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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Dec 30 1998
Comeback of the Year We don't mean comeback in the "returning a career to its past glories" sense. After all, the person in question here is John Wesley Harding, the British expatriate folk singer (and now San Francisco resident) who can't really "come back." First off, he never really went away (he released Awake, co-produced by local pop-rock impresario Chris von Sneidern, earlier this year); and second, his commercial success has always been pretty modest -- the potential fan base for post-Elvis Costello talking folk minstrelry isn't exactly massive. No, what we mean here is "snappy comeback," which Harding genially fired off during a recent set at the Great American Music Hall.

Throughout the evening, a clubgoer seated at the back of the venue for the sit-down show would occasionally interject with what our copy of the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "whooping." Now, Riff Raff thinks audience interaction at concerts is a healthy thing; it's proof of an engaged audience, though by the time the said concertgoer called out for Harding to sing a Hawaiian song, we started to wonder if the engagement was more with the fine selection of spirits at the Great American's bar. Finally, toward the end of the set, Harding was loudly described as "soooo British."

"I'm what?" he responded. "I'm so British? You're soooo American." (M.A.)

Gray Davis' Lite-Rockin' Inaugural Eve Not that we were asking for a hip governor or anything, but some of the musical offerings at events celebrating Gray Davis' inauguration as governor of California in Sacramento on Jan. 4 are, to be kind, frightening. The series of events, staged by Merv Griffin Productions, includes festivities that are innocuous enough: Henry Winkler speaking on education, as well as performances from student music groups representing every county in the state (fun fact: there are 58 of 'em). But the biggest event is the invite-only concert at the Arco Arena on inauguration eve, which -- says a release from the governor-elect's office -- will feature a lineup that includes Kenny G, Coolio, and "the legendary Lionel Richie," which is one way to put it. Spokesperson Andrew Govenar (no joke) says the goal was to include a variety of musicians that reflects "the diversity the governor wants to keep in his administration." Mr. Govenar also promises "special surprise guests." You've been warned. (M.A.)

What's That Fuzz? There were problems with the Roxie Cinema's ongoing holiday screenings of Jesus Christ Superstar -- and they had nothing to with the film's connection to the three scariest words in contemporary music: Andrew, Lloyd, and Webber. Programmer Elliot Lavine, who felt the movie combined appropriate parts chintz and holiday cheer for a holiday-week (and 25th anniversary) showing, requested a print from Universal Studios back in August. But the copy that showed up at the Roxie in early December was, Lavine says, substandard: The print of the 1973 musical was old and faded, and the Roxie's been using filters to compensate for the pinkish patina that often plagues aging celluloid. While Lavine says the copy of Superstar he received was "watchable," he immediately called upon Universal to dig up a better copy in its archives. The studio -- which Lavine notes "took the request very seriously" and was eager to assist -- did find another copy, but Lavine says he was told it was much worse. Screenings will continue through Dec. 31; Lavine says he'll refund admission to any patron displeased with image quality -- provided the whole movie hasn't played already. (M.A.)

Lente Mode Yup, that was Depeche Mode's Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher hanging out at the Cat Club's "Club 1984" a couple of Thursdays back, the night before their sold-out show at the New Arena in Oakland. The pair spent about two hours at the nightspot mingling, ensconced in a private room set up for them in the back of the club so "they wouldn't get rushed by fans," as "1984" DJ Dangerous Dan said. He also noted that while he didn't spend much time talking to the pair, Gore was heard to be expressing surprise at how the '80s were becoming popular again. We're sure surprised too, but given the five people who bought Depeche Mode's last original album, 1997's techno-bandwagoneering Ultra, we're also sure they're not complaining. (M.A.)

Oops Robert Arriaga's item on Perry Farrell last week ("Spin Off") incorrectly stated that Peretz is Farrell's real last name; Peretz is his traditional Jewish name. We apologize for the error. (M.A.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Mark Athitakis (M.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (H.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.


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