FAREWELL YBR! - Courtesy photo

WARNING! The schedule of great live music is about to wind down, until mid-January, at least. Happens every year. Oh, there may be a blockbuster or two in there, or a hidden treasure (and how will you find out about them? – yes! – keep reading NOTEWORTHY!), but unless you have an inexhaustible passion for the Nutcracker and endless carols you’ve sung one million times, break into your bookshelves for the next few weeks.

EXPECTATIONS – “the mother of all disappointment,” said a wise man once, and I repeat it frequently. It is especially good to remember when heading out to see a performer you love, a highly anticipated event for you. They can and often will perform whatever they want, not necessarily the hit(s) you want to hear, maybe not even the genre you expect. 

I’m pretty good at that but I let my guard down a little when finally seeing RHIANNON GIDDENS, at Walt Disney Concert Hall last Saturday. She was incredible. (And barefoot.) What a voice! And she did a lot of my favorites – Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, even a Gershwin. And having the entire LA Philharmonic back her must have been as cool for her as it was for us. But I was hoping for some of the “mining” of old Americana music that she has become famous for, and there was little of that.

But I think having the superb 21-voice a cappella, all female group Resistance Revival Choir do an entire 45 minute set preceding her was a misstep. Superb as they were, that was a lot of preaching before what most came to see. I heard several similar comments during intermission. I admire the call for freedom and these things need to be heard, but there’s a reason most Christian rock bands are unlistenable but U2 is huge, slipping the occasional message into a great song.

If you are a JONATHAN RICHMAN fan – I’m not but he certainly has his devoted following – Zebulon in Highland Park, a great venue, has him for seven shows in a row, Dec. 13-16. “Featuring TOMMY LARKINS on drums!” – if that means anything to you. Can’t recall seeing a booking like that, at least for many years.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:  

THE HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES – I have to confess: I’m not at their show every Monday night. But I should be. Don’t get lazy, Charles. It’s just outside Santa Monica, street parking is easy, it’s a friendly little neighborhood bar where you can see and hear everywhere in the tiny room, the sound is great, the stage is maybe a foot high and right next to the patrons, drinks are reasonable and there is no cover. Smothers Auditorium at Pepperdine had a Django-style group a few weeks ago and I think tickets were at least $25. THCOLA plays breakneck, virtuoso 1930s Django-style swing music. You will find it hard to stop smiling all night. Mon 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.

EM – She’s unique, compelling, and right here in Santa Monica. You will be mesmerized. By her piano pounding, singing, songs (mostly her own), her hot band and how she orchestrates them, her unbelievable energy and passion, her insightful ballads, her dancing and cavorting off the stage while never missing a note, and did I mention she had a book, co-written with Lady Gaga, on the NYT bestseller list? Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.

RECOMMENDED: 

TONIGHT! – ELTON JOHN FAREWELL YELLOW BRICK ROAD TOUR – I was never the biggest fan (don’t murder me!) of his music (can’t stand “Crocodile Rock”), and thought Bernie Taupin the most overrated lyricist ever, and his drummer Nigel Olsson an embarrassment, but I do appreciate a good show and EJ has always given us that, so on this final tour I’m sure he will deliver. And besides that, he’s a gigantic philanthropist who tried single-handedly to stop the AIDS epidemic. Thurs, Sat, Sun 8 P.M., Dodger Stadium, LA, $45-250 (I‘m sure the good and great seats went for the price of a month’s rent west of Lincoln, but they are long gone).

LA OPERA, PUCCINI’S “TOSCA” – It may be the most popular opera of all. Does that mean anything? All my life I’ve tried to explain to some people that “popular” does not mean it’s art, or great or even good. It’s a measure of agreement. “I don’t know what show Charles Andrews was reviewing, but everyone at Journey/Barry Manilow/Lawrence Welk was on their feet applauding.” With opera it’s a little different than pop music, though. Many of these works have been performed for centuries, in front of all sorts of audiences, and if they still come up as most popular there has to be quality there. This is not this month’s Billboard charts.

I’m really looking forward to this one. LA’s own GRAMMY-winning Anfel Blue sings the lead role of… an opera diva, kicking her way through “an enthralling tale of love, deception and corruption…” (sounds like our recent local election), …battling the machinations of a treacherous sociopath” (or national elections). Sat 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA, $29-374.

“THE WALKING DEAD” Series Finale Screening and Red Carpet – OK, consistency alert, this is a rare exception, something I wouldn’t be caught dead at but the show is very very very popular and tickets have been selling like crazy at crazy prices so for those of you who are… crazy, about it, I’m letting you know because it is a rare opportunity. To pay a lot of money to watch a TV show. Of course, with all those celebrities wiggling out of limos, it is going to be a mad street scene. And of course, it is completely sold out. Bono stopped there last Sunday on his book tour and an employee told me resale tickets were going for 5Gs. Oh, LA…Sun 4 p.m., Orpheum Theatre, LA, You don’t have that much $$.

TOLEDO DIAMOND — He’s unique, compelling, and right here at Harvelle’s. Go. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.

MACY GRAY – I might not have chosen this if I hadn’t seen her perform recently, online, or tube, and the once Next Big Thing Where-is-she-now? – has still got it. She has taken her unique vocal instrument and style that everyone glommed onto initially for it’s captivating oddity, and proven that she is a vocalist to be reckoned with. The intimate and elegant confines of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato will be a great place to see her. Pretty pricey, though. Wed 7, 9:30 p.m., Vibrato, Beverly Glen, $220-250. 

COMING ATTRACTIONS: “TOSCA,” LA OPERA , Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 11/27, 12/1, 4, 7, 10; TOLEDO DIAMOND, Harvelle’s, 11/27; HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES, Cinema Bar, 11/28; EM, Harvelle’s, 11/29; LOVE, Wayfarer, 12/4; SAMANTHA FISH, JESSE DAYTON, Whisky A Go Go, 12/4; THE LAST WALTZ TOUR 2022, Orpheum Theater, 12/4; DUDAMEL LEADS THE TRISTAN PROJECT: I,II,III, Disney Hall, 12/9. 10. 11. 15, 16, 17; LA CHAMBER ORCHESTRA Tribute to Lucha Libre!, GIL SHAHAN, Ambassador Auditorium, 12/11; BILLIE EILISH, Kia Forum, 12/13, 15, 16; X, Orpheum Theater, 12/16; STEVIE WONDER, Microsoft Theater, 12/17; MAVERICKS, JD MCPHERSON, Theatre at Ace Hotel, 12/17; ENGLISH BEAT, Bourbon Room, 12/30.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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