Tag Archives: tour

Earth to Trump: Environmentalists begin cross-country roadshow tour

Hundreds of people in Oakland and Seattle this week kicked off the cross-country Earth2Trump roadshow.

The two-route, 16-stop tour will build a network of resistance against President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on the environment and civil rights.

The shows include live music, national and local speakers and a chance for participants to write personalized Earth2Trump messages that will be delivered to Washington, D.C., on inauguration day Jan. 20.

The Center for Biological Diversity is organizing the shows in coordination with groups around the country.

“This wave of resistance against Trump is only starting to build. What we saw in Oakland and Seattle will continue to grow bigger and stronger in the coming weeks,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the center.

He added, “And after Trump is in office, we’ll be there every day to oppose every policy that hurts wildlife, poisons our air and water, destroys our climate, promotes racism, misogyny or homophobia, or marginalizes entire segments of our society.”

The shows in Seattle and Oakland featured Hawaiian singer Makana, Brazilian funk band Namorados da Lua and singer/songwriters Dana Lyons and Casey Neill.

Attendees also signed a pledge of resistance and added their personal messages into large globes bound for D.C.

“I’m so inspired by the outpouring of empowerment and resistance we’re already seeing,” said Valerie Love, one of the Earth2Trump organizers who spoke at Oakland’s event. “When we come together and speak with a single voice, we become a force that can stand up and defend our environment, civil rights and democracy.”

Next stops
The central tour travels by train. One stop, in Portland, Oregon, featured Portland singer Mic Crenshaw and American Indian storyteller Si Matta, who was part of the water-protector occupation at Standing Rock.

The southern tour that began in Oakland will be in Los Angeles on Thursday from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Global Beat Multicultural Center. The show features Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez and musicians Casey Neill and Allyah.

See a map of the tour and more details at www.Earth2Trump.org.

Follow the tour on social media with #Earth2Trump and on the Center’s Medium page.

Pop artist JoJo is more than ready for a reintroduction

The last time pop artist JoJo was a household name — thanks to hits like “Baby It’s You” and “Leave (Get Out) — the music industry was a lot different. But the now-24-year-old star is more than ready to embrace the changes in distribution and marketing brought on in the digital age. 

It’s been almost a decade since JoJo’s last album, The High Road, due to a contract battle with her former label Blackground that kept her from making new music. But she made up for lost time in August, releasing a surprise “tringle” — not one, not two, but three new singles.

“When Love Hurts,” “Save My Soul,” and “Say Love” prove she has grown and evolved as an artist since she got her start as a young teenager. Now that the legal nightmare is over, Atlantic Records has since come to her rescue and she plans to release her third album next year. 

In the meantime, she’s hitting the road for her self-described intimate “I Am JoJo” tour, which includes a stop at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on Nov. 16. Before the show, WiG caught up with the singer to talk about the tour, her tringle and healing from years of struggle to sing again.

How’s rehearsal going so far? It’s going great. It’s really fun to flesh out ideas and see them come alive and try different things. I’m having fun with it. 

Your “I Am JoJo” tour kicked off on Nov. 2. What about being back out on the road and performing again in front of a live audience are you most excited about? I love traveling and getting to do it with some of my favorite people is just icing on the cake. I love my team and I don’t mind being in closed confines with them. It’s fun in each city and it’s hard for me to choose a favorite city because people are awesome everywhere. I love every night to get the opportunity to connect with audience and to have a shared experience. It’s special. 

By now, most people who’ve read about you know that you were in a battle with your old record label Blackground. What did you take away from that experience? I think I learned how to separate personal and professional a bit more. The label that I was signed with, I got involved with them when I was 12 years old, so they were pretty much father figures and very good to me. It was particularly painful to sever those ties because it felt like family. I think the next chapter of my career, it’s kind of important to separate those two and to realize that business is business and to really keep them a distinct thing. 

I know it’s been a little while since you’ve been out of the media spotlight with new music and everything, but were you nervous at all about returning? Absolutely. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous. It’s always anxious when you’re putting something out when it’s been such a long time. The Internet really kept me going and kept me afloat in terms of connecting with fans, but other people thought that I fell off the face of the earth. So, to get the chance to come back and have all this experience while still being so young is pretty awesome. 

That’s great that you used the Internet to let your fans know that you haven’t really gone anywhere, you just haven’t made music in awhile. (Fans) orchestrated a “Free JoJo” campaign to raise awareness to what was going on so people didn’t think that I left music or whatever the case was. They were just everything to me and continue to be, so “yay” for the Internet and “yay” for Team JoJo! 

Since “Leave (Get Out)” came out, a lot has changed within the music industry in terms of the emergence of new artists, to how music is made and released, all the way to how music is discussed, especially in social media. How has this change affected you as an artist and how will you embrace this change? Content is so much more freely given today than when I first came out. It’s important to stay active. Taking time off was a very calming thing. I think there’s a fear of becoming irrelevant now that most artists probably feel more than they did 10 or 15 years ago just because our attention spans are getting shorter all the time. 

There are so many ways to get music and there are so many options. It doesn’t freak me out because this is my generation, you know what I mean? I’m surrounded by forward-thinking young people who grew up with the Internet, so it just makes me feel like I want to look less to the label to tell me what to do or what’s cool and really just do it. 

You’re making up lost time with what you call the tringle: “When Love Hurts,” “Save My Soul,” and “Say Love.” It seems that love is a continuous theme. How do you think love has influenced you and your music? Love is one of the biggest influences, if not the biggest. You know … having it, losing it, taking it for granted and shitting on it (laughs). Self-love, lack of love, familial love … it’s all fair game and definitely represented on the album that’s coming out next year and on full display on the tringle. It sounds like I’ve been in all of these terrible relationships. But really, I’m a lover who loves love and I’m always in it. 

The name of your upcoming tour, “I Am JoJo,” suggests that this’ll be more of a re-introduction to your established fan base and an introduction to people just discovering who you are. What can your fans, both old and new, expect? It’s starting from the beginning and there are chapters in the show. From my old hits starting 10 years ago through the mix tapes to where we are now and even a couple of new songs that no one’s ever heard from the upcoming album. It’s fun, it’s energetic; it’s going to be intimate. I want to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. It’s kind of just a nostalgic intro all the way to a really fun present. 

You’re working on a new album that’s coming out next year. What can you tell me about it? It’s been a long time coming. I started from scratch when I signed a new deal because I wasn’t able to take any of the old material that I worked on. I just stepped into it with fresh energy and an open mind and open heart and wanted to try different things that I’ve been loving and listening to and infuse them into my own stuff. You can definitely hear the influences of stuff that I love to listen to like hip-hop, dance music and R&B. I wanted to sing about love and other things that can make you feel high. It’s coming together and I’m really excited. We’re not fully done, but we’re almost there. 

You said in a recent interview that music has healing qualities. Do you feel that, after recording music for the new album, you’re healed from your unfortunate experience with Blackground? I think the experience absolutely helped me grow as an artist. Am I fully healed? No. That’s not just from my experience with the label. I have healing to do. Period. You know what I mean? 

At 24, I’m starting to unearth some issues from my childhood, including the label situation, that are affecting me today. Does it help me get through? Absolutely, because I feel more connected when I’m singing even when I do when I’m talking. To explore my range and get those feelings out through song is definitely therapeutic. 

You’ve been in movies such as Aquamarine and RV. Would you ever consider taking on more movie roles? Maybe a sequel to Aquamarine? Probably not a sequel to Aquamarine, but I definitely want to get back into acting. I love it and I’ve been doing that since I was a little girl. When time allows, I’d love to. 


JoJo will perform at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St. Tickets are $23 in advance, $25 day-of-show. Call 414-286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.org to order.

Get schooled on UW-Madison traditions

Students are returning to campus and football fans are returning to bleachers. University of Wisconsin-Madison classes begin Sept. 2 and the first home game is Sept. 12.

If a great university has great traditions, then UW-Madison must be great, indeed. And you’d better know the traditions, whether attending the university or enjoying a Badger game.

After all, “Without an identifiable tradition, a university could become an emberless place, perhaps a soulless battleground,” wrote Robert Gard, the late folklorist and UW historian.

Incidentally, the first home game will be against Miami University, of Oxford, Ohio. Don’t worry, that’s not a tradition. But these are:

Bucky Badger — The tradition most associated with UW-Madison is actually one of its most recent. The Bucky we know today was designed in 1940 by Art Evans, a California commercial artist. Before that, a live badger sometimes served as mascot. Believe it or not, so did Paul Bunyan.

Cheerleaders — Today they build pyramids and catch each other in basket tosses, but cheerleading started as only that — cheering. The first cheerleader, Johnny Campbell, led the first cheer on Nov. 2, 1898, at a University of Minnesota football game. It spread to the UW soon afterward. For decades, only men were allowed. The scales tipped in women’s favor during the 1920s, because so few other athletic activities were open to them. 

Homecoming — No, it hasn’t been around forever. The first UW homecoming was in 1911. It included speeches and, during halftime, an alumni football game. The UW had been playing intercollegiate football for only 22 years. In 1912, and at every homecoming game since, law school seniors have charged the southern goalpost, where they try to throw their canes up and over. Students making the catch, tradition goes, will win their first cases. This year’s homecoming game, Oct. 17, will be played against Purdue.

The Fifth Quarter — If you leave early, you’ll miss what some fans think is the best part of the game. In the 1970s, Madison’s football team wasn’t exactly strong. To boost morale, the marching band added a post-game performance. It built and built, becoming wilder and wilder, with stunts and choreography. By the time the press had dubbed it the Fifth Quarter, it was an institution. 

The Band — The UW School of Music actually hosts several bands, but it’s the marching band fans know best. It was formed during the 1885–86 school year. It performed with the University Military Battalion, at prom and at the “Joint Debate of the University.” In 1894 the band began playing at the newfangled football games sweeping the country. Today Mike Leckrone, director of bands, marches more than 300 students and has become a tradition himself, enjoying iconic status. He joined the UW in 1969, and developed the group’s distinctive pointed-foot marching style, as well as designing its uniforms. As for what the band plays:

“Varsity” — The somber song that brings a lump to alumni throats was originally a hymn written by Charles Gounod (1818–1893), a French composer primarily known for opera. He also wrote the well-known setting for “Ave Maria.” In 1908, UW music instructor Henry Dyke Sleeper wrote new words and a new arrangement for what he named “Varsity Toast.” The arm-wave at its close was added in 1934 by band director Ray Dvorak.

“If You Want to Be a Badger” — Like “Varsity,” it originally had another life. In 1919, UW professor Julian Olson wrote the lyrics for “The Badger Ballad.” Band director Charles Mills composed a peppy melody for the song, which wasn’t intended for students or sports, but for an alumni dinner.

“You’ve Said It All” — Older Milwaukee readers will recall when the city was home not only to Miller but to Schlitz, Pabst and Blatz breweries — and the intense rivalry with Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser, brewed in St. Louis. So it’s the peak of irony that Bud’s 1970 advertising jingle was made into the UW’s favorite brag: “When you’ve said Wi-scon-sin, you’ve said it all!” Steve Karmen wrote the original.

“On, Wisconsin!” — If it doesn’t have the comma and exclamation point, it’s not the song’s actual title. It was written in 1909 by W.T. Purdy and Carl Beck for a University of Minnesota song competition. They gave it to the UW, instead. It’s also our official state song. After singing it at the game, why not head to:

The Union Terrace — The students’ Memorial Union was completed in 1928. Campus supervising architect Arthur Peabody wanted it to resemble “a Venetian pleasure palace,” but he left its most pleasing feature to his daughter, Charlotte. A budding landscape architect, she designed the terrace, “the living room of the university,” on the shores of Lake Mendota.

U2 stages high-tech ‘Innocence & Experience’ show

U2’s latest live show included a call to fight AIDS, condemnation of the 1974 car bombings in Ireland, the voice of Stephen Hawking, high-tech stage gimmicks and just over two hours of music, including most of its 2014 album, “Songs of Innocence.”

The Irish quartet brought its “Innocence & Experience” tour to the Forum on May 26, the first of five nights in the Los Angeles area.

Launched earlier this month in Vancouver, Canada, the North American and European tour continues through Nov. 15. The band performs at the United Center in Chicago June 24-25, June 28-29 and July 2.

Performing together since 1976, front man Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. know how to put on a rock show. But they were lacking a little in energy and excitement for their opening LA performance, perhaps relying too heavily on the giant horizontal screens suspended above their high-tech stage.

As with U2s previous arena tours, the stage plays a starring role in the show. The massive screens worked for some numbers, such as Bono’s autobiographical “Cedarwood Road,” lending an effect that made him look like he was walking through a cartoon town. But when the foursome performed between the parallel screens during “Invisible” and “Even Better than the Real Thing,” they appeared to be playing on TV, not live on stage.

Still, they hit all their marks and sounded album-tight. They opened with the new, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” and the old, “Electric Co.,” from their 1980 debut. The set included such hits as “Vertigo,” “I Will Follow,” “Beautiful Day” and “With or Without You.”

After “Bullet the Blue Sky,” Bono held his hands above his head and said, “Don’t shoot. I’m an American.” While performing “Pride,” inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono called on the spirit of the late leader.

“Dr. King, we need you in Ferguson and Baltimore now more than ever,” Bono said. “We need the spirit of nonviolence, the spirit of love.”

The singer also lauded Irish voters for saying “love is the highest law” by legalizing same-sex marriage last week.

“They’re putting the gay into Gaelic,” he quipped.

The band was at its best when the gimmicks gave way to the music. Mullen marching with a snare drum gave new power to “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and a stripped-down version of “Every Breaking Wave,” with Bono accompanied by the Edge on piano, was stirring.

A clip of Hawking’s voice played before the band returned for its encore. He talked about the necessity of becoming “global citizens” as a tout for Bono’s anti-poverty organization, One, flashed on the giant screens.

Bono also used the encore to discuss AIDS and an effort to end transmission of the disease between mother and child in the next five years. He sang a few bars of Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” to make the point before the band closed with “One.”

The Weepies turn a year of struggle into a powerful return to form

Celebrated folk-pop duo The Weepies, composed of married couple Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, will kick off their latest concert tour May 29 at Madison’s historic Majestic Theatre. It’s a tour in support of “Sirens,” their first new full-length studio album in five years. And it’s been a hectic five years. 

Since releasing “Be My Thrill” in 2010, the couple has moved to Iowa, had a third child and faced Talan’s diagnosis of breast cancer in 2013. But with her cancer in remission, the band is back on the road and showing their talents in new venues — including, unexpectedly, the BMI Pop Awards.

They were there, Tannen says, at the request of pop artist Pink, who was being honored by the licensing organization with the President’s Award at this year’s event, held on May 12. She got to pick the acts that opened for her, and the Weepies, along with Brandi Carlile, were the ones to get the call.

Tannen says it was a stressful experience, especially considering he doesn’t “get” award ceremonies, but he and Talan acquitted themselves well on a performance of Pink’s “F**king Perfect.”

But now that the show is behind them, he and Talan can focus on their own work — considered by critics to be a strong return to form. Tannen says he and Talan recorded “Sirens” in their new home, a welcome change from years of renting apartments in New York or Los Angeles.

Tannen says the couple are “hermits by nature” and the big cities where they spent the past 15 years weren’t conducive to that. Iowa City was always on their radar, a place where they’d performed frequently and had friends. Years prior, as they had their first children, Tannen says the couple joked that “(they) should just buy a house in Iowa.”

When they actually started looking, after Talan learned she was pregnant with the couple’s third child, they weren’t so single-minded. They visited eight cities, considering the pros and cons of each. But when they experienced a “magical vibe” pulling up to their new home and found themselves talking to neighborhood children about items as specific as where the best sledding hill was, Iowa City became the obvious choice. Shortly after they moved in, they set up a studio in the attic and recorded “Sirens.”

The Weepies have stated in previous interviews that they associate the sound of their albums with their cover art and “Sirens” is no different. While she was battling cancer, Talan investigated how other cultures deal with such a huge life issue. One of the cultures she studied was of the island of Bali, in Indonesia, and she found herself increasingly interested in Balinese sirens, or mermaids. It’s common for her to doodle or create etchings during the recording process and, as time passed, her drawings of them became a visual theme that defined their recording process.

While Talan’s battle shaped much of the album, the couple wrote many of its songs before her diagnosis, although that didn’t keep the occasional strange coincidence from peeking through. In “No Trouble,” for example, Talan sings “I don’t need no trouble, but sometimes trouble needs me” — lyrics written only weeks before her diagnosis. “It still keeps me up at night,” Tannen says, although he adds that while he’s spiritual, he doesn’t truly believe the lyrics were a prediction, or that you can dream ahead of time.

Still, he says the experience has changed the way he’ll look at songwriting going forward, deciding that he’ll only write about “where everyone’s happy, there’s always peace, and we all live forever.”

With Talan being declared cancer-free last year, Tannen says the group is in a celebratory mood. “Deb is fighting trim,” he says. “She’s in such great shape.”

He expects that will carry through to the mood of the tour, of which Madison is the first stop. They’ll be joined by Pete Thomas, the drummer for Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions (who also is featured on “Sirens”), and will have a six-person band in total — just for fun. “We wanna have fun,” Tannen says. “We feel like it’s a return to the world … and we’re going to go for as long as they will let us on stage.”


The Weepies will perform at Madison’s Majestic Theatre at 8:30 p.m. on May 29. Tickets are $25, $28 day-of-show, and can be purchased at 608-255-0901 or majesticmadison.com.

Natalie Merchant coming to Pabst to support her first album in 13 years

Nearly 13 years ago, Natalie Merchant released Motherland, her last album of all-new material until this May. Motherland was released in the wake of 9/11, and, although recorded before the attacks, it was dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks that day. Merchant’s latest album, simply titled Natalie Merchant, is a sequel of sorts.

A great deal has happened in her life since then. She’s had a child, witnessed the suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina, and recently turned 50. She’s stopped coloring her hair and allowed it to grow gray. All of those events figure into her new music, which directly addresses middle age.

Her fans have responded warmly. Her current tour in support of the album stops in Milwaukee at The Pabst Theater on Friday, July 25. The warmth and honesty for which she’s known are particularly well suited to the intimate setting of The Pabst.

Merchant blasted into the public consciousness in the late 1980s as lead vocalist with the band 10,000 Maniacs. The group quickly became known for its polished, adult folk-pop sound. The 1987 album In My Tribe was the group’s critical and commercial breakthrough — certified double platinum. It included the top 10 alternative hit single “What’s the Matter Here?”

Two more 10,000 Maniacs studio albums, 1989’s Blind Man’s Zoo and 1992’s Our Time In Eden, were recorded with Merchant. The group became a mainstay of alternative radio, but went without a pop hit single until Merchant was on her way out. Two months before the release of the group’s MTV Unplugged album in late 1993 and the release of Merchant’s powerful cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night,” she announced that she was leaving 10,000 Maniacs because she “didn’t want art by committee anymore.”

“Because the Night” soared to No. 11 on the pop chart in the United States and became the defining 10,000 Maniacs performance for many casual pop fans.

Merchant took complete artistic control for her first solo album Tigerlily, even financing the recording herself to avoid having to please a record label. Released in June 1995, Tigerlily was an instant success. It included Merchant’s first top 10 pop hit “Carnival,” and the album ultimately sold over 5 million copies.

Her follow up, 1998’s Ophelia, was perhaps the most artistically ambitious project yet in Merchant’s career. She based the album around the character of Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The songs on the album are meant to depict images of women, and often their oppression, throughout time.

Despite Ophelia’s heavy concept, the light first single released from the album — “Kind and Generous” — became a favorite with fans. The song became Merchant’s third top 20 pop hit as a solo artist.

Motherland followed Ophelia. Though Merchant has not released an album of new songs in more than a decade, she has explored other musical paths. A particular labor of love was the 2010 double album Leave Your Sleep. Inspired by comments that her singing voice is particularly soothing to children, she put together a collection of 19th- and 20th-century British and American poetry about childhood set to music.

Merchant’s current concert tour is likely to touch on music across her career. But she’s never been an artist who focuses on pleasing a crowd. The journey on which she takes her audience at The Pabst will be shaped around the songs she currently wants her audience to hear.

Colorado congressman invites Obama, Reid on pot tour

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., today invited President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to visit his state and see how new marijuana regulations are being successfully implemented.

Polis sent the invitation after both the president and the Senate leader expressed shifting, more relaxed positions on marijuana, which is being sold at stores and cafes in the Colorado.

Polis wrote, “I would like to extend an invitation to both of you to visit Colorado and join me to visit a legal dispensary and grow operation to see how the law is being implemented in the state. I am confident that when you see Colorado’s work to implement the law while protecting children and raising revenue for our schools firsthand, we can begin to make similar efforts on a federal level.”

Polis, who is openly gay, wants to lift federal laws criminalizing marijuana and regulate pot like alcohol.

He wrote to the president and Reid, “It is vital that our nation’s leaders recognize that marijuana’s placement on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and has classified countless people as criminals simply for using or being in possession of a substance that, as you noted, Mr. President, is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its individual impact on consumers.”

The full letter:

I am writing to thank you both for your recent comments regarding your shifting positions on the regulation and legalization of marijuana. It is vital that our nation’s leaders recognize that marijuana’s placement on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and has classified countless people as criminals simply for using or being in possession of a substance that, as you noted, Mr. President, is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its individual impact on consumers.”

As you both know, the state of Colorado began the regulated and legal sale of marijuana on January 1st, 2014, following the approval of Amendment 64 by the voters in the 2012 election. By regulating marijuana in the same way we do alcohol, Colorado has an opportunity to reduce crime and to help keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Mr. President, I appreciate your acknowledgement that often times, minorities and populations with lower incomes are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana.

Majority Leader Reid, I was also encouraged by your assessment that, “We waste a lot of time and law enforcement,” going after marijuana users. Since the law has been implemented in Colorado, we have been fortunate to see the number of cases filed in regards to marijuana offenses plummet by 77 percent. I was also pleased to read the Majority Leader’s comments regarding how individuals who are suffering from an illness can often benefit from the relief provided by marijuana. For many, access to marijuana is the difference between being able to be treated for a life threatening illness or suffer even greater discomfort. As we strive to continue bringing our citizens the best health care in the world, we must be cognizant of the potential benefits that medicinal marijuana provides, and work to end the federal classification of marijuana, that according to U.S. Code has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”.

I also agree with the assessment that legalization of marijuana is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution to the most pressing social problems of the day, and that it is a vice with potential negative health effects. We must be diligent in continuing to expand educational opportunities for children, discouraging the abuse of drugs and alcohol, keeping drivers under the influence of alcohol or marijuana off the roads, and increasing awareness of the dangers associated with their use.

It is with this in mind that I would like to extend an invitation to both of you to visit Colorado and join me to visit a legal dispensary and grow operation to see how the law is being implemented in the state. I am confident that when you see Colorado’s work to implement the law while protecting children and raising revenue for our schools firsthand, we can begin to make similar efforts on a federal level.

Thank you for your consideration of my letter and I look forward to your response.

John Grant’s tour arrives to Milwaukee June 26

Openly gay artist John Grant is on tour, making a stop in Milwaukee on June 26 to play Turner Hall.

Grant, who recently released “Pale Green Ghosts,” has journeyed from a place where he thought he’d never again make music or escape substance abuse to winning awards, collaborating with Sinead O’Connor, Rumer and Hercules & Love Affair and having his music featured in the film “Weekend.”

Grant studied languages in Germany and, after his band The Czars split up, based himself in New York, London, Berlin and, most recently, Iceland, where the bulk of “Pale Green Ghosts” was recorded. It’s also been a journey from The Czars’ folk/country noir to the lush 1970s alchemy of “Queen Of Denmark” to the fusion of sounds that lift “Pale Green Ghosts.”

That album’s name comes from the opening title track, which documents the drives that Grant regularly took through the 1980s, from his home in Parker, Colo., to nearby Denver, where he found the new wave clubs that inspired the electronic elements of “Pale Green Ghosts.”

“I’d take the I-25, between Denver and Boulder, which was lined with all these Russian olive trees, which are the pale green ghosts of the title: they have this tiny leaves with silver on the back, which glow in the moonlight,” Grant says. “The song is about wanting to get out of a small town, to go out into the world and become someone and made my mark.”

A tune that Grant heard in those clubs was Sinead O’Connor’s “Mandinka.” Two decades later, O’Connor supplies backing vocals on “Pale Green Ghosts.”

On the Web…

John Grant’s “Pale Green Ghosts.”

John Grant’s website.

Turner Hall. 

Russell Brand to launch ‘Messiah Complex’ roadshow

Russell Brand has a “Messiah Complex,” and he’s taking it on the road.

The British comedian announced that he’s launching a world comedy tour focusing on Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X and Jesus Christ. Brand says the show examines “the importance of heroes in this age of atheistic disposability.”

The 38-year-old says he plans to perform in theaters as well as “prisons, drug rehabs … nationalist organizations, Mosques, foreclosed houses, protest sites, Synagogues and in people’s private homes.”

The “Messiah Complex” tour is set to begin Aug. 15 in Abu Dhabi and wrap up Dec. 9 in Iceland.

Brand’s FX show, “Brand X,” concluded last month.

Last year, Brand brought two members of the Westboro Baptist Church on his show to talk about the fringe group’s anti-gay campaign and to introduce the homophobes to some of his gay friends.

On the Web…


‘Memphis’ dancer says his life imitates the play’s heart

For every loss, there is equal gain, and for every gain equal loss, according to Kyle Leland. That life philosophy has helped the out dancer and choreographer through difficult times, but his current role as dance captain for the traveling production of “Memphis” is most definitely a time of gain and increased self-awareness.

“If you want to understand yourself and the human spirit around you, book a national tour,” the Los Angeles native says. “Seeing the same faces every day for an extended period of time reshapes you.”

“Memphis,” the winner of multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards, also is a story of gain and loss. Set in the smoky halls and underground clubs of 1950s Memphis, the narrative charts the cultural revolution that occurs when a white DJ falls for a black chanteuse amid the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Memphis” features an original Tony-winning score with music by Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan and lyrics by Bryan and Joe DiPietro (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”). DiPietro also wrote the musical’s book.

The show, part of the Broadway Across America touring series, stops at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Jan. 8–13.

For Leland, “Memphis” marks not a revolution, but an evolution in a dance career for which he believes he was destined.

“Dance came to me indirectly, but choreography was given to me by my high school drama instructor as she set her musicals at Nathaniel Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif.,” Leland says. “Formal training came later.”

That training began at choreo-grapher Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy, where Leland participated in a talkback session after a performance of “Pepito’s Story.” Allen liked his comments and invited him to take a free lesson; Leland ended up with a full scholarship and spent three years with Allen.

Stints as a backup dancer followed, most notably one for singer Mylene Farmer. That’s a name that few Americans recognize, but she’s one of France’s most successful recording artists of all times.

“Tens of thousands of fans would faint, scream and claw their way through a sea of (people) just to catch a front-row glimpse of their idol,” he says. “As her dancers, we were treated like royalty.”

That period of success ran it course. Soon Leland found himself waiting tables at a restaurant in New York’s meatpacking district and wondering what his next move would be.

“After a year of that, I looked in the mirror and was unrecognizable to myself,” he said. “What was I doing? Why wasn’t I satisfied? Where do I belong? I put in my two-weeks’ notice with no prospective job in sight and immediately called my agent to tell her to put me back on the market.”

A month later, Leland was teaching hip-hop dance classes in New Jersey, assisting the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and auditioning as much as possible. Then “Memphis” called.

“This was my third audition for the show in a year and a half,” he says. “Six years of New York auditions teach you to detach from the process, mostly to preserve your sanity and wellbeing. But leaving my serving gig must have signaled the universe that I was ready.”

Leland was given a six-month contract to serve as a replacement for an injured dancer. He went on to dance in four of the show’s numbers, eventually inheriting a fifth number. Next, he landed a role as dance captain, working with Sergio Trujillo, the award-winning choreographer after whom Leland began to pattern his new career.

“Watching Sergio work was an enlightening experience,” Leland says. “He spoke the language of every department, from the directors to the soundmen to the lighting engineers. (He) had a passion and assertiveness that I really admired and modeled my leadership on.”

Which brings Leland to where he is today, a period of gain after loss. The journey thus far has taught the dancer/choreographer to be true to himself and follow his heart. Those same emotions guide the characters in “Memphis,” particularly in terms of the inter-racial relationship, a love forbidden in its day. It’s part of the show’s ultimate message, he says.

“Being free to love whomever we choose is the highest gift we can give to ourselves and to each other,” Leland says. “The dreamer risks everything in pursuing his dream, for the journey is more important than the destination at which he may never arrive.”

Leland’s destination still lies ahead but, at this point in his career, the dancer/choreographer is confident that he is on the right course.

On stage

“Memphis” runs Jan. 8–13 at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit www.marcuscenter.org.