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The sullen '80s pop of Now It's Overhead; the Pixies' triumphant return to the Bay Area

Wednesday, Sep 22 2004
It makes sense that Now It's Overhead would choose a Magnetic Fields cover ("The Book of Love") to complement the single for "Wait in Line," from this year's Fall Back Open, a warm, texture-rich combination of sparse drum-machine beats, sparkling electric guitars, and psychedelic noise. Both bands spread gobs of sentimentality over their songs like schmear on bagels, the difference, of course, being that MF's Stephin Merritt knows how to jam wit, post-grad linguistics, and a sense of humor into all his gender-bent pining, while NIO's Andy LeMaster is pretty much all naked emotion all the time, which is generally my only complaint about the band. Still, LeMaster and his Athens, Ga.based cohorts nail the cover, and it ends up sounding far more vibrant than the original, thanks mostly to the singer's bold, Bono-goes-indie-rock crooning. It's this vibrancy that will grab your attention when the group brings its moody, '80s-influenced pop to the stage on Thursday, Sept. 23, at Bimbo's; call 474-0365 or go to
-- Abigail Clouseau

It's been a long time since the Pixies were the best rock band in the world, and a very long time since the group was a great live outfit -- mostly because it never really was. Oh sure, the Pixies were viscerally tuneful and uncompromisingly weird, inspiring everyone from Nirvana to Radiohead. But live, the quartet was merely abrasively loud and mildly boring, playing each song without frills or apparent emotion.

So why all the buzz over the current reunion tour? Absence -- and 10 years of grunge wannabes, self-Stroking rockers, and garbage, er, garage revivalists -- makes the heart grow fonder. Remember how bassist Kim Deal could cause a fuss by not wearing lipstick in a video? Or how songwriter/guitarist Frank Black and axeman Joey Santiago turned French surrealist film and '60s surf riffs into interstellar, overdriven pop? You don't? No matter. You will soon. You will listen and you will believe in the greatness of the Pixies -- even if the songs at the Greek Theatre shows Friday through Sunday, Sept. 24-26, sound half as fab as on record. As of press time, tickets were still available for Sunday night; go to for more info.
-- Dan Strachota

The tour with the best name, like, ever -- "Pop-Tarts Presents American Idols Live!" -- will end its run with a Bay Area show this weekend. The top 10 finalists from the most recent season of American Idol are scheduled to perform, so there will be a danger of the gig coming off like the amateur hour it really is. This will be particularly evident when it comes to the two white boys in the posse: John Stevens, the redheaded teenager who worked the Sinatra shtick to death, and the cherub-faced yet voice-and-rhythm-bereft Jon Peter Lewis (aka JPL). But the show will be an opportunity to catch this year's truly talented champ, Fantasia Barrino, a young mother from North Carolina with startling pipes and a kindhearted personality. Oakland's own LaToya London, who many felt should have given Barrino the biggest run for her money, will also be a highlight. Unfortunately our other Bay Area Idol hopeful from this season, UC Berkeley student William Hung, will not be on hand with his Ricky Martin renditions when the "Idols" take the stage on Sunday, Sept. 26, at the HP Pavilion in San Jose; go to for more info.
-- Tamara Palmer


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