Joe Jackson is, like Beck, a turtle-faced soothsayer. Unlike Beck though, Jackson's musical leaps of faith have always been made a full 10 or more years before the audience is prepared to listen: After the mean-spirited garage-pop of Look Sharp! made his name in 1979, he's taken a crazy trip of strange turns, including the smoky big-band swing of Jumpin' Jive, various film soundtracks, and the soulful gentility of Night Music. His latest offering, Heaven and Hell, again finds Jackson challenging his fans and imitators, by abandoning pop constructs and establishing himself as a modern-day myth-maker and orchestral composer. Heaven and Hell is a lush, neoteric opera that explores the seven deadly sins with Jackson's distinctive mark of British wit, wry outrage, and tender desperation. Classically trained soprano Dawn Upshaw and violinist Mary Rowell add breadth to Jackson's own instrumentation -- drum loops, piano, organ, clavinet, synthesizer -- and, despite standout vocal performances by Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts (as Sloth), Lilith Fair's Joy Askew (as Conscience to Jackson's Avarice), Suzanne Vega (as Lust), and Jane Siberry (as Envy), Heaven and Hell has a rightful place on Sony Classical. While Jackson can be irreverent, the rules of classical construction apply: Anger's adolescent musings "Suck this dick head fuck that lite crap/ Kiss kiss puke hate rack suit riff raff/ Bash slut mash butt beat that spic brat/ Stab dyke snap neck kill punk scum bags" are in dramatic juxtaposition to Gluttony's poetic subtlety ("Hey Rufus, how's the rain on the rhubarb?") and Pride's epic scope ("Call me Stars and Moon and Plough/ Call me Judge, call me Shah/ Call me King, call me Tsar/ Call me God"). This will be no staid, button-down affair at Bimbo's Friday through Sunday, Feb. 6-8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25; call 474-0365.
If completely unpretentious '60s garage rock and trashy toilet humor sounds appealing, Star-Club Records offers a night of foolishness, where the Mash Potato and the Shake are more than complements for meatloaf. Style hounds are unwelcome. Tee & the Crumpets headline with Tom Ward of Saturn V and Gravedigger V on drums. The Dukes of Hamburg, four men who wear really scary wigs and ruffled shirts and who do the boogaloo to bad beat standards, open at the Purple Onion on Friday, Feb. 6, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 398-8415.
It's an armchair explorer's dream come true: Take a two-day cultural pilgrimage across Africa to South America to the Caribbean and back to the States without leaving your own back yard. In celebration of Black History Month, Wajumbe (Swahili for "messenger of good omen") Cultural Institution Inc. presents the 24th annual Celebration of Black Dance and Music Experience. Performers include Fua Dia Congo, a Congolese dance and music ensemble; Group Petit La Croix, a Haitian dance and music ensemble; and J'ouvay Folk Dance Company, joined by Caribbean Rhythms from Trinidad. Each day will include a luxurious African bazaar with food, clothes, music, and crafts. The celebration will be held at the Cowell Theater on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12-16; call 563-3519.
And for the dirty, drunken Anglo in you, you can indulge in Brains, a robust brew imported from Wales, and bodies with an erotic -- but tasteful, I am assured -- art opening by Sea Smith at an event fittingly titled "Body and Brains." After the artist's reception, there will be many hours of congenial boozing and mannerly dancing to Welsh favorites like Tom Jones at Dylan's on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m.
-- Silke Tudor