So, the House of Blues opened this past week, kicking off with Erykah Badu's solo set, followed by the debut of her seat-of-their-pants soul collective the Cannabinoids (no review available by press time, of course, but hit up Unfair Park for the lowdown). When I initially heard it would be Badu opening, I breathed a sigh of relief; after all, HOB has come under fire as an icky, corporate venue, and one would assume as such that local connections wouldn't carry much weight as far as booking goes. So the Badu opener is a good sign, as is the May 11 Old 97's show (which is sold out, by the way).
Also promising, at least as far as quality, non-local acts go, are the slated upcoming performances from Joseph Arthur, George Clinton and P-Funk and Kings of Leon (check this issue's Critics' Picks, music feature and Playlist for coverage).
But the douche factor gets ratcheted up, sadly, when it comes to the Official Grand Opening Party, which takes place Saturday, May 12. I know, it's confusing: While the "soft opening" featuring Badu officially opened the House, its Official Grand Opening makes it, er, officially official? Whatever. The point is, HOB's credibility takes a definite, um, official downturn with its superfluous, outdated lineup for this sucker, specifically, the headlining Blues Brothers Formal Classic Review, wherein HOB founder Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi will perform the sort of reverse minstrel show of blues covers that made the original Blues Brothers (Aykroyd and Jim's brother John, who was actually talented) famous.
House of Blues
I never found the original Blues Brothers particularly funny or entertaining or musically interesting and therefore am already admittedly bored by this choice for the Mega-Giant-Super-Real-Officially-Official Grand Opening, or whatever it is. But that's just taste, so I can't really argue with the selection (besides, the sucker is sold out, so clearly many people would disagree). What is arguable, however, is the relevance of the Blues Brothers, an act that reached its peak of popularity in 1980, to the opening of a venue in 2007, especially since one half of the group's original lineup, about which everyone went so apeshit, is dead.
The good news is the Blues Brothers gig is a mere blip on the radar screen. The remainder of the summer HOB shows look pretty damn varied and exciting, injected with a high dose of blues that's actually quite good. HOB's three music rooms—the Music Hall, which holds 1,625 people; the 400-person-capacity Cambridge Room; and the 300-seat restaurant stage—will shift between national, regional and local bands, with a few international acts thrown in for good measure. Let's check out some highlights for the opening week: Anson Funderburgh, Restaurant Stage, May 16, 18, 23
Dude's been slinging around old-fashioned blues for 30 years, and the Dallas native stands out in a state that boasts a zillion blues players. Funderburgh's pedigree is too long to list here; all you need to know is he and his '57 Strat produce sexy, sultry, minimal licks, their restrained nature leaving you gasping for more. Yowza. Back Door Slam, Restaurant Stage, May 17 and 20
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OK, even though they might win the prize for "Blues Band Name at Which Dirty-Minded Music Editors Might Giggle," they're only teenagers, so I might get arrested if I continue with that theme. The fact that they're so young—and British to boot—works against the blues cred, of course, but just give these young hooligans a listen. Their sound ranges from Cream-like rock to dreamy, '70s-sounding Cali-pop to Allman Brothers jams. Deftones, Music Hall, May 16
Holy God, there are nu-metal bands that can actually produce catchy, intelligent music, and the Deftones lead the charge. (As evidenced by their popularity—this show is the second of a two-show HOB stint). Think shoe-gaze-y dreamers who use double-bass drums, mixing the best bits of Stone Temple Pilots with indie-rock sensibilities. The Fall of Troy opens. Young Love, Under the Influence of Giants, Play Radio Play, Liam & Me, Cambridge Room, May 16
Young Love: Weird, quirky synth rock with a HUGE disco beat and an un-ironic dance focus. If Har Mar Superstar had less attitude, the Rapture listed toward the dance floor and Hot Chip had an ounce of soul, they would be Young Love. At $14 to $16, this show's a steal. Young Love, Under the Influence of Giants, Manchester Orchestra, Meg & Dia, Music Hall, May 17
Well, they can't all be gold.