"With a piece in his hand, he takes on the Man." That's the tag line from the 1973 cult film The Harder They Come, starring reggae giant Jimmy Cliff. Cliff's appearance tonight will no doubt draw the predictably space-dancing and fake-accent-adopting reggae crowd, saying, "Ya, mon!" to each other and embarrassing everyone around them, which might leave a spectator wondering, "Who exactly is the Man?"
Still, this show brings out an additional element: honest music appreciators who know a transcendent artist when they see one. These folks, far from obnoxious, get very quiet as soon as the band starts. Straining forward as the first bars of "Many Rivers to Cross" ring out, they might even have shining eyes, but not for the same reasons as the raucous dudes. (Well, maybe not.) Anyway, my point is that Cliff is worth seeing no matter who you are. In fact, the soundtrack to The Harder They Come is one of the best albums of all time, and Cliff's voice is one big reason. His songwriting is another: The record features "You Can Get It If You Really Want," "Sitting Here in Limbo," and the classic title track.
Of course, Cliff's done plenty since '73 (not to mention before then). His live In Concert record is routinely described as "fierce," Cliff Hanger won a Grammy, and his latest, Black Magic, includes duets with Wyclef Jean and the late Joe Strummer, among others. Soul Majestic and DJ Tony Moses open at 9 p.m. at the Independent, 628 Divisadero (at Hayes), S.F. Admission is $30; call 771-1421 or visit www.independentsf.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Now Dat's Funny
Somehow, amid the glut of bug-eating challenges and glorified karaoke contests, a reality show has emerged that's actually worth watching. NBC's Last Comic Standing, now in its second season, is a Real World meets Survivor game that has made stand-up comedy a national pastime. Dat Phan won last year's contest with his silver-tongued takes on Asian stereotypes and an impression of his mother to rival Margaret Cho's. Phan headlines a four-night stand with Tammy Pescatelli, who competed against local mainstay Will Durst on this season's show. Performances begin at 8, with late sets at 10:15 on Friday and Saturday, at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Lombard), S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.
-- Maya Kroth
The underrated Mann
It's all right that Aimee Mann will never transcend the L.A. B-list. It's all right that we'll never spy her well-toned midriff on Borders' magazine rack, or hear her wry alto on coast-to-coast Clear Channel stations. It's even all right that the Academy found Phil Collins' lite-rock ballad for Tarzan more Oscar-worthy than Mann's affecting Magnolia themes. If she remains a near-star, with the middling crown of a literate pop queen and a just-left-of-Ira Glass audience, at least she'll remain our cherished (albeit poorly kept) secret. The kiddie popper of the '80s ("Voices Carry," anyone?) has matured into a self-made monologuist representing the little things that fall through the cracks. It seems appropriate that she tends to do so as well. Expect a sneak preview of her yet-to-be-titled November release at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $29.50; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com.
-- Nate Cavalieri
Starving for Attention
Food, fat, and theater
Let's see now: There was the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, the Zone, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig. And these days Atkins and South Beach fanatics ruin perfectly good dinner parties by calculating how many carbs are in their martini olives. Yep, people will go to extraordinary lengths to rid themselves of the extra pounds it may be their genetic destiny to carry. Leftovers: The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater, a revival of the '80s off-Broadway hit, examines our peculiar fetish for overconsumption and self-loathing through three female characters who painstakingly detail their own battles with food and fat. Eat it up Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. (the show runs through Aug. 29), at the Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 286-6505.
-- Joyce Slaton
Bambi Lake is tall, willowy, and beautiful. She is also blond and wears silks and lace. You know what, though, bub? You don't know jack shit about Bambi Lake. You should sit down, shut up, and listen to her punk rock monologues on the subject of hell-raising. She's delightfully volatile, you see. At tonight's installment of the monthly queer open-mike night "Smack Dab," Lake is a featured reader, along with co-conspirator Alvin Orloff. Hosts Patsy Lincoln-Hatt and Larry-bob Roberts will try to keep everything under control, and good luck to them. Bring your writing, too, at 8 at Magnet, 4122 18th St. (at Castro), S.F. Admission is free; call 581-1600 or visit www.magnetsf.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser