Steve Lukather at the Winchester on Friday, August 22
Today, guitar heroes are mostly just for videogames. The iconic axemen of the mega-bands of the '70s and '80s (from Jimmy Page to Eddie Van Halen) have been replaced by lesser power-chord rockers and kids with expensive game systems.
"Where's the flash guitar player of today?" asks Steve Lukather - famous six-string session artist and guitar whiz for arena rockers Toto. "You look at the typical rock band playing on late-night TV, playing their new hit single; they have horrendously bad guitar players."
Lukather knows. He's famous not only for helping to write, sing and release wicked solos on radio hits like Toto's "Hold the Line" and "Rosanna," but he also was one of the last great studio session musicians. He provided production and guitar work on more than 1,000 different records, from Michael Jackson's Thriller to Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry," working with everyone from Elton John to Alice Cooper. Now he's out to prove himself with his own work on a new solo record - Ever Changing Times.
"I went through that phase where I just wanted to overplay the guitar, but now I want to write about everything I've learned over the years," says Lukather. "This album is a modern version of who I am as a well-rounded artist, a singer-songwriter, a guitar player and a producer." Just don't expect him to play those famous Toto songs live; he left the band for good earlier this year. This solo tour is all about showcasing one of the last great guitar heroes.
"I'm not going to go out and sing 'Africa' or 'Rosanna,'" says Lukather. "It wouldn't be fair to the band. To me, that's shitting on a legacy, and I have a little bit of pride left for what we all did." The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Winchester (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681). Tickets: $25 advance, $30 day of show. - Keith Gribbins
Some people live for impulsiveness. You know, leaving for a last-minute road trip with nothing but a cooler of beer and a $20 bill shoved in the glove compartment. Or simply surprising a significant other with a daisy you picked on the way home from work. Bombadil puts these spontaneous actions into its music, spiking melodies with spunky charisma and keeping a crowd on its toes. The unexpected twists, like a flailing accordion solo or the ting-a-ling of a glockenspiel, give Bombadil's live shows a mood that's as whimsical as it is daring. On "Julian of Norwich," the North Carolina natives play with medieval sounds, bringing to mind a jostling foreign village you'd read about in a child's fable. Then they switch it up, channeling Langhorne Slim's folksy sound on "Trip Out West." The band is relatively new; having released just an EP and its first full-length, A Buzz, a Buzz (a buzz, indeed), it only has about 15 songs to choose from for this tour. But you can be sure as hell that it isn't preplanning its set list; Bombadil is all about unconventional, out-of-order madness. Get ready for a night of surprises. Paleface and Amory Sivertson open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $8. - Danielle Sills
The Hackensaw Boys
At first listen, the Hackensaw Boys sound like six down-home guys with a knack for country and bluegrass. After a couple more listens though, it's evident the band's music is as deep as its members' southern roots. Its latest album, last year's Look Out!, is a truly American record, complete with impressive string work, from the fiddle to the banjo. The disc sounds like it was written for a backyard hoedown, but the lyrics aren't always as upbeat as the instrumentation. The group uses country rhythms and a bit of humor to get the point across. "Oh Girl" starts sweetly enough but takes a vindictive turn with the line "I'm gonna buy my love an SUV/I'm gonna sink it in the deep black sea." The raucous, fast-paced "Look Out Dog, Slow Down Train" will make you want to tap your foot and slap your thigh, while "Blue-Eyed Girl" is a traditional bluegrass song with a bit of an edge. At its core, Look Out! is a heavily country-influenced album, but the Hackensaw Boys aren't your grandparents' kind of country. The Hiram Rapids Stumblers open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $10 advanced, $12 day of show. - Brittany Moseley
Even if you're not into punk/psychedelic/prog rock music that's heavy on sci-fi sound effects, the Human Eye is worth seeing live, if only to find out what antics the band will pull. Whether the Detroit band is employing the help of robotic snakes or making a mess with exploding paint-filled balloons, you're sure to leave its show totally amazed or slightly scarred. The group formed after the demise of lead singer Tim Vulgar's former band, the Clone Defects. The Human Eye released its self-titled debut in 2005 and followed it up with this year's Fragments of the Universe Nurse. Vulgar has called the band's sound "alien rock" (whatever that is), but it's really a flurry of musical ideas, including heavy synthesizers, trippy dance beats, glam rock and throaty vocals. It all sounds over-the-top and flashy, but after listening to songs like "Rare Little Creature," you couldn't imagine the band doing anything less. It's enough to totally mystify listeners with what they're hearing/watching, and that's exactly what the Human Eye wants. El Jesus De Magico, Self Destruct Button and Mohammad Cartoon open at 10 p.m. at Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave. at W. 112th, 216.221.8756). Tickets: $5. - Moseley
You can pull the DIY singer-songwriter off tour, but you can't pull the overwhelming urge to tour out of the DIY singer-songwriter. Former Cockeyed Ghost frontman Adam Marsland attempted to remove himself from the music scene a few years ago, taking a desk job at a law office in his native California in 2004. Eventually, the call of the road was too much for him to ignore, which really isn't all that surprising for a guy whose solo debut was titled 232 Days on the Road. Supporting a new best-of set, which culls from his solo releases as well as the four proper Cockeyed Ghost records, Marsland takes his straightforward rock sensibility back to the clubs. His songs mix Marshall Crenshaw/Graham Parker-style earnest guitar rock with poignant lyrics, using a keen sense of melody that nearly masks the clever wordplay. Daylight Kissing Night: Adam Marsland's Greatest Hits finds the songwriter at his best on tracks like the de facto theme song of the album, "My Kickass Life," or the standout numbers from the late-'90s heyday of Cockeyed Ghost. Expect Marsland to effectively draw from all stages of his career. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Winchester (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681). Tickets: $7. - Chris Drabick
VHS or Beta
Rock bands picking up a synthesizer, putting on a faux Euro accent and dialing the musical wayback machine to the 1980s are nearly a dime a dozen at this point. So what would make Louisville's VHS or Beta stand out in an already crowded field? The answer lies in its 2007 release, Bring on the Comets. The album's standout track, "Can't Believe a Single Word," encapsulates the trio's strengths: straightforward pop sensibilities, sharp arrangements, a peppering of Daft Punk-inspired grooves and good old southern charm. "Burn It All Down" fits well in both dance-club and rock-show settings, thanks to lead singer Craig Pfunder's call to arms in the chorus. Topping things off are contributions by Jim James, Carl Broemel and Bo Koster of hipster favorites My Morning Jacket. Onstage, VHS or Beta takes no shortcuts, expanding the performing lineup from three to five members, with Pfunder's nearly hyperactive stage presence taking the forefront. It's a combination that should endear even the most smug hipster and get the Ÿber-macho rock dude to boogie down. Lines Across Lines opens at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Norm Narvaja
Indigenous singer-songwriter and guitarist Mato Nanji shows off his blues prowess on his latest release, sophomore effort Broken Lands, which he's supporting on tour. With songs that often reflect his upbringing on the Yankton Indian Reservation of South Dakota, Nanji immerses himself in the heartfelt world of blues. The disc could easily be mistaken for a John Mayer or Stevie Ray Vaughan album and displays the band's incredible and insightful grasp of earthy roots craftsmanship. Just like his contemporaries, Nanji's true talent is in his searing and often gorgeously crafted guitar solos, which make your hair stand straight up. Physical Rockett opens at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $15 advance, $17 day of show. - Ryan MacLennan
If you think bands like Yes or Van Halen have had a lot of drama during their careers (alcohol troubles, fights and constant lineup changes), it's because you don't know the history of this Chicago-born band, which has so far survived two breakups (the first in 1984), the death of one member (drummer John Panozzo, who succumbed to cirrhosis in 1996) and other problems afflicting the first band ever to earn four consecutive triple-platinum albums (something neither the Beatles nor Stones were able to achieve). Its ups and downs were once chronicled on a very entertaining Behind the Music episode that focused on the group's turbulent career, including Chuck Panozzo's ongoing battle with the HIV virus, which in 2001 he admitted to having contracted. Though they no longer chart hits like "Lady," "Mr. Roboto" or "Babe," they continue soldiering on, making new records while tirelessly touring the classic rock circuit. Their fan base might still miss the voice of Dennis DeYoung (who was permanently replaced by Lawrence Gowan due to musical differences) as they grow long in the tooth, but that is what classic rock bands are all about - bringing out the hits that built their careers, going from bona fide progressive rock groups all the way to the days they were everyone's favorites, filling large arenas to the delight of their fans. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. at the House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.7583). Tickets: $35-49.50. - Ernest Barteldes
You hear an echo of both guitarist Rick Barton's old band, Dropkick Murphys, in the Celtic-punk ballad "Billy Cole" and Boston brethren the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the organ-driven bounce of "Cold Morning" and the ska-inflected "Jack the Lad." But there's even stronger shout-along street-punk sensibility at play, thanks to the English brogue of singer Chris Sweeney Todd (Dead Pets), whose style suggests old-school British punk with proto-garage swagger. The first hint's the intro to Everybody Out!'s full-length debut, which opens with a movie sample explaining, "Everything they do is to keep us in our place," which folds directly into a drum-and-guitar swell lifted from the Stooges' "I Got a Right." Todd doesn't have much vocal range, but his rugged whiskey growl has plenty of character and a lively, gritty presence to match the music. There's nice buoyancy to the melodies that bob within the Dolls-ish rawk rumble. Though the sound's pretty straightforward, it's delivered with plenty of energy and verve. Barton, in particular, can shred when it's called for, as on the solo on the ska & soul-soaked rave-up "No Runaway." Setbacks, Inebriatix and Dispute open at 9 p.m. at Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave., 216.221.8756). Tickets: $5. - Chris Parker
Totimoshi is one of the most surprising and underrated bands in American hard rock. Given that it's touring with SoCal space-rock/bong-metal legends Nebula, you might expect it to be heavier and more resinous than it is. But the interplay between singer-guitarist Tony Aguilar and bassist Meg Castellanos, who are offstage partners, is frequently delicate and introspective, even on rave-ups like "Sound the Horn" (new album Milagrosa's opener) or the trancey, Latin-tinged desert metal of "The Seeing Eye." The band's latest drummer, Chris Fugitt, provides a subtly shifting foundation for the couple's riff excursions. No matter how loud things get on Milagrosa (and they get plenty loud at times), Page Hamilton's production - he helmed 2006's Ladr—n for them too - keeps everything crisp and forceful. In fact, it might be more accurate to compare the Oakland-based Totimoshi to late '70s L.A. Chicano punk band the Plugz than to the Melvins or Nirvana, the two outfits they're most frequently placed alongside. Like the Plugz, they combine a uniquely Latin melancholy and emotional expressiveness with aggressive guitars and pummeling rhythms. On "El Emplazado," Aguilar even sings in Spanish, in a voice that's surprisingly similar in timbre to the Plugz' Tito Larriva. Suede and Duma start things off at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Phil Freeman