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R. Kelly and the Fall of the rock empire 

Wednesday, May 10 2006
Long before David Byrne and Paul Simon got Saturday Night Live spots for their cross-cultural ambassadorship, there was (as usual) someone else there first — and he made the U.S. Top 40 to boot. Trumpeter (and occasional vocalist) Hugh Masekela , born 1939 in South Africa, made the charts twice in the 1960s with his joyous instrumental take on "Grazing in the Grass" (4 million sold worldwide) and playing (uncredited) on the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." Establishing himself in his country's jazz scene, in 1961 Masekela immigrated first to London, then to New York City to study music, after which he bounced between American record companies while doing sessions and honing his fusion of pop, jazz, and South African folk and urban musics. In the '70s he went to London to play with Afrobeat demigod Fela Kuti, later "commuting" between Africa and California for years before returning home. His first disc in more than three years, Masekela's 2005 release Revival is a slightly uneasy mix of sharp, ebullient Afropop (rich with overtones of gospel and township jive) and slick, Quiet Storm jazz grooves (he once co-lead an album with Herb Alpert). Live, it's reasonable to expect he'll mix it up some — but rest assured, Masekela's soaring, melodious trumpet sound is sterling as it ever was. Catch the man perform May 11-14 at Yoshi's in Oakland. Times and prices vary; call (510) 238-9200 or visit for more info. — Mark Keresman

For this tour, R. Kelly is performing as "Mr. Showbiz," and audiences can expect an elaborate presentation from a crooner who may be unsure of his future, but who is going for broke to entertain nonetheless. Expect Kelly to push boundaries in every sense of the word, including far-out new song arrangements: His recent Radio City Music Hall gig reportedly included an operatic rendition of "Feelin' on Yo Booty." Backed by a DJ, Kelly runs through quick-shot medleys of his many R&B hits, most of which feature his undeniably infectious, worm-like melodies that burrow deep into the brain, whether or not they're invited there. Best of all, he assumes the roles of the multiple characters from his infamous "Trapped in the Closet" serial. Kelly sings for his life on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland at 8 p.m. Admission is $39.50-$75.00. Call (510) 465-6400 or visit for more info. — Tamara Palmer

There is nothing new I can tell you about the Fall or its leader Mark E. Smith (who really is the Fall and who resembles a mummified corpse nowadays). But I can say this: Live at the Witch Trials ('79) and The Wonderful Frightening World of the Fall ('84) are two of the world's greatest rock albums because Smith spits lyrical venom like no other (Hit 'em on the head with a two-by-four), and his band busts caustic, fingernails-across-the-chalkboard dance grooves that make my ass move, as if Can, the Velvet Underground, the Buzzcocks, and James Brown had all wrapped themselves into a single funkin' behemoth. But will the Fall be any good live this time? Well, that's always the question when the band, which has been around since '77, takes the stage here, and it can only be answered by buying a ticket. The Fall performs on Sunday, May 14, and Monday, May 15, at the Independent at 8 p.m. Admission is $20; call 771-1422 or visit for more info. — Justin F. Farrar


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