T’S JERRY RUBIN’S 79TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!! Everyone is invited because Jerry tries to love everyone (though he fails miserably with the Mango Mussolini). 1 p.m., Third Street Promenade (where Jerry has manned his activist stickers table for decades). Free cake. He’s an institution (and probably belongs in one) so come out and show him some love.
DUDAMEL, LA PHIL THE TRISTAN PROJECT: I,II,III –Even though this is listed first, I am short on time and space and will have to tell you more next week when the three night program repeats. What a “project”! Wagner’s remarkable “Tristan und Isolde” in multi-media performance, exploring all its nuance, starting with that first note. Late arrival will not be seated! Fri, Sat, Sun 8 p.m., next Thurs, Fri, Sat, Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, $64-126.
MAVIS STAPLES – Some performers I have written about so often, with such high praise, that I have a little trouble finding new superlatives. How about national treasure? The embodiment of gospel, folk, soul, R&B and R&R? (But there is probably no genre she can’t take on and master. At 83, she is still making great albums and exploring new territory, and touring constantly.) A voice so moving, timing so flawless and inspired, informed by a matchless history as a civil rights activist. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Blues Hall of Fame. Kennedy Center Honoree, National Heritage Fellow. 16 Grammy nominations, 5 wins. When she finally won in 2011, at age 72, she cried and said, “This has been a long time coming.” She famously turned down Bob Dylan’s marriage proposal. She was briefly married once, to a man who wanted her to give up her career and stay home. I won’t apologize for sending you all the way to Orange County. You’ll thank me. To top it off, she will most likely have her favorite drummer behind her, Santa Monica’s own Steve Mugalian. Fri 8 p.m., Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, $39-99.
LIBRARY GIRL, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” – Always reliable for an entertaining and uplifting evening of spoken word, often music-themed. But I have a hunch this one will be special. Founder Susan Hayden always assembles a crackerjack (gosh I love those old timey expressions) lineup of the best poets in LA, to come to Santa Monica for a treasured monthly program, 13 years running. But this one hits HIGHLY RECOMMENDED status because it’s half concert, with half a dozen songs performed in the second half by the highly regarded troubadour Dan Navarro, a rare opportunity to see him in such an intimate venue. The wordy part is a collaboration with Eastside mavens Roar Shack, now a yearly event here. Hassle free parking in the lot of the Ruskin and Susan always provides attendees with dessert. How poetic. And all that plus a concert for the same ticket price. If you’ve never been, in all this time, this would be a good one to catch. And then you will be hooked. Sun 7 P.M., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $20.
THE HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES – Don’t get lazy. 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. 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? Catch her now because she will be taking a month off after tonight. Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.
LA OPERA, PUCCINI’S “TOSCA” – (Spoiler alert – but “Tosca” is a pretty well-known plot.) The enemy (Napoleon, no less) almost at the gates. An escaped fugitive, a traitor, frantically hunted by the army. Jealousy over a 30 foot tall woman – OK, she’s a painting. Torture. A politically powerful Lothario who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, only for notches on his bedpost. A star! – the Taylor Swift of Naples. Betrayal. A hanging, right there on stage (and the body is left dangling in the rafters). Murder by table knife. Murder by deception. Suicide off a tall parapet. Whew. This LA Opera production has certainly been raking in the praise since it opened Nov. 19, an unusually long run. But it’s ending: this is your last chance. Sat 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA, $69-379.
DUDAMEL, LA PHIL, Tchaikovsky’s and Ellington’s “NUTCRACKER” – A Bah! Humbug! recommendation. Christmas etc. spirit is great, people act better around the holidays than the other 11-½ months and whatever their motivation, I’ll take it. If holiday songs get them in that spirit, bravo. But pretty much your kid’s grade school concert, rarely on key and without fidgeting, has the same uplifting effect as Streisand or the LA Phil. But this is one I might actually be caught dead at. Let me quote the LA Times and their excellent critic Mark Swed from 2013: “The music was ‘irresistible’… ‘re-invigorated.’ It was a rare treat to experience Tchaikovsky’s score treated as the main attraction with nuance and flow.” This time Dudamel conducts the holiday favorite with a twist, when he leads both Tchaikovsky’s original as well as Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s swinging reimagination of the many colors and drama of the original.” Sat 11 a.m. (sold out, but…), Wed 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, $114-274.
LA CHAMBER ORCHESTRA – What a program! Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Lucha Libre!,” a LACO commission that pays tribute to Mexican masked wrestling, the unique cultural phenomenon watched by the composer while growing up in Guadalajara. Also Dvorak’s Violin Concerto with the outstanding GIL SHAHAN, plus Ligeti and Bartok, oh, my soul! I just sent you out to Orange County and now Pasadena. But I’m pretty sure you only live once. Sun 7 p.m., Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, $32-142.
TOLEDO DIAMOND – Unique, riveting, first class act. Just trot your procrastinating carcass down this Sunday night and see what you’ve been missing. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.
BILLIE EILISH – I was a little late to the game with Highland Park’s Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, not at first considering her singing voice to be exceptional, or even have much range, musically or emotionally. My bad. Once I paid a little more attention I discovered exceptional, honest lyrics and a voice full of authenticity. She is in fact exceptional in the area, writing so very honestly about life and love with no sugar coating or excuses. She does things her own non-conformist way and you can either come along or find the door. Her first hit song was written at 13 (by her brother Finneas: they are a remarkable team). She’s not yet 21 but has headlined six world tours and won at least six Grammys (two more pending), a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Her story is fascinating but all you really need to know is what your ears and heart tell you when you hear her perform. Tues, next Thurs, 7:30 p.m. Kia Forum, Inglewood, $100-350.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: TOLEDO DIAMOND, Harvelle’s, 12/18, 25; HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES, Cinema Bar, 12/19, 26; DUDAMEL, THE TRISTAN PROJECT: I,II,III, Disney Hall, 12/15, 16, 17; X, Orpheum Theater, 12/16; SOUTHSIDE SLIM, Harvelle’s, 12/16; STEVIE WONDER, Microsoft Theater, 12/17; MAVERICKS, JD MCPHERSON, Theatre at Ace Hotel, 12/17; DUDAMEL, LA PHIL, Tchaikovsky’s and Ellington’s “NUTCRACKER,” Disney Hall, 12/17, 18; ENGLISH BEAT, Bourbon Room, 12/30; NYE: LA PHIL with The ROOTS.
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 email@example.com