Spicy Proposition

Young girls played a crucial role in the early success of the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Now, substitute the Spice Girls for either of those rock and roll pioneers, and you're presented with an interesting hypothetical: Could it be that the Spice Girls will one day be as revered as those pop institutions? Well, it's worth pondering, anyhow.

Like Madonna, another former preteen fave, the Girls have proven their ability to adapt. Witness their recent image transformation from flashy and trashy to a less tacky, more refined look. When Ginger left, so did a lot of their shock value. But the remaining four have plowed on resolutely. And with Ginger gone, the others have room to blossom. Scary Spice will soon have her shot when she releases a single recorded with the innovative Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, and the third Spice Girls release will be out sometime next year. Still, if the Girls' uncertain future does lie somewhere along the vast quality continuum that stretches northward from New Kids on the Block to the King, they might want to do simultaneous solo releases, a la Kiss. How about a Christmas release from each of them? Now there's an idea.

And while their handlers are, no doubt, dreaming up like-minded moneymaking ventures, the Spice Girls continue merrily along on their sold-out jaunt through the States. True, the Spice World tour has gotten mixed reviews -- but only from those old enough to remember a time when simply reenacting the video didn't count as a true performance. The kids (and, let's face it, they're all that really matters here) will most certainly flip when the Fab Four take the stage equipped with an all-male band and seven hunky dancers. All the more fitting to display their awesome girl power.

-- David Simutis

The Spice Girls perform Tuesday, August 25, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands. Showtime is 7 p.m. Sold out. 629-3700.

Riders in the Sky -- Before Riders in the Sky came moseying over the horizon some two decades ago, cowboy music wasn't exactly a dying art form, but it sure was malingering. Today that subgenre is far healthier, thanks, in large part, to the Riders, who continue to provide an antidote to the genre's more troublesome practitioners (for example, Michael Martin Murphey's Warner Western label, which sometimes dandies up the music so it struts as awkwardly as a city slicker in a six-gun showdown). Through the years, the Riders have continued to show panache, humor and an obvious love for the medium. Whether it's via their serious reworking of the musical tradition, their spoken-humor collections or their children's albums, Riders in the Sky appeal not only to genuine cowboys, but to folks who have a hard time knowing which side of a horse to mount. They don't represent the Old West as it really was, just what it should have been. On Thursday, August 20, at Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas Avenue. Showtime 8 p.m. Tickets $18.50 and $22.50. Don Walser opens. 629-3700. (Rob Patterson)

David Sanborn -- Is there anything David Sanborn hasn't done? He played Woodstock with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was a member of the groundbreaking Gil Evans Orchestra and provides that instantly identifiable sax line on "Young Americans," the plastic-soul hit from David Bowie, with whom he also toured. Since the mid-'70s, when his distinctive tone became not just a sound but the sound, the alto saxophonist has been so prolific that even if you haven't heard of David Sanborn, you've still heard David Sanborn. His solo career has been almost as diverse as his work in the studio, with forays into straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, R&B, soul, funk and fusion. On his own, he's sold over six million records. This weekend, he'll be performing with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. And if the music on Pearls, his 1995 album of symphonic standards, is any indication, it should be an amazing night. At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Saturday, August 22. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets $10$45. 629-3700. (Paul J. MacArthur)


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