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Rory Block
Rockefeller's
Monday, April 4

What do you get when you mix sharecropper blues with a young white mother? The driving guitar, soulful voice and uneven lyrics of Rory Block, who performed Monday night to an appreciative crowd of around 100 at Rockefeller's.

Block, who is rumored to have run away from her New York home at an early age to join the blues circuit, hits her stride when it's just her and her acoustic guitar, updating some forgotten blues master, attacking each note and working it until you can almost hear the pain of the Southern black experience.

Monday's performance delivered in that regard, cutting to the essence of the woman and her instrument on a stage bedecked in shadow. But the evocative old blues on which Block has built her following was in short supply -- most of the material came from the current Angel of Mercy and the previous Anti-Woman CDs, both of which tend toward more, um, modern concerns. Certainly anyone can relate to missing one's family during a long trip, but it's hardly the stuff of which blues legends are made.

Which isn't to question the singer's sincerity. Block worked for her money at Rock-efeller's, giving the audience every bit of what she had. You just wished, as a blues fan, that what she had had a little bit nastier edge.

-- Joe Abernathy

David Lee Roth
Backstage
Monday, April 4

The conventional wisdom on Van Halen has been almost unanimous since David Lee Roth ceded the frontman position to Sammy Hagar, and it goes a little something like this: Hagar's a dud, and even if his voice might be the stronger of the two, he's missing the vocal magic that helped make Van Halen a force in the first place -- that sense of almost dangerous sexuality that Roth's banshee wails and orgasmic squeals brought to a new generation of metal converts. With a perception like that floating around, Roth might be forgiven for thinking that now's a good time to take one more shot at a legitimate solo career, but all he did Monday night was prove the perception wrong. Anyone who showed up at the Backstage looking for the cock-rock powerhouse that Roth once was must have left more than a little confused.

The new David Lee Roth has a new album, Your Filthy Little Mouth, a new band of epic mediocrity, and a new slacks-and-vest presence that makes him look, from a distance anyway, like Rod Stewart. But with a voice that was either too sick to perform or just completely shot, it hardly mattered who was up there. The band plodded through some unremarkable tunes from the new album that seemed geared toward Roth's handicapped range, and when they did touch on Van Halen material, they sounded like a not-quite-competent cover band. Roth turned "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love" into a lounge sing-along, and the "Jump" encore made me wonder if maybe the remaining Van Halen gave Roth the rights to sing the song out of sheer pity. If so, it was a generous gesture, and one that should perhaps be reconsidered.

-- Brad Tyer

 
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