Play, pause, then repeat – with decades in between

The English Beat
When we think of sentimental, money-spinning rock reunion tours, we usually envision graying, heroin-addled classic rock dinosaurs. But increasingly, the glint of lucre to be had through touring is luring 1970s punk greats and their confederates out of oblivion. Heavyweights such as Sex Pistols, Subhumans, the Specials, Public Image Ltd., Discharge and X-Ray Spex have all come out of retirement this decade, sometimes repeatedly.

Joining that trend in 2009 is the Beat, known in America as the English Beat to distinguish it from a moderately successful American power-pop group. The second-wave ska legends’ tour ostensibly commemorates the 30th anniversary of the group’s formation.
Rock musicians like to present themselves as physical vessels of youthful rebellion, so it’s always strange to see aged, reunited bands perform. The Beat is no exception — it is strange to see a group that once sported ripped cotton, leather and stylish fedora-frock coat combos performing in loose-fitting, comfortable clothing in recent performance videos, and it’s also noticeable that they’ve lost a bit of energy.

But the band’s songs were always more introspective and brooding than many of its contemporaries, at least as much as up-tempo ska can be. And the videos also indicate that they really sound little different. They will be at the WOW Hall on Sept. 30.

Bob Dylan
Let’s make a bet: If you’re interested in going to Bob Dylan’s Oct. 8 show, it’s probably not to hear tracks off of the Christmas album he plans to release five days later.
As befits someone who has been recording near-constantly since his first album in 1962 and changed his persona several times, Dylan has an enormous catalogue of diverse songs. But setlists from recent shows indicate that he will stick mostly to songs from arguably his greatest artistic peak — staples from “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.”

Which isn’t to say his show will be a complete throwback. For one thing, the lyrical luminary will have to promote “Christmas in the Heart,” the upcoming set of Christmas covers that will include “Silver Bells,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and other well-known standards. The theme for the album undoubtedly reflects one of Dylan’s many reinventions: his 1970s conversion to born-again Christianity.

Dylan has also been dabbling in the keyboard, playing it on more songs than he did the guitar at his most recent show in Stateline, Nev., and the harp. Which is to say there is still the possibility of the unexpected when Dylan comes to town. Of course, $45.50 tickets to the show at McArthur Court are also miles into the steep side on a college student’s budget. However, students can purchase discounted tickets for $35.50 only through the UO Ticket Office.

Gogol Bordello
A lot has been written about Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz, describing him using adjectives that likely make his publicists salivate: “eccentric,” “strange,” “all round character.” But he is certainly talented and charismatic, as anyone who saw his hilarious turn in “Everything Illuminated” can attest.

Gogol Bordello’s music is described as “gypsy punk,” an energetic brand of music with a mischevious edge courtesy of skittering accordion riffs. The name is a slight misnomer, inasmuch as anything with a slight inclination toward iconoclasm and simplicity tends to be saddled with the epithet “punk” these days. If you’re expecting feedback or rage, you’re probably out of luck. But their performances are — and here Hutz’s publicist’s mouth starts to water again — upbeat and wholehearted.

Ukraine-native Hutz and his bandmates, mostly fellow Eastern Europeans, play their instruments well and give you the impression that they’re enjoying themselves, which is all one can really ask. They play at the McDonald Theater on Oct. 13.

Tech N9ne
Another year, another visit from Tech N9ne. The Kansas City rapper makes a habit of playing Eugene, and the Oct. 18 performance at McDonald Theater will be his second Eugene show of 2009 alone.

What’s he known for? Idiosyncratic hair, a theatrical billy-goat beard, performing in face paint, and an ode to a highball — the “Caribou Lou,” a pineapple juice-based concoction named after a Woody Woodpecker character, which N9ne claims he invented.

Despite his violent-sounding name, N9ne’s recent raps tend more toward the booze-soaked than the cap-busting. “Party and Bullshit.” “We Kixin’ It.” “Poh Me Anutha.” The beats beneath them, however, are high-gravity, compact but disoriented with zooming, crashing synths. And he seems to like Eugene, so he can’t be all bad, right?

Did you, like many others, become a Pixies “fan” purely on the back of hearing “Where Is My Mind?” in “Fight Club”? If so, you’ll be out of luck when they come to the Hult Center on Nov. 14, because they won’t be playing their most recognizable hit.

Instead, the 1990s rock iconoclasts are running through the entire track listing of their finest album, 1989’s “Doolittle,” at every show they play this November. That move reflects an industry-wide trend the Pixies are embracing: whole-album sets aimed at drawing out the maximum number of die-hard fans, allowing bands of a certain age (read: those for whom the creative spigot has gone out of service, but whose wallets still cry out in hunger) to experience more enthusiastic crowds and, more importantly, hike ticket prices by as much as 50 percent.

While that means “Where is My Mind?” released a year earlier on “Surfer Rosa” is likely out unless there’s a sneaky encore, it does mean the band will play a number of well-known hits. Their most commercially successful release, the oddly generic yet bizarre throwaway “Here Comes Your Man,” which the band subsequently rejected, will be in regular rotation for the first time in years.

Other “Doolittle” hits include the wrought, furious “Debaser,” the haunting oddity “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and the seething-yet-ephemeral “Wave of Mutilation.” And even likelier to appeal to Pixies die-hards are long-neglected deep cuts like “Silver” and “Hey.”

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