To the summer music series in Gandara Park last Sunday, with Americana artist JOACHIM COODER interpreting through his mbira, a large vertical African thumb piano. Without slighting the accomplished musician who was a vital part of the landmark “Buena Vista Social Club sessions,” I was exceedingly happy that he brought his old man along, and I camped out behind the stage just a few feet from RY COODER to catch his easy fretboard mastery, and especially the tasty slide guitar cascades. Ry is one of the best pickers there is and a musicologist of note, he still lives in SM (I caught a benefit solo concert he did a few years back at The Church in Ocean Park) and Joachim was raised here.
It was also a big finish for Kora “Koko” Peterson, who is leaving McCabe’s for green pastures after doing an outstanding job of booking the acts and making sure everything else ran smoothly since, I think, 2017, at our legendary acoustic music venue. How legendary? Go to their website and look for “past concerts” and your mind may be blown. She stepped into the very large shoes of Grammy-winner John Chelew, who produced the Blind Boys of Alabama from near-obscurity onto the charts and big sales, and legendary booker and music tour maven Nancy Covey. Peterson was always low key but confident in a high profile, high pressure position, and she delivered with the best of them. Thanks for the music, Koko.
THE ENGLISH BEAT — don’t look for any EB or General Public original members except Dave Wakeling but he’s all you need, that voice, all those hits, I’ve never seen them play without the room bouncing the whole time, Sat 9 p.m., The Venice West, (but) $48 (yikes! – oh, go, you’ll have a ball).
DARRYL CARRIERE & CELSO SALIM — this blues duo each also plays in other bands but I’m betting this is the way you want to hear them, whittled down to Carriere’s smokin’ harmonica and whiskey-rough, high- octane vocals, and guess what? Salim is one helluva blues shouter himself and plays enough guitar for an army. Tasty slide guitar too, and that’s at the top of my list, always. It’s as full a sound as you could wish for and for now, they are wailin’ and moanin’down on Main Street, right next to Ashland Hill, where you can score a mighty good burger or other items for five bucks, and drinks to boot. What a great way to wrap up the week. Every Sun 3-5 p.m., parking lot adjacent to Ashland Hill, Main Street, free.
EM THE MASTER — EM bills herself as “The Master” — whoa! — but she backs it up in every aspect of her show, like no one you’ve seen in years or maybe ever. She sings, she dances, she has dancers, she slithers on her belly like a reptile, across the stage and across the floor, gripping the mic and never missing a musical beat. She has dancers, and they all jump up on the bar (watch those drinks!), practically spilling the show out the door onto Fourth Street. she doesn’t play the piano, she attacks it, she uses her outstanding voice as an instrument in creative ways to transform each number. She aggressively leads a killer band, her energy is nonstop and seemingly limitless, she can sell a song, rocker or ballad, vocally and with her smart, seductive arrangements. She writes terrific songs perfect for her act, and she may remind you of a more energetic Lady Gaga. Now I’m either lyin’ or crazy or you’re crazy for not catching this unique performer while she’s here. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, DTSM, $10.
DUDAMEL conducts MAHLER’S 4TH, oh boy do I love Mahler and so does our LA Phil Music Director Gustavo, it is one of his areas of great passion and recognition, when he won the first ever Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition in 2004 at age 23 it brought him worldwide attention and had a lot to do with his appointment to lead our LA Philharmonic just a few years later (he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009), and did you know Mahler was considered one of the best conductors of his time? We’ll have to wait until next March for another Mahler, the 7th, followed by Mozart’s “Great” Mass and our former MD Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting his Finn countryman Sibelius, another of my Top Four, in February, so I’m pretty happy and my calendar is marked, next Thur-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $20-227.
TONIGHT! DUDAMEL conducts STRAUSS (x2), Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night,” Thurs 8 p.m., Fri 11 a.m., Sat-Sun 2 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $20-227.
TONIGHT! HAMILTON — Nope, nope, still haven’t caught it —hey, I’ve got poetry readings and phenom jugglers on my busy calendar — but I think I can only go wrong by not recommending it, from what I’ve heard and read. Tonight, Fri, Sat, Tues, Wed, next Thurs 8 p.m., Sun 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., also Sat 2 p.m., all performances at Pantages Theater, Hollywood, $49-3000+, depending on date/time.
LA OPERA presents WAGNER’S “TANNHÄUSER” — no shrinking violet nor master of the minuet, Wagner always goes big (and that’s why Hollywood loves his tunes) and this is archetypal Wagner, with LA Opera using 145 cast and musicians to present his sin and salvation spectacle of a knight deciding it’s time to get back to the real world, to normalcy, morality, and what is expected of a knight, and to pursue the woman of virtue he desires after a year of debauchery with Venus in her underworld Playboy Mansion, can he do it? “‘Tannhäuser’ is widely regarded as one of most majestic, sublime, and moving of all operas,” I’m told, and who am I to argue? Wed, Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, DTLA, $19-292.
THEATRICUM BOTANICUM presents SHAKESPEARE’S “JULIUS CAESAR” — historically informative, makes ancient political drama seem contemporary. All politics are local politics, right? Every word shimmers, due to the delivery and acting of the TB thespians. Christopher W. Jones stood out as conflicted bad guy Brutus, as did Willow Geer as Portia, with special linguistic laurels to Melora Marshall as Cassius, who was just made for this role, even though it is a man’s part. She pulls you straight in, to the moment. Sat 4 p.m.
SHAKESPEARE’S “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” — one of the best “AMND” I can recall. Loved the inventive physical comedy, and these fairies are show stealers; who could not be charmed by their little chirping sounds? Sun 4 p.m.
“THE LAST, BEST SMALL TOWN” — this moving, timely original with themes of racism, small town life, youthful rebellion, tradition — set in a small town that both nurtures and stultifies. Great acting, but you could say that about everything TB does. This is a world class company. Sun 7:30 p.m.
All performances TB, Topanga Canyon, $10-60.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: X, BLASTERS, Horrorpops, Greek Theater, 10/23; LA OPERA ORCHESTRA plays live soundtrack to horror film “GET OUT”, The Theater at Ace Hotel, 10/29-31; MONTY ALEXANDER, Catalina Jazz Club, 10/29-30; LA OPERA presents ROSSINI’S “CINDERELLA.” Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 11/20-12/12; PONCHO SANCHEZ and His Latin Jazz Band, Catalina Jazz Club, 12/10-12; JOHN MAYALL, WALTER TROUT, Saban Montclair, 12/12; MUSICARES honors JONI MITCHELL, LA Convention Center, 1/29/22.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com