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PERFORMING ARTS

Philadanco presented an energetic program Friday night at Strathmore.
Philadanco presented an energetic program Friday night at Strathmore. (By Lois Greenfield)
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Devi Dance Theater, which builds on the Indian form of kuchipudi, also struck a spiritual note with choreographer Nilimma Devi's intricate trio "Gossamer of Soul," which kicks off with a recitation from a 16th-century mystic poem.

Ling Tang's solo "Everlasting Fire," based on a work by a Mongolian choreographer, was fetching with its billowing red fabric. Two tepid pieces by Golden Universe Dance Studio -- one about Tibet, one a Chinese fan dance -- rounded out the program.

-- Celia Wren

Bell X1

"We don't know how rock to get," said Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan at Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis Saturday night. He was talking about the awkwardness of turning it up to 11 in a seated supper club, but his band had bigger problems: Without the songs, your chops don't matter, and the chairs matter even less.

Bell X1 is what remains of the Irish indie-rock outfit Juniper since Damien Rice split for a solo career, so it's no surprise that Rice is one of the many purveyors of the atmospheric balladry that Bell X1 tries very hard to emulate. Its genteel soft rock -- imported to the States when "Eve, the Apple of My Eye" (ha-ha) got picked up by "The O.C." a few years back -- sounds like diluted Coldplay, itself a soggy imitation of better bands, like that other Irish rock band named after a famous Cold War aircraft. But the biggest flaw of Bell X1's white-gloved sound is that it lets you hear the lyrics -- about the angel and the Devil playing poker in the Garden of Eden ("I'll See Your Heart and Raise You Mine") or the one about how you have the most beautiful face, we're all floating in space, etc. The third song of the set was actually called "My First Born for a Song." (No takers yet, apparently.)

No wonder that for most of its 85-minute set, the band itself seemed bored. Too bad: Noonan, the former drummer who inherited lead vocal duties when Rice left, is a capable and charismatic singer. With a good tune to sell -- Talking Heads' "Heaven," for example, performed during the encore -- he's plenty watchable.

Bell X1 closed with its best shot, "Flame," which boasts a funky "Miss You"-by-way-of-Scissor-Sisters guitar riff and a snaky bass line that immediately hook you. The buzz lasted all the way until the chorus, when the five grown men onstage squinted to sing in unison about how they want to "toast marshmallows on a cold, dark night."

Honestly. Some bands just won't help themselves.

-- Chris Klimek


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