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April 10, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-04-10

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The Michigan Daily Wednesday, April 10, 1985 Page 5
Raitt 's blues warms with its intimacy


By Dennis Harvey
year's Ann Arbor Folk Festival at Hill
Auditorium was often most fa$cinating in its sheer
logistics of celebrity-cramming:. having the m.c.
crack one-and-a-half jokes prior to dashing onstage of
another Living or Growing Legend who would have
time to say (fast) "Hi, I'm..." and sing a couple of
songs before ominously staring at the floor (or
wherever the little light was flashing TIME! TIME!),
saying "For our last number we'd like to do an old..."
4o a chorus of audience moans, and racing off, to be
replaced immediately if not before by the m.c. who
would crack another one-and-a-half jokes and in-
Well, this isn't quite a fair picture. No matterhow
breakneck the pacing, the Folk Festival was still
pure gold. It was nonetheless a relief at the end of the
road to have Bonnie Raitt. Even if her set was, like
everybody else's, frustratingly brief, this woman just
oozes ease, and after the high-powered stimulation
of the rest of the Festival, she had the tie-loosening
,effect of an after-event party host who hands you a
beer, tells you to sit down and shut up, and calmly
*pulls out the guitar. Having just played a memorial
benefit in honor of David Goodman in Chicago. the
night before with Arlo Guthrie, she said with just the

right hint of good-nature obscenity, "I wish I could
tell you some of the backstage stories Arlo told me on
the plane today...but I can't."
Boom! Suddenly I knew: here she was, the person
I'd most like to get picked up by when hitchhiking on
the interstate, the heroine of Tom Robbin's Every
Cowgirl Gets the Blues in the flesh, bigger than life
and twice as much fun. Bonnie Raitt is just one of
those rare performers who makes you feel like you've
got your feet up on the coffee table in her living room
the moment she steps on stage, and Ann Arbor
residents will get the equally rare opportunity to see
her step on a very small stage this Thursday, when
she plays two sets at the Ark.
Raitt has gone through a lot of stages in her career,
the best-known of which is her mid-'70's L.A. phase,
when she briefly seemed a part of the smoothed-out,
very popular S., California country/folk/rock scene
that included the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson
Browne, et al. Though her albums sold fairly well and
she scored a couple of singles, she always seemed to
have a rawer, more down-home edge that sleekly
produced Hollywood vehicles couldn't fully tap.
Indeed, her prior music emphasis had been in folk
and blues idioms and, as her set at the Folk Fest bore
out, she has now essentially returned to the blues
scene, an interest that has led her to frequently per-
form with legendary figures like (at the Fest) Sippie

Wallace. With her extraordinarily rich, throaty vocal
sound and fluid slide-guitar playing, Bonnie is easily
one of the most convincing white female blues singers
of recent years. Having played Ann Arbor several
times in recent years at venues like the Michigan
Theatre- and Hill Auditorium, Raitt's last-minute
booking at the Ark should be great for the opportunity
to see such a charismatic performer in such an in-
timate setting.
Originally scheduled to play a solo date Thursday,
"Maine's best-known songwriter" David Mallett has
graciously consented to open for Raitt at both the
evening's shows. Having recorded three albums on
Noel Paul (of Peter and Mary) Stookey's Neworld
label and more recently one on Flying Fish, Mallett's is
genre-defying music that he prefers not to get
straightjacketed into "the folk thing," though he's
been compared to figures like Gordon Lightfoot,
Cisco Houston and Tom Rush. His most famous tune,
"The Garden Song," has been recorded by everyone
from Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie to John Denver.
Primarily ballad-oriented, his songwriting has won
particular praise for the sensitivity and directness of
their lyrics.
Thursday's shows are at 8:00 and 10:30. Tickets, at
$11.50, are available at the Michigan Union ticket of-
fice, Herb David's Guitar Studio,.Schoolkids' Recor-
ds, all Ticket World outlets, and at the door.

Fresh from the eighth annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival, blues singer Bonny
Raitt appears at the Ark on Thursday night.

Gere... lackluste

By Emily Montgomery
W HEN Australian director Bruce
Beresford (Tender Mercies,
Breaker Morant) considered the lead
for King David he "was confident from
the start that Richard Gere was the
only actor who could possibly meet the
acting challenges of the role." Boy, was
he wrong.
Beresford has gone to great lengths to
steer King David clear of the grandiose
splender of the old Hollywood Biblical
epics of the '60s. And for the most part
he succeeds. When the young David has
his encounter with Golliath, the giant is
merely a large man. No trick
photography miracles are involved
here, as when Charleton Heston,
separated the Red Sea, or turned his
staff into a snake before a bewildered
Yul Brynner. Beresford gives us a
straightforward interpretation of the
Bible story. His God is an Old
Testament God, who make demands of
his subjects and expects them to obey,
or be damned to hell.
That's why it's such a shame that
Beresford was unable to get backing for
his film without a big name star in the
lead. I guess the idea of putting screen

idols in the worn-out sandals of our
Bible heros is one Hollywood ideal
which will take a little longer to break.
What a pity, especially when the big
name is Richard Gere.
The bottom line is Gere can't
act. If his good looks and suave exterior
fool you, the mystery is over as soon as
he opens his mouth. The very idea of
Gere spouting poetic prose as King
David is hilarious; it's even funnier
seeing it "bigger than life" on the
One might also question the need for
a full length film on a topic, the main
points of which could feasibly be
covered in half the time. Besides the
slaying of Golliath, the story of the Star
of David, (which isn't really developed)
and the rivalry between David's two
sons, Absalom and Amnon, there isn't
much more to tell. Some segments are
quite interesting, some merely span
time, while still others are just plain
gory. It seems Beresford couldn't get
away from the cheap, audience draw
either. There are just a few too many
graphic spearings and soldiers getting
crushed under charging chariots for my
Two apt performances should be

r again
noted, however. Edward Woodward
(Breaker Morant) is frightfully convin-
cing as King Saul, David's predecessor.
Newcomer Jack Klaff, who plays
Jonathan, Saul's eldest son and friend
to David, carries himself well for his
first screen role. He's more the type one
thinks of when imagining a Biblical
character. In fact, Beresford would
have done well to cast Klaff as David,
instead of the mumbling Gere, if you
ask me.
One of the more effective scenes
comes when these two characters are
killed. Beresford cuts back and forth
from the scene of their fall in battle and
a messenger running to tell David of
their deaths. Too bad the plot called for
their characters to die, though, because
without these two actors to keep the ac-
ting aspect of the film afloat, King
David is about as palatable as a mouth
full of warm sand.
Gere said of his character in a recent
Rolling Stone interview that King
David is "aware of his shortcomings
and is trying to overcome them,-but is
very honest: about them, saying,
basically, 'I'm fucked. I've sinned,
forgive me.' " Well Richard, we might
forgive David, but we can't you.

Richard Gere (center), as King David, peruses a petition from the King of Israel. Gere, with his characteristic
lackluster screen presence, seems miscast in such a charismatic role.

'The Thought-The Thought
S0 (MCA)
Eluding all customs checks and
preventatory innoculations, paisley
fever continues to infect previously un-
sullied nations. Latest to fall is the Net-
herlands, and the new symptom in
question is The Thought's self-titled
debut LP. This isn't strictly a
retrograde release, but can any band
.whose prior 45 was a remake of the
Electric Prunes "I Had Too, Much to
Dream Last Night" deny the obvious?
Despite the clunky charm of their
pretty awkward English singing and
some tedious Pink Floydian longeurs on
side two, most of The Thought is solid
work, and there's none of the perhaps
too-obvious past-indebtedness so many
U.S. bands sport. Maybe their distance
from the heat centers of revivalism in
America, France and England, have
freed The Thought from the taint of
self-conscious genre faithfulness; cer-
tainly this album is much more
shamelessly slick in production than
any paisley-oriented U.S. band would
dare, without compensating heavy
sound-of-'66 frills.
The well-lacquered layers of sound
pay off particularly well on a most
agreeable vast-choral romp through
that acid test for neuvo psychedeloes,
the Byrds' "Eight Miles High." This
version may not sway those
magnetically attracted to Husker Du's,
but its epic, minor-key melancholy is
just the sort to flood the whole house
with on a rainy Sunday afternoon (if
you've got great speakers). A bit of The
Association meets the Rain
Parade-silky-smooth harmonic
ominousness. The touch of Pink Floyd-
ish expansive spaciness that comes
through here is less profitably explored
on other cuts, particularly the two syn-

'Cloud 9' abounds in wit, talent


psychedelic anthem, "Out of Oblivion,"
which is more poppy-accessible than
the title would indicate.
Pretty cool also is the Nuggets I's
(just the hits) worthy LP opener
"Every Single Day," with its pseudo-
Indian backup vocals on the chorus and
irresistably simple hook-laden struc-
ture. Also likeable (despite string-
section-like synth backdrop) is the
cheerful "Stranded With a Stranger,"
and the vaguely Soul Mannish (com-
plete with horn section) "Rise and
Uneven but never obnoxious, con-
fident and agreeably un-self-conscious,
about its sources, The Thought's debut
calls up ghosts of The, Byrds and
everyone else, thankfully, without
feeling the need to pay obvious hom-
mage. This is just a solid B of an album,
but it's still refreshing in the context of
the whole neo-60s movement.
-Dennis Harvey
Plasticland-Plasticiand (Eng ia)
The cover is overcalculated to out-
camp-psychedelic even the Stones'
legendary Viewmaster slide Satantic
Majesties artwork. And the vinyl itself
is a frightening marbled pink, which
will turn on only collectors of wax
novelties and those into flamingo motifs
and '50's poodle sweaters. It all
promises '60's silly-psychedelia to the
point of asphyxiation, yet Plasticland's
first U.S. LP is one of the very best of
the neo-psych releases to date.
This album by the Milwaukee-based
foursome threatens horrible retro-
cuteness from nearly every superficial
pore (the song titles, the artwork, the at
times indulgently screamo-trip-out
vocals, et al), but the songwriting is
aldmost unriform~ly criticism-defving

premonitions go away?") paisley with-
drawl "Disengaged from the World,"
with its appropriately confused
cathedral of guitars. Then there's the
perhaps insensitively boppy "Her
Decay," and the gorgeously echo-
happy hip-twister go-go psyche-out
"The Glove." Following this is possibly
the LP masterpiece, "Spring the Bit-
terness," an ode to misery with the
most happening guitar and polyphonic
vocals you'll ever hear, man. No kid-
ding. It's just over two minutes long,
and rarely was the exclamation
"More!" better intended.
After two more variously delicious
tracks, Plasticland reveals its hardcore
roots on the amphetamine "Driving
Accident Prone." Side two starts off
almost serious about some'mushroom-
induced-imagery stuff on the organ-
dominated peacemaker "Wallflowers,"
then goes flippy on the less convincing
rock-wail "Electric Trapdoor Shoes."
There's the delightful hallucinogenic-
Candyland "Pops! or Drops,"
reminiscent of the best of the Lemon
Pipers, then the Brit-whimsey con-
fusion of "Sections," and several more
tunes that fade out Plasticland on notes
of increasingly nondescript fuzztoned
middleweight psychedelia.
Densely produced, the least of
Plasticland (most of which has
previously only been issued in France)
easily tumbles into the mire of so much
inessential new psyche-revisitation but
the inspiration behind roughly half to
two-thirds of it makes Plasticland one
of the finer retro releases to date. If
this band gets over the surface
frivolities of pure-period fascination,
they could turn out to be backward-
glancing popmeisters as superb as the
Three O'Clock, Let's Active or the Rain
-Dennis Harvey

By Noelle Brower
THE MICHIGAN ENSEMBLE Theatre's production of
Caryl Churchill's two act play, Cloud 9, opened Monday
night with a show marked by strong performances and sub-
tle stagecraft.
Act I takes place in British colonial Africa of the 1880's.
The characters are a part of the British community there to
suppress the native uprisings and to ensure British rule.
The farce gathers momentum as the characters have more
trouble suppressing their sexual desires than the natives.
Act II takes place a hundred years later in modern, day
London, though for the characters only twenty-five years
have passed.
Churchill wrote Cloud 9 for Britain's Joint Stock Theatre,
a workshop started in the '70s, in which playwright, director,
actors, and in some cases anyone off the street, collaborate
to create a play that involves all of them in its production.
Cloud 9 was originally written, with Act II of its present
form, as a one-act play. Through discussions with the
workshop, Churchill found that most of our modern sexual
mores stem in some part from our Victorian past-thus the
idea of juxtaposing Victorian life with that of the modern
world, using the same characters as links.
Churchill expands upon this idea by having various male
and female roles played by actors of the opposite sex, or in
one case, of the opposite race. She uses this device to
manifest on stage the oppression of women and non-whites
in the Victorian world.
The irony of this clever situation reveals itself in the
opening dialogue of the characters. Betty, played by Tim
Hopper, sings of her love for her husband, "I live for Clive,
the whole aim of my life is to be what he looks for in a wife,
and what men want is what I want to be." This is followed
by Joshua, their black servant, played by Scott Weissman,
who says in praise of his white master, "My skin is black,
but oh my soul is white, I hate my tribe. My master is my
light...What white men want is what I want to be."
Having read Cloud 9 prior to seeing Monday night's per-
formance, I was afraid that the company might fall into the
obvious pitfalls surrounding the sexual role reversals;

however, this did not ocur. Under the direction of Walter
Eysselinck, the actors played their parts with sincerity,
avoiding the tendency to play the sexual reversals with
camp and for laughs: Instead they relied on Churchill's wit-
ty dialogue and compromising situations to provide the
comedy of the play. I noticed that the audience responded
warmly to the actors's interpretations as serious charac-
terizations, not caricatures.
Act I moved quickly and rhythmically with the actors
delivering their lines often with the beat of a comedic
routine . The exaggerated British accents worked well here
to further enhance the characters's over-blown represen-
tations of the Victorian world, where how one spoke was of-
ten the most important factor in determining one's place in
the class-obsessed world of England. Lin, played by Maggie
Lally, uses this technique well in the second act in her por-
trayal of a lower class woman. Most notable in Act I were
the performances of Tim Hopper, who was subtle and con-
vincing in his role of Betty, and Gai Crawford in her por-
trayal of nine-year-old Edward. Equally strong were the
performances of Stephen Smith as Clive, the exaggerated,
archetypical Victorian male and Tim Grimm as the
sexually bumbling explorer, Harry Bagley.
Unfortunately, Act II did not follow through and even
dragged-in some parts; this is where the play becomes a bit
long and monotonous. Many of the scenes are not needed and
could have been excluded by Churchill without thematic
damage, most notably the picnic scene and the whole
sequence concerning Lin's brother. However, the second
act characterizations were well drawn, especially Mary
Jeffries as an older Betty and Scott Weissman as the four-
year-old Cathy; his performance was the highlight of the
second act.
The set was simply, yet cleverly designed by Gary
Decker with its multi-leveled wooden floor shaped like a
Union Jack.
Cloud 9 may seem merely a farce about sexual roles,
however, it is much more than that. With Churchill's witty
yet thoughtful dialogue and M.E.T.'s adept charac-
terization, Cloud 9 is nothing less than an insight into our-
selves and the society we have created.
Performances are April 10-14 in the Trueblood Theatre at
8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.


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