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April 23, 1985 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-04-23

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, April 23, 1985

Page 7

Tubes hollow but unforgettable

By Dennis Harvey
here have been plenty of musically superior
T shows this year, but for sheer perversity the.
Utopia/Tubes double bill at Hill Auditorium last
Saturday deserves an award of some sort. The
pairing was a canny move, and it paid off with an
evening as satisfying as seeing a double feature of
not particularly promising grade-B movies that
turn out to be better or at least more peculiar, than
expected.
Utopia is usually thought of as Todd Rundgren's
pet project band, the thing he does when he's not
doing solo work (16 albums!) or producing other
bands (like the Psychedelic Furs' near-classic
Forever Now or the Tubes' rather dismal latest,
Love Bomb). Actually, Utopia in its current lineup
is more truly democratic than most bands; vocals
and, to an extent, composition duty are evenly
divided between all four members. But let's face
it-nobody in the lobby was saying, "Yeah, can't
wait to see Utopia;".they were saying, "Yeah, I
came to see Todd."
Rundgren is... well, as he put it himself, a
wizard, a true star. His track record as a solo per-
former, Utopia member and producer is wildly
uneven, but the guy's a minor genius of sorts, with
an absolutely gorgeous sense of pop melodies and
a love of playing with the studio's resources.
In concert at Hill, Rundgren was typically self-

effacing, claiming the spotlight only when singing
lead or playing a guitar solo. But he was unusually
the center of attention anyway-how can you
ignore someone who, fearfully gaunt in black
leather pants and (dyed?) black spiky haircut,
looks like a vampire in a biker movie? Though
bassist Kasim Sulton is an excellent singer, and
the other two are O.K., Rundgren is a great
singer, with all that tremulous sincerity and
agreeable hey-I'm-in-a-rock-band-and-it's-so-
cool! roughness. Utopia's problem is that it lacks
focus much of the time, so one gets a grab-bag of
lots of different things (AOR rock,
Something/Anything? pop whimsy, jazz/rock/art
noodling) that never adds up to a coherent whole.
Their Hill set was predictably entertaining and
varied, but not a wow.
The Tubes, on the other hand, left everybody
feeling gorged, and a bit stunned as well. To say
that their show can't be very different from
Liberace's is not really stretching the point. An
alarming but undeniably entertaining bizarre
mix-mastering of rock-show theatrics with Las
Vegas glitz, their current tour package is one of
the most curious things I've ever seen.
Description is bound to fall short, but here we
go. Eight piece band enters in muu-muu-like floor-.
length smocks with big faces printed on them.
Suddenly two va-voom-type dancing girls (no,
pointedly not women) appear in the first of many
skimpy outfits jiggling up and down, simulated

anal sex, and act out various little scenarios. At
last-MTV drooling sexist moronism lives! Yah. A
giant inflatable Tube sumbol is blown up. The
singer wears a big TV tube on his heat. He throws
a nerf-football, a baseball, and basketball around
the auditorium for the sports number, and invites
a lot of rather predictable hysteria by donning a
Michigan T-shirt. After the mermaid extravagan-
za, clips are shown on screen from an early '60s
jungle amazon women flick prior to "In the
Congo," which has male dancers in loincloths and
a miniature missile that the lead singer straddles
and swings around like a you-know-what.
Then, knowing no shame, the band shows a
promo clip advertising their new LP. The song
"Night People" features trenchcoats and group
dance routines, and during "Muscle Girls" the
blond girl wears a leotard that makes her look like
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then for a little while the
band plays straightforwardly without any gim-
micks, and the audience falls asleep. But soon af-
terward there's a new high in the unbeatably ob-
scure reasoning as the anthem for suburban kids
who can't tell the joke is on them, "White Punks on
Dope," is costumed in Louis XIV style with two-
foot Pinball Wizard heels for the singer. Then he
tears off the brocade vest to reveal black spandex
pants and= enough trendy new-wave fasion ac-
cessories to keep Briarwood Mall in business for a
year.
The singer and two girls get in a giant cloth sock

of sorts and writhe around for a while before the
singer chases everybody around with a chainsaw.
The finale involves punk duds, the two men in
loincloths, and a third woman in a Playboy Bunny
outfit. Don't ask me for an explanation. The en-
core features last year's FM rock hit "She's a
Beauty" and this year's "Piece by Piece." The
singers shakes the hands of everyone within ten
feet of the stage. It's over. My world will never be
the same.
The only things missing from the Tubes show
were the kitchen sink and interesting music. The
few times there wasn't some outrage of logic and
taste going on visually, it was yawnsville. The
musicians are perfectly competent, but the Tubes
have been mediocre songwriters from the mild
eccentricity of their early LPs to the FM rock
posturing of their recent releases.
Oh, well, it's the video age anyway, man, forget
about this music nonsense. The Tubes may sound
like yer run-of-the-mill REO/Styx/et al welter-
weight rockers for most of the time, but all those
guys do theatrically is say "Put ya hands
togethah !" etc.
These guys give you mad raunchy spectacle for
your money. If the Tubes ever stop being a band,
they can certainly stage touring companies of Oh,
calcutta! or Racquel Welch shows. This concert
was either the best or worst thing ever, or more
likely a completely perverse combination of both.
Good? Dunno. Unforgettable? Absolutely.

The Tubes
... stretch for flamboyance

Black theatre survives at the 'U'

By Mike Fisch
" LACK theatre is a reflection of
the life endured by black people,"
said black theatre workshop TA Deana
Thomas. "It is performed so that
people do not forget their past, but
learn from it, and become proud of it.
It's like a storybook coming to life -
each year a chapter is added as dif-
ferent black dramatists come into
focus."
For the first time in 16 years the
theatre department will not present a
full-scale black theatrical production.
There. will be a chapter added to the
storybook, however, because Thomas
and her students will perform Black
Theatre on Parade. Their performance
will go on without the money and
publicity full-scale productions nor-
mally receive, but, assuredly, with all
of the hard w7ork.

Parade consists of selections from
black playwrights such as James
Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and
Pulitzer Prize winners Charles Fuller
and Charles Gordone. But, it is more
than that. Thomas' students have made
the selections their own by creating
modern choreography (which includes
one student breakdancing) and music
(the students created a black theatre
rap song), and by updating certain
material to make the issues more
relevant for the audience. All this extra
work is done on the student's own time.
Thomas is proud to be the director of
the Parade because in her own words
"We are making history. It's important
for students to have a feeling of pride in
their heritage, and that they have a
chance to see plays that well represent
that heritage. It was distressing for me
as a student not to be able to see black
theatrical productions on campus. I had
to go out to Detroit to see black plays.
Ours isn't a full-scale production

We're doing it for ourselves, for our own
sense of self-worth . .. There's a con-
stant battle. to squelch the black
stereotypes but this is a step in the right
direction."
Said Thomas in conclusion, "When
my students learned that black people
were the true source of the American
theatrical artform (which was the min-
strel show) it gave them a sense of
pride, it was a new revelation. I want to
get as many people there to experience

my students' joy."
The hearts and minds of Thomas'
students are in the right place, and.
you'll know that too if you can find time
to watch the rich and proud 'tradition
grow.
Black Theatre on Parade will be per-
formed one night only on Friday, April
26, at the Trueblood Theatre ( in the
Frieze building). The show begins ath8
p.m.

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11

Horns in the street

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By arwulf arwulf
I MARCHED when I was twelve;
Ahere in Ann Arbor, and in Detroit.
An active young boy, I suppose. We
chanted BIG FIRMS GET RICH,
G.I.'S DIE! This had a nice ring to it
and lent itself nicely to loud
repetition. A chant must be simp'le
and to the point.
Saturday, April 20th, 1985. In down-
town Washington, D.C. there were
dozens of chants all going at once.
Reagan and the CIA have given us so
very many things over-which to offer
up complaints, we fairly bristled with
signs and slogans. Rhetoric gushed
and the sun beat down through the
humidity. Balanced on my head I
carried a white suitcase full of tapes.
We'd ridden the bus for twelve hours,
the tapes plugged into our skulls. Now
the suitcase had white placards
stapled to both sides. My suitcase said

myself.) Then there was the "Go-Go
Band", a dozen young black men
making rhythm and rapping peace
and justice. I danced myself dizzy.
They came upon us, a procession of
street musicians, wearing surrealistic
costumes with big banners on their
shoulders, towering abominable
quotes from Reagan's career (He's
been saying rude things all his life,
you know). These folk carried mass
percussion; military and circus
drums, shakers, rattles and bells. And
tin whistles. And a tuba. And the
saxophones.
When I saw the baritone player, I
thought I was witnessing a visitation.
he was large and black and wore
Roland Kirk sunglasses, a brightly-
colored head-dress of furs and racoon
tails and leather, big viking antler
tusks jutting up from his skull. He
would initiate simple melodies, and
the band would pick it up and hold it
high as we trailed after them through
the streets, cheering.
Imagaine marching down Pen-
nsylvania Avenue, alongside a troupe
of joyous lunatics, the bright day of a
mass statement, the American at
work. The sun was almost mur-
derously intense. We staggered and
eventually made it to the shade. We
waltzed around in front of the Capitol
building, the sun long set and

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" NO U.S. WAR IN CENTRAL everyone gone home.
AMERICA! We listened to Albert Ayler mar-
There were a hundred thousand of ches on the walkman headphones,
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nation's capital; the president has baritone player with the horns coming
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town that day. Camp David was Ayler marches in his own way, music
surely much quieter, Six stages in the street where it really belongs. I
strung out across the ellipse competed would live those hours again and
for our attention. Simultaneously, again, just to ask that brute his name,
there was poetry, theater, rhetoric so lovely was he. But the best
and countless feminist bands. musicians, sometimes, remain
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