while when they changed music they couldn’t find anything.

Dire Straits classics, like “Money for Nothing”, “Walk of Life” and “So Far Away” became multi-platinum hits and retain their beauty even today. Knopfler, of course, has enjoyed a solo career for years now.

Even if fans of his felt lukewarm about some of his previous solo albums, the latest, titled “Kill to Get Crimson” has come to put an end to many objections. It is a mature album with folk influences, a traditional orchestration and magical electric guitar.

Knopfler spent many hours in the studio to finish this album. He worked with various musicians, including accordionist Ian Lowthian and John McCusker, a skillful fiddler. The result is more than fascinating, which is one more reason to look forward to next summer.

Tickets for Knopfler’s performance next year are available online at www.ticketpro.gr

WASP Kicked off “The Crimson Idol Tour” in Greece October 30, 2007

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W.A.S.P. kicked off their “The Crimson Idol Tour” Friday night, October 26, in Thessaloniki, Greece. The band performed the 1992 album in its entirety while never-before-seen video footage was shown throughout the show. After a short break the group returned for another a 30-minute set of W.A.S.P. classics.

The setlist was as follows >
01. Titanic Overture
02. Invisible Boy
03. Arena Of Pleasure
04. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
05. Gypsy Meets The Boy
06. Dr. Rockter
07. I Am One
08. The Idol
09. Hold On To My Heart
10. The Great Misconceptions Of Me
11. Hate To Love Me
12. L.O.V.E. Machine
13. Wild Child
14. Take Me Up
15. I Wanna Be Somebody
16. Blind In Texas

Watch fan-filmed video footage of W.A.S.P. performing “The Idol” on May 3, 2007 in Copenhagen, Denmark >

WASP Live in Greece this week October 23, 2007

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WASP need no introduction, so here are the venue’s details >

Principal Club Theater, 17th km Thessaloniki-Moudania Highway, Thermi, Thessaloniki, tel 2310 428088. 
On Friday > Metal by veterans WASP. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticket House, 20 Ethnikis Amynis Street, Thessaloniki, tel 2310 253630.

Gagarin 205 Venue, 205 Liosion Street, Athens, tel 210 8547600. 
On  Saturday > Metal by veterans WASP. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticket House, 42 Panepistimiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3608366.

Still-fresh Half Note Jazz Club turns 30 October 23, 2007

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The venue is back for another season of jazz and much more with live performances seven nights a week > Chilean Claudia Acuna, who has released work on the Verve label, performs until Thursday.

Celebrating its 30th year in the business this winter, the Half Note Jazz Club, nowadays a bigger, more extravagant and pricier venue compared to its humbler earlier versions at several locations around Athens, promises to continue its trademark policy of non-stop music for yet another year. All may lie still across the road from the venue, at the capital’s First Cemetery in the Mets district, but, since moving to the neighborhood a little over a decade ago, the jazz club has offered live music seven days a week, often beyond the jazz field.

Originally launched in 1977, when jazz music was a rare breed here, at a venue along Michalakopoulou Street, not far from downtown Athens, the Half Note relocated to Strefi Hill in Exarchia and then moved again for a considerable spell to the downtown Ambelokipi area before settling at its current Mets base in the mid-90s.

Now, just weeks into the new season, the Half Note is currently hosting Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuna and her quintet until Thursday. Acuna, who performed at the Athens club seven years ago, has proven a notable figure on the international circuit in recent years.

Though she always wanted to be a singer, the Santiago-born and -raised Acuna, who grew up singing her homeland’s traditional folk songs and pop hits, did not discover jazz music until her mid-teens. She began frequenting a key jazz club in Santiago, both as a performer and audience member, before moving to New York City in 1995 to pursue the career more seriously. She started taking on odd jobs and was a keen contributor to jam sessions, sometimes waiting until the early morning hours for her chance to sing, gradually making a name for herself on New York’s circuit.

Five years after her move to New York, Acuna put our her debut album, “The Wind From the South” on the renowned label Verve Records, which offered the new artist a contract. She has since released another two albums, 2002’s “Rhythm of Life” and 2004’s “Luna.” Her live sets include Latin jazz numbers, originals steeped in bossa nova and soul balladry, as well as covers of material by major artists such as George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder.

Fado singer Silvia Filipe, a French-born artist of Portuguese descent, takes over from Acuna on Friday for a further week. Like a fair number of her contemporaries, Filipe has added poetic and theatrical elements to the old fado style, a popular Portuguese song form that emerged early last century. Filipe released her debut album “Sea of Fado” in 2003 and followed up with last year’s “Canto Serena.” Interestingly, Filipe uses saxophone, an unorthodox choice of instrument for fados, which will be included in her backing trio for her Athens shows.

Forthcoming Half Note bookings, beyond Filipe’s October 26 to November 1 residency, include: blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin with Buddy Flett and the Bluebirds (November 2-8); the Rashied Ali Quintet (November 9-15); flamenco act David Perez – Ana Morales Y Grupo (November 16-22); and soul-jazz act Stephanie McKay (November 30 – December 6). For bookings, call 210 9213310 or 210 9232360.

Half Note Jazz Club, 17 Trivonianou Street, Mets, Athens, tel 210 9213310.

Successful reunion fuels return of Radio Birdman October 23, 2007

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Touring extensively since the release of last year’s ‘Zeno Beach’ the band’s first album of new material in 25 years, Radio Birdman return to Greece for a second successive year this week.

Now reformed and busy impressing new and older fans on the international touring circuit, Radio Birdman, an early punk-era act formed by Australian surfer-turned-rocker Rob Younger on vocals and American rocker-turned-surgeon Deniz Tek on guitar, return to Greece for a second successive year this week with shows scheduled for Thessaloniki’s Principal Club on Friday and the An Club in Athens the following evening.

Based in Sydney, Radio Birdman formed in 1974 and took their cue from two high-energy American acts, MC5 and the Stooges. The band’s first round of activity fell apart in 1981 not long after the act’s second album, “Living Eyes” which followed 1978’s “Radios Appear” a record whose style, which came to be known as the “Australian sound,” influenced numerous acts both domestically and beyond.

The act’s original lineup regrouped in 1996 for festival appearances in Australia and took it a step further last year with the release of a new album, “Zeno Beach.”

Reflecting the worldwide demand for the proto-punk band, the comeback tour’s itinerary, about two-and-a-half months long, includes over 40 dates. Radio Birdman’s previous show in Athens last year, which was the band’s first here, sold out.

Principal Club Theater, 17th km Thessaloniki-Moudania Highway, Thermi, Thessaloniki, tel 2310 428088.
An Club, 13-15 Solomou Street, Exarchia, Athens, tel 210 3305056.
Tickets can be purchased at all Metropolis music stores, Ticket House at 42 Panepistimiou Street, Athens and at the Vinyl Microstore, 34 Didotou Street, Athens.

Out of hiding and under the stage lights for concerts this week October 17, 2007

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Mode Plagal, a rare performer, and Television Personalities, with returned missing leader, set for shows > Influential UK New Wave era band Television Personalities’ frontman Dan Treacy went missing in the late 90s but resurfaced in 2004 after serving time on a prison boat in Dorset. Treacy and his resurrected band play three shows in Greece this week. The respected Greek fusion act Mode Plagal also plays two shows, both in Athens, after a lengthy absence from the capital’s circuit.

Local fusion band Mode Plagal, whose convincing blend of Greek folk, from various parts of the country, with an assortment of imported styles, including rock, funk, jazz and calypso, has established it as a pivotal band here, will perform two shows in Athens this week following an extended absence from the capital’s circuit, presumably due to the individual commitments by the band’s talented members with other performers.

The two shows, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Alavastro Cafe, rate among the most interesting in Athens over the next few days.

Also later this week, the UK band Television Personalities, one of the New Wave era’s most erratic cases, as highlighted by the lengthy disappearance of frontman Dan Treacy, are scheduled to perform three shows, beginning with Thessaloniki’s Principal Club Theater on Friday. They also will do two shows in Athens over the weekend, at the Gagarin Club on Saturday and a smaller unplugged show the following night at the far smaller Tiki Bar, ex-Deluxe in Koukaki.

The upcoming agenda also includes Sue Moreno, a Dutch rockabilly and old-school rock’n’roll performer, at the Blue Fox Cafe this Friday night.

Mode Plagal, an Athens-based act, formed in 1990 from a looser collective of musicians who had worked together in various combinations. The initial lineup, a trio comprising saxophonist Thodoris Rellos, guitarist Kleon Antoniou, and drummer Takis Kanellos, began forging its Greek folk-fusion sound which led to a self-titled debut album five years later, in 1995, with guests on board including Antonis Maratos, who went on to become a permanent member on electric bass. Released on an independent Thessaloniki label, Ano Kato Records, the album generated an impressive response from critics both here and abroad. The widely read US magazine Modern Drummer’s response, “Mode Plagal is hipper than any American record I’ve heard in a long time… they make a case for fusion that might have saved the genre 20 years ago…”, helped encourage the Greek band to look for openings abroad.

Its follow-up album, “Mode Plagal II,” released three years later by Lyra, the country’s biggest, at the time, independent label, further augmented Mode Plagal’s style and charted in 96th place on the WMCE (World Music Charts Europe) for the year 2000. The chart is based on votes from a network of radio producers around Europe. Around this time, the band began venturing abroad for sporadic shows, mostly around Europe. There was also a performance in Damascus, Syria, at a jazz festival. Kanellos, in an older interview, likened the audience’s behavior to that of a soccer crowd. “Every time one of us completed a solo, there’d be a wild and abrupt response from the crowd, like a goal had been scored, which puzzled us a bit in the beginning,” he recalled.

“Mode Plagal III,” released in 2002, faired even better than its predecessor on the WMCE chart, reaching No 33 for the year. Unlike the previous two albums, which were mostly instrumental with occasional vocal performances by the band’s members, “Mode Plagal III” included contributions from four female singers, the renowned vocal instrumentalist Savina Yannatou, the traditional singer Yiota Vei, as well as two more pop-inclined performers, Eleni Tsaligopoulou and Theodosia Tsatsou.

“Mode Plagal III” was followed by a two-band collaborative effort a year later, “Beyond the Bosporus” with Bosporus, a traditional group from Turkey, led by Istanbul-based Greek artist Nikiforos Metaxas as the artistic director. The joint effort included compositions from members of both acts. It has now been four years since this release, Mode Plagal’s most recent recorded output.

The visit by the New Wave era’s Television Personalities, also set to perform later this week, comes following a canceled date last year. Local fans will be eager to see the influential act, whose far-reaching style, ranging from pop to psychedelia, has influenced a considerable number of bands.

A steady supply of albums, from 1979’s “Bill Grundy” to 1998’s “Don’t Cry Baby… It’s Only a Movie” came to a halt when Treacy, the group’s singer and songwriter, went missing. Rumors of mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness and even death abounded as the years went by without a trace of the musician. Then, in 2004, he wrote a letter to an old friend disclosing that he was confined on a prison boat in Dorset. Treacy was released later that year and resurrected his old band. Shows were followed by a comeback album, 2006’s “My Dark Places” on the influential British label Domino. It was followed by another album that year, “It’s All About the Girl”.

The band’s Athens show at the Gagarin Club will be opened by the local indie-rock guitar-drums duo the Callas comprising brothers Lakis and Aris Ioannas.

Alavastro Cafe, 78 Damareos Street, Pangrati, Athens, tel 210 7560102.

Tiki Bar, ex-Deluxe, 15 Falirou Street, Koukaki, Athens, tel 210 9236908.

Blue Fox Cafe, 91 Asclepiou Street, Exarchia, Athens. 

Gagarin 205 Venue, 205 Liosion Street, [close to “Attiki” train and metro station], tel 210 8547600. Doors open at 9 p.m. Web > http://www.gagarin205.gr