Monday, May 17, 2004; Page C05
The members of Philadanco don't just dance, they attack -- tearing across the stage, snapping their bodies to attention, jutting their chins, sucking in their guts in a convulsion of contractions and spearing their legs like soldiers thrusting bayonets. There's absolutely nothing this troupe of 15 does with less than full-throttle conviction and virtuosic force. Saturday at the Publick Playhouse, the Philadelphia-based company founded 34 years ago by Joan Myers Brown demonstrated once again that tricks and high kicks, stop-on-a-dime spins and fearsome flying leaps are enough to break the applause sound barrier.
Unfortunately the program's four works -- by a quartet of well-regarded African American choreographers -- provided little stylistic, technical or dramatic variety. Bebe Miller's study in scientific formalism, "My Science," experimented with the idea that for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. As one trio of dancers squats, another flings into a high arch; as one couple undulates their torsos, another runs into a flying partnered catch.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's "Hand Singing Song" underscored the vivid personalities of the piece's 11 dancers as they riffed through an encyclopedic array of gestural phrases associated with African American cultural and folk traditions.
Zollar used Michael Wimberly's original jazz, supplemented by recorded spoken text, to explore the raised fist of the 1960s black power movement, colloquially known as the "dap." This became the starting point for her impeccably vivid and arch body language.
The militaristic mood of Christopher Huggins's "Enemy Behind the Gates" pitted steely regiments of dancers in precise formations to a driving score by Steve Reich. "Exotica," an excerpt from Ronald K. Brown's full-evening work, infused an urbanized blend of West Indian and West African movement with a techno-trance beat that was inscrutable and disjointed from opening processional to church-inspired middle section to clublike finale.
-- Lisa Traiger
Finland's H.I.M. (aka His Infernal Majesty) are the friendliest Satanists you'll ever meet. At its Friday show at the 9:30 club, H.I.M. -- whose idea of stage decoration is a logo featuring a heart within a pentagram -- played an invigorating set of definitely un-mopey Goth. The songs were punctuated by the (presumably) tongue-in-cheek patter of singer Ville Hermani Vallo, who was prone to saying (with a straight face) things like "This is a song about the Devil, which is always a very positive thing to talk about."
H.I.M. is making serious inroads into the U.S. market, and the reason is obvious -- they're clever populists with an unerring instinct for welding Goth, metal and pop. They're also eclectic, as they made clear by performing a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and a Goth-punk version of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" that simultaneously desecrated and revived that old chestnut.
"Your Sweet 666" was a full-tilt rocker that featured some extra-flashy keyboards by a man who obviously wants to grow up to be Rick Wakeman. "Razorblade Kiss" opened on a big metal note before opting to go the Psychedelic Furs route. "Join Me in Death" was an oversize power ballad that had the sold-out crowd singing along, which gave the chain-smoking Vallo a chance to light up again. H.I.M. finished with "Soul on Fire," a rave-up that sounded something like the Cult after chugging a case of Jolt Cola.
Bottom line: If this is the true sound of Satanism, the Devil has a sense of humor and really likes his '80s pop.
-- Michael Little
Fee Waybill, lead singer of '70s-born pop-rockers the Tubes, has freakishly big hands. No, really: His floppy mitts rival those novelty foam fingers you see at football games. And because Waybill and his five band mates indulged in endless theatrical zaniness at Jaxx Friday, it took the first few songs of their 90-minute set to realize his thumbs weren't rubber but real.
Casual music fans best know the Tubes for their MTV-helped hit "She's a Beauty." The band -- featuring several original members, including frontman and guitarist Roger Steen -- delivered an amped-up version of that 1983 gem early, with Waybill clad in the same carnival-barker garb he wore in the song's famous video.
But diehards who have followed the group since it originated in Arizona as the Radar Men From Uranus crowded the cozy Springfield club expecting to see a goofy spectacle. They weren't disappointed.
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