Live Music

The Donkeys, The Fratellis, Tricky, Joan As Police Woman, Silver Jews + Monotonix, Celine Dion, Todd Sickafoose, Matt Bauer

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photo by Jeff Wenzel

The Donkeys

Tues., Sept. 9, 8pm. With You, Me and T. Rex. M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave. 215.739.5577.

If albums were drinks the Donkeys' Living on the Other Side would be a mint julep: cool, refreshing, sweet and, after several repetitions, a hard kick in the head. Like SoCal psychedelicists Beachwood Sparks, these neo-traditionalists spin influences like the Byrds, the Band and Neil Young into hazy, mildly trance-inducing grooves. Close harmonies, slow shuffles and country jangling guitars lull you into quietude, while melodic hooks close the deal with your subconscious. Ideally, they'd have hammocks at this show--so summery, so sleepily peaceful are these songs. (Jennifer Kelly)

Silver Jews + Monotonix

Tues., Sept. 9, 8pm. $14. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 866.468.7619.

How the meandering, storytelling narratives of the Silver Jews and the brutal, assaultive melodies of Tel Aviv rockers Monotonix got on the same bill is the work of a clairvoyant genius. Monotonix is the pyromaniacal, beer-guzzling--probably swashbuckling--mustachioed posterity of Black Sabbath, without the whole Satan thing. The Silver Jews' David Berman and his wife Cassie sing honest, cerebral, guitar-laden tunes about love and friendship in quotidian life. Monotonix will rock your socks off, the Bermans will knit you a new pair. Destruction and creation, pain and solace, fire and American water. Not even the unbearable stench and torridity of the Church can ruin this show. (Katherine Silkaitis)

Joan As Police Woman

Fri., Sept. 5, 7:30pm. $12. With Greta Gertler. Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St. 215.928.0770.

New York trio Joan As Police Woman is essentially Joan Wasser, the arresting singer/violinist/pianist and alt-rock vet who's previously played in the Dambuilders, Those Bastard Souls, Black Beetle, Hot Trix (with Mary Timony) and Antony and the Johnsons. As a solo artist and band leader, Wasser's combined her classical violin background with a love of both edgy indie rock and '60s/'70s soul to especially magnetic ends. JAPW's latest (and best) disc To Survive goes on jazzier, torchier forays. The elegant cabaret sway of "To Be Loved"--which puts Wasser's sweet and sultry voice front and center--may remind you of Feist, but the bulk of the album displays a richness, intensity and depth that's all Wasser's own. (Michael Alan Goldberg)

The Fratellis

Thurs., Sept. 4, 9pm. $16-$18. With the Airborne Toxic Event + Electric Touch. Theater of Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011.

From Ian Curtis and Morrissey to Thom Yorke and Chris Martin, British musical output the last quarter century paints them as moaning, misanthropic malingerers you'd sooner shoot than invite to a party. So while the Fratellis' lyrics aren't much deeper than Carrot Top's tan, the boisterous, sneering garage strut and goodtime attitude of their debut Costello Music felt like a cloudless day in London. Naturally they hail from Glasgow, but their songs are written in the universal language of lads--about pursuing dangerous women, decadence and dissipation. Sadly, success begot Here We Stand, which shreds the Strokes outfits and exchanges BigDumbFun for keyboard-driven philosophizing like "A Heady Tale." Don't speak your mind, get me another beer. (Chris Parker)


Fri., Sept. 5, 8pm. $25. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE.

This year's triumphant return of Portishead proves that trip-hop--or at least the more visionary, artistically compelling practitioners of the genre--needn't be relegated to the '90s nostalgia bin. British-born Tricky (a.k.a. 40-year-old Adrian Thaws) was certainly one of those early visionaries, initially launching his career with Massive Attack and then striking out on his own with 1995's dazzling Maxinquaye. On it, Tricky's murmured moodiness, and his murky, unsettling mix of hip-hop, dub, soul and electronica, was a revelation; proper follow-up Pre-Millennium Tension was even more gripping. His work became spotty after 1998's Angels With Dirty Faces, but much-delayed new disc Knowle West Boy is a fine, frequently thrilling return to excellence. (M.A.G.)

Celine Dion

Sat., Sept. 5, 8pm. $46.50-$185. Wachovia Center, 3601 S. Broad St. 800.298.4200.

Is it possible for one woman to be so without flaws, so total in her perfection, that no man could help but weep in the face of such majestic power? Celine Dion is, without question, such a woman. Were she to drop from the sky, lay down the seminal magnum opus on the Titanic soundtrack and then vanish from whence she came, this alone would go down in history as a gift so singular and all-encompassing that children would be thrown into volcanoes in her name for generations to come. And yet, it goes on. Dear Lord, thank you for giving us your word in flesh: Celine Dion! Glory be! (John Cramer)

Matt Bauer

Thurs., Sept. 4, 9pm. $10. With Birdie Busch. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

Matt Bauer plays a ghostly sort of folk, wreathed in delicate webs of banjo and whispered with a lightness Sam Beam might envy. His latest album The Island Moved in the Storm weaves oblique narratives around the story of a girl found dead in rural Kentucky in 1968 who remained unidentified for 30 years. The subject is macabre, but the songs are lovely, serene and surprisingly unsentimental. In "As She Came Out of the Water" Bauer observes the world with a naturalist's precision, pausing to listen to the crunch of shells under boots as he approaches a drowned corpse. (J.K.)

Todd Sickafoose

Thurs., Sept. 4, 8pm. $12. Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St. 215.545.4302.

The jazz bassist is an ally of alt-folk faves Ani DiFranco and Andrew Bird, both of whom appear on Tiny Resistors, Sickafoose's first for the West Coast label (and Nels Cline home base) Cryptogramophone. Following up his remarkable Blood Orange of 2006, Sickafoose projects his involved jazz language into an atmosphere of bent and sometimes lachrymose Americana, doubling on piano, Wurlitzer and vibes, and writing for multiple horns. A San Francisco native, he's kept busy on the exploding Brooklyn jazz scene for several years now. His formidable quintet will feature saxophonist John Ellis, trombonist Alan Ferber, Mike Gamble on guitar and Allison Miller on drums. (David R. Adler)

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