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PERFORMING ARTS

Deadboy & the Elephantmen

He's not quite in Joseph Merrick's league, but Dax Riggs, leader of Louisiana duo Deadboy & the Elephantmen, has always been something of an outcast. Through his days with sludge-metal band Acid Bath, more conventional hard rockers Agents of Oblivion and a full-band version of his current outfit, Riggs has consistently labored on the fringes. But his appearance (with drummer/singer Tessie Brunet) at Iota Thursday night seemed to mark a new phase: Deadboy's new album, "We Are Night Sky" is the highest-profile release of Riggs's career, the duo will open a string of dates for the Fiery Furnaces later this month and Riggs's singing has never sounded better. All of which made their uneven set a little puzzling.

Deadboy's new disc -- skip the lazy White Stripes comparisons, please -- is radically pared down, but the songs sounded more like incantations than anything else Thursday, electric or acoustic guitar riffs underpinning short phrases that burrowed into Brunet's raw, thudding beats. The pair handled that high-drama stuff -- "Misadventures of Dope," "Stop, I'm Already Dead" -- too casually, lurching at times, losing the edge at others. The sparks came when Brunet went easy on the drums and matched her delicate high harmonies to Riggs's throaty leads, turning "No Rainbow," "How Long the Night Was" and "Evil Friend" into spooky tone poems: half blues and half strung-out T. Rex lamentations. It's that combination that might finally bring Deadboy & the Elephantmen out of the shadows.

-- Patrick Foster

Richard Lewis

Richard Lewis opened his show Thursday at the Improv with a warning.

"Okay, here's the deal -- I don't have an act -- I'm just trying to hone my life," he said in his trademark confessional style. "I just got married. I'm 58. I can't take it."

He elaborated on everything he "can't take" for more than an hour in a frenetic monologue filled with illogical transitions, disjointed observations and unfinished anecdotes.

Smooth-flowing delivery, of course, is not something you'd expect from a man who has made desperate neuroses the center of his comedy for more than a quarter-century. And though neither marriage nor his regular gig working with longtime friend Larry David on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" seems to have brought him peace, his hand-wringing, hair-pulling responses to life are funny as ever.

Lewis's rant mainly turns inward, making fun of his appearance ("a behind that looks like a Shar-Pei"), his sexual misadventures ("I used to be a buccaneer in bed; now I'm like Ed Norton") and growing old ("I look like Leonard Cohen with cancer").

But he also took some political shots. Regarding the riots by Muslims in the Middle East offended by European newspaper cartoons, he said: "I wish the prophet Muhammad would come down and kick the [stuff] out of these fundamentalists." And, of the current president and his immediate predecessor, he observed: "I'd rather have a sex addict in the White House than a man who has English as a second language."

Comedian Jared Stern introduced Lewis and an appealing opening act by Eric Lydon; the show runs through tomorrow at the Northwest club.

-- Leonard Hughes


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