Music Pop Culture Sounds of SummerAugust 30, 2011


One of the most comforting things about music is you can always find something to suit your mood. Feeling angry? Vent with Iggy Pop. Sultry? Slip on some Sade. Gotta dance? Britney and Justin got you covered.

And if you prefer your music live, New Jersey has got you covered, too. Let Brent Johnson introduce you to some of the acts you and your mood can catch at venues around the Garden State this fall.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the days when Friends was still on primetime TV
: The Stone Temple Pilots will be at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Sept. 10.

The recently reunited STP doesn’t get the same kudos as other ’90s rockers. And that’s a shame. They weren’t as influential as Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but singer Scott Weiland and Co. helped kick-start the underappreciated second half of the decade, when catchy guitar rock populated the Top 10 in the days before Backstreet and Gaga.
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If you’re hit by the urge to champion the underrated: k.d. lang will grace the stage of the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown on Sept. 22.

Most people know her for the 1990s hit “Constant Craving.” But she’s done much more: The Canadian songstress — who always spells her name in lower-case — started as a country singer, released an album of cover songs about cigarette smoking and has been an activist for gay and animal rights. And she’s always sported a rich, impressive voice. These days, she’s returned to country music, performing with her backing band, Siss Boom Bang.
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If you strongly believe that Fleetwood Mac’s best album wasn’t Rumours: Lindsey Buckingham will wig out at the Mayo on Sept. 29 and the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank on Nov. 3.

He’s more than a cult guitar hero. Buckingham was to the 1970s what Brian Wilson was to the 1960s: a songwriter and producer who spurts out pop music that’s both strange and beautiful. After Rumours became of the best-selling albums of the ’70s, the Mac followed it up with Tusk, a record full of Buckingham’s twisted pop songs. He even hired the USC marching band to play on the tribal-sounding title track. Somehow, it became a Top 10 hit. Yep, that’s my favorite Mac album.

Hey, awesome guitar solos:
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If you’re saddened over the lack of diva power in your life: Diana Ross will headline The Mayo on Oct. 2.

Twelve. That’s how many No. 1 singles Diana Ross scored as the leader of The Supremes. It’s also what you can tell people if they want to know which pop-music act most rivaled The Beatles for chart dominance in the 1960s.

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If you’re fond of your iPod’s shuffle mode: Elvis Costello & The Imposters bring their Revolving Songbook Tour to the Count Basie on Oct. 3.

Costello is my favorite artist of all-time for a simple reason: He has an endless supply of fantastic songs that jump seamlessly from genre to genre. And on this tour, fans get the chance to pick which ones he plays. Well, sort of. Costello invites audience members to spin a giant wheel of his tunes. Whatever song it lands on is the one the band plays. And that lucky audience member gets to sit on stage and sip a martini — or dance in a large go-go cage. Win-win.

No, really. Check it out. Go-go cage:

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If you’re in love or willing to get down on bended knee to ask your ex to love you again: Boyz II Men drop by the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway on Oct. 15.

First of all, how great was it that the pop charts were once ruled by a group called Boyz II Men? Prince has 2 B jealous.

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Second, R&B has become so saturated with dance beats and guest rappers that it’s easy to forget this Philly quartet absolutely dominated the music industry 15 years ago with come-hither slow jams. If you’re looking to woo someone, this show would go nicely with flowers and dinner. And if it doesn’t work out, blues master Buddy Guy will be on the same stage Nov. 4 to help you beat back the pain.

If you’re a connoisseur of unusual pairings: Cyndi Lauper & Dr. John arrive at the Bergen Country Performing Arts Center in Englewood on Oct. 15.

What? I didn’t know there was an audience out there that enjoys both bouncy ‘80s pop AND New Orleans swamp music. It’s the musical equivalent of drinking white wine with cheeseburgers. In other words, it’s something to see.
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If you get misty for acoustic guitars, socially conscious lyrics and magic dragons: Peter Yarrow visits Appel Farm in Elmer on Oct. 29.

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Fun fact for those over 50: You likely know Yarrow as one-third of ’60s folk icons Peter, Paul & Mary, but did you know he also co-wrote Mary McGregor’s 1976 No. 1 hit “Torn Between Two Lovers”? For those who understand about half the words in that sentence, Peter, Paul & Mary were superstars at a time when folk music was all the rage. They even introduced Bob Dylan’s songs to a mass public that wasn’t quite ready for that nasally voice of his. Folk fans can also catch the legendary Joan Baez at McCarter Theatre in Princeton on Nov. 11.

If you’re sad you never got to see The Beatles live and can’t afford to shell out $250 for Sir Paul in concert: the Fab Faux channel the Fab Four at the State Theatre in New Brunswick on Nov. 5.

There are more Beatles cover bands than Beatles albums. But this one is actually amazing. It features members of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman’s house bands, and they do something John, Paul, George and Ringo never got to do: play songs from The Beatles’ later, more experimental albums, note for note, sound for sound.

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If you miss the brief big-band craze that swept the country in 1998: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy travel to the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch on Nov. 6.

Seriously, remember how for a split second in the last part of the Clinton era, bands sporting spats on their shoes and horns on their CDs were suddenly all over VH1? After the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Brian Setzer Orchestra, these guys were the most popular of the bunch.

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If you long for the days when your iPod was still called a Walkman: Hall & Oates stop by the Bergen County PAC on Nov. 28.

Oh, Hall. Oh, Oates. You had so many hits in that strange time we call the ’80s. And you get so much guff for your sometimes cheesy, sometimes plastic pop. But oh, you had so many gems in that catalog of yours. “Kiss On My List”? What a chord progression. “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”? What soulful vocals for a awfully pale guy, Mr. Hall. I urge everyone to embrace you as a guilty pleasure.

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If you’re sick of Christmas carols or Bing Crosby crooning “Silver Bells”: there’s a lot to choose from.

Girl-group legend Darlene Love brings her holiday show to the Count Basie, with Ben E. King on Nov. 21. Chicago will mix December-time songs into their hit-packed setlist at the Mayo on Nov. 25. And the State Theatre welcomes a pair of yuletide-flavored shows: the Beach Boys on Dec. 3 and Kenny Rogers on Dec. 19.
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And finally, if Bridesmaids suddenly has you falling in love all over again with the force known as Wilson Phillips: The daughters of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and The Mamas & The Papas’ John & Michelle Phillips will convene at the Mayo on Dec. 10.

It’s a Christmas show. But something tells me they won’t deny you a “Hold On” sing-along.

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And with that, the Sounds of Summer draws to a close. Check back here at Culture Vultures every week, for more on your favorite arts throughout New Jersey.

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About Author

Brent Johnson
Brent Johnson

Brent Johnson is a pop-culture-obsessed writer from East Brunswick, N.J. He's currently a reporter for The Star-Ledger of Newark. Before that, he was a longtime entertainment and music columnist for The Trenton Times. His work has also been published by Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated On Campus and Night & Day Magazine. His favorite musical artists: Elvis Costello, Billy Joel, The Smiths, Roxy Music, Dave Matthews Band, The Beatles, Blur, Squeeze, The Kinks. When he's not writing, Brent is the lead singer in alt-rock band The Clydes.