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September 08, 1984 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-08

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Saturday, September 8, 1984

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

Dez Dickerson is the
Prince of heavy metal

By Pete Williams
It was not Prince.
That phrase is a left-handed com-
pliment directed at former Prince
guitar ace Dez Dickerson. Possibly the
great majority of those few in atten-
dance for Dickerson's concert at the
Union Ballroom Thursday night were
expecting something a little different.
Perhaps some Prince choreography,
maybe a taste of his characteristic
chord, digressions, or even his fine-
tuned musical intrigue? But that stuff
just isn't Dez.
What is Dez seems to be something
entirely different. He's a heavy-metal
guitarist whose main thrill is being the
lead man in his own band. He is a
showman who keeps the audience ex-
cited and involved.
And the audience was definitely in-
volved - to the point of standing on the
seats, crowding to the front of the
Ballroom, and wildly cheering on Dez's
every move in the true spirit of Judas
Priest groupies.
They had reason to scream and
cheer. Dez's guitar licks are superb
even if he does have that all-too-
common magnetism toward the upper
The most creative example of
Dickerson's work was a give-or-take
five minute solo in the middle of the
performance. It gave him the time he
needed to use the whole neck of that
custom-made explorer style guitar.
("Dez" is inlayed at the head) It also
gave him more of what both he and the
audience needed: time to show off.
The music was loud and the crowd
loved it. It's nice to see people happy,
but it is also nice to hear the lyrics - at
least on a few of the more interesting
Dickerson's Ann Arbor appearance
was an add-on to his recently completed
midwest tour. Keyboardist Dave San-
dell said the band is just buying time
before they record their first album in
about two weeks. "These concerts are
kind of nice," he said. "It just helps to
break up the routine."
Dickerson said that a major problem
with their concerts on this tour is the
fact that their first album is to be
released after the tour has finished.
Most people in the audience don't know
the music and with Dickerson's preoc-
cupation with wattage even those
educated in what's done by Dez would
have a hard time deciphering the lyrics
over the ringing in their ears.
What I did pick up through the
speaker stacks seemed creative
enough, I suppose, but there is no way
of really knowing. I look forward to the
album. To hear Dez and Company in a
studio version could be just the ticket
for some interesting neo-rock enter-
tainment. The potential is there. There
was truly a great deal of intelligible

talent hidden within Thursday's per-
formance. I only wish it had been more
Dickerson said after the performance
that his love for the spotlight was his
greatest asset as Prince's guitarist. He
said his flashy solo style "really worked
out well" with Prince. "He wasn't
always comfortable with that type of
thing, he said, so he delegated a lot of
that to me, and I loved it."
Dickerson's band is a collection of
neo-rock musicians from the Min-
neapolis bar circuit. This is their first
"big break" into the music scene and
with their first tour now completed, an
album on the way in a few weeks, and
some serious talk about releasing a
viden in the next few months the band

members seem to be planning for big
things in the future.
The band has been playing together
for two and a half years and used to
stagger performances between Prince
tours before Dez left Prince a year ago.
Mike Moulton, who has been the
band's drummer since May said that he
misses the steady playing the bar scene
has to offer but that it is refreshing to
have an audience that is "there to see
the music.
"When you are playing the bars, you
have to compete with all the people out
there hustling for drinks and whatever
else," he said. "You know, there are
just a lot of motives for going to a bar
other than the band that's playing."

Daily Photo by DAN HABIB

Former Prince guitarist Dez Dickerson shows off his solo abilities to an appreciative but small audience at the
Union Ballroom Thursday night.
dramatic emotion to Joe s

By Rob Weisberg
J OHN CALE once wrote a very
pretty little melody. Then he sang
to it: They say, fear is a man's best
friend. You add it up, it brings you
Those may be the words Cale the solo
artist is most remembered for (setting
aside his work almost two decades ago
with The Velvet Underground). And the
Cale who wrote them - somber, yet
flippant; loaded with dark emotional
energy manifested in dramatic outbur-
sts - that is the Cale who played at
Ann Arbor's Joe's Star Lounge on
John Cale performed alone, begin-
ning his set on acoustic guitar and
moving over to piano for most of the
night. Cale has one of those faces that
says 'Yes, I have lived' - drugs no doubt
have played a part in its creation.
That face sneered and grimaced,
echoed by the eyes when he removed
the glasses. His head jerked back and
forth, with and against his rather stiff
body in a somewhat emotional robot-
like fashion a bit reminiscent of Joe
Cocker's style.
The tunes were simple, soft, and often
pretty. Each had the unquestionable
black shading characteristic of Cale's
best work. Beauty was mixed with
ugliness, pleasure with pain, as
melodies crashed to pieces or tangled
with mournful words.
On soft numbers like "Chinese En-
voy," one of several pieces taken from
last year's haunting Music for a New
Society LP, dramatic pauses and shifts
in tone were used to perfection: The
Chinese envoy was here...and left.
On more upbeat songs such as

"Guts," Cale's vicious pounding of the
same piano chords over and over again
made the energy of their action
somewhat less than pleasant. He often
broke down into a key-smashing
apocalyptic frenzy. THE END THE
END THE END! he screamed as
"Guts" came apart.
Of course that sort of thing can get
one into trouble. Cale's attempts at
music and poetry have often become so
hoaky that its impossible to take them
seriously. Indeed, the faithful throng at
Joe's gave the old Briton the benefit of
the doubt in this regard.
Without band, strings, or high am-
plification to hide behind, Cale proved
rather believable. Sad as that may be,
at least it means he hasn't lost the old
spirit. You add it up, it brings him
Those who prefer the band format
may have a chance to catch Cale in the
near future. He has one of those half-
live, half-studio albums coming out in
the next few weeks, which -he may
follow with a tour.
Unfortunately, some of his perfor-
mances with bands in the past have
proven rather routine, sort of a run-
through of the old favorites. The effect
is much more conventional than that of
his solo gigs.
His two most recent albums,
Carribean Sunset and Music for a New
Society seem to underline the point:
The former, performed with full band
and generally upbeat, is fairly straight-
forward and fails to meld musician with
band. The latter, slow, brooding, with
-sparse and ominous instrumentation of-
ten suggestive of his classical avant-
garde roots, is wonderfully morbid and
surreal. A bit melodramatic again but
hey, who's perfect?

... somber, yet flippant


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