Super concerts, vital femmes, fresh-faced rockers and a tribute vie for position in this week's new-music parade.
GOING, GOING, HERE: Been mourning the postponement of U2's local stadium show until 2011, the aftermath to Bono's recent emergency back surgery?
A video version of the same show, "360 Degrees at the Rose Bowl," is just out on Blu-ray and DVD (Interscope, A-). With a good home theater setup, it's as exciting as being there - and a lot cheaper!
The show is U2's first in the round, landing with an amazing, space-ship-style set with motorized video screens, moving bridges and more.
A grainy filmic quality is mostly enforced on the high-definition video shoot, caught from dozens of angles with cutting so fast it could make you dizzy. And there's musical resonance from all directions in a surround-sound speaker playback.
NOT MONTY PYTHON: Engaging a similar play-by-play feature called Movie iQ on the concert video "Not the Messiah: He's a Very Naughty Boy" (Sony, B-) is even more recommended, as it adds considerable wit and insight to this mock "Messiah" by Eric Idle and his "Spamalot" collaborator, John Du Prez.
For true believers, only.
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN: Who's the coolest hippie-chick belter and band now rockin' the planet? I'm voting for "Grace Potter & the Nocturnals," showing fresh growth and polish with their self-titled set (Hollywood, A-). The mostly up-tempo tunes are infectious, Potter's vocals and production deliver a punch, and lyric-wise she's giving great attitude, from the reggae-tinged "Goodbye Kiss" to the steamy "Hot Summer Nights." This is the set that should make Grace a star.
There's a lot more moola to be made in country music than in singer/songwriterville these days. So you can't blame Jewel for courting the former while also clinging some to the latter on "Sweet and Wild" (Vallory, B+).
Between trials and before his conviction/imprisonment for murder, Phil Spector took his young, Beaver Falls, Pa.-born wife, Rachelle Spector, into the studio and cranked out one last production, "Out of My Chelle" (Genius 4Ever Records, B-). While lacking in "wall of sound" flourishes, it's still an object lesson in making OK pop-rock songs and singing sound as good as possible. Try the oddly ironic "Free."
ROCK AND A GOOD PLACE: If you revel in Vampire Weekend, enjoy a similarly hip kick to the head from the splashy and playfully elliptical Tokyo Police Club on "Champ" (Mom & Pop, A-).
Likewise ringing loud and true is the debut from the Dig, "Electric Toys" (thedigmusic.com, B+), sometimes nodding to the drama of U2; the breezy, harmonic, West Coast-influenced pop rocking "Eureka" from Rooney (California Dreamin', B); and the moderately heavy, though ever-melodic attack of Saving Abel on "Miss America" (Virgin, B).
TRIBUTES: The likes of My Mourning Jacket, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith recall the whimsical storytelling skills of Shel Silverstein on "Twistable, Turnable Man" (Sugar Hill, B). You know him best for "A Boy Named Sue" (done here by Todd Snider), "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" (sung by Black Francis) and "The Unicorn" (buoyantly reprised by our own Dr. Dog).
Is Clay Aiken aiming to be the next Johnny Mathis? Sure sounds that way, as the "American Idol" guy puts on his creamy crooning and old-school belting voices for classics such as "Misty" and "What Kind of Fool Am I" on "Tried & True" (Decca, B).