Spotlighted gigs and recommended shows 

Jesus Christ Superstar ***

An friend of mine’s mom used to have a huge crush on Ted Neely, who famously played the Saviour in both the L.A. stage version and the 1973 Hollywood film of this iconic Christian rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

As the role of Jesus (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy) came to define the drummer, singer and composer (who also, among other things, wrote and sang the theme song to TV’s Highway To Heaven), he’d subsequently tour the world many times over from 1992-1997, allowing fans of the campy cult film the chance to relive the experience in a live setting, with the movie’s principal actor/character relationship intact. It was during these wildly successful runs that my friend’s mom was known to wait with throngs of other middle-aged women at the stage door afterwards in hopes of a glimpse of —or better yet, an autograph from— the hunky Christ.

Now, Neely’s back in the sandals for an extended U.S. tour of this updated version of the controversial musical play (a stripped-down staging which also includes Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover in the juicy role of Judas) that is scheduled to run through 2009. Originally billed as a “farewell tour” for Neely, he has since disavowed that claim, although print ads still erroneously tout this as his final shot at nailing the role. Tix: $50 - $25 at 651-6557 or savannahcivic.com. Thurs., 7:30 pm, Johnny Mercer Theater - ALL-AGES.

Jeff & Vida ***

Just a few weeks after a two-night stand at Tybee’s North Beach Grill, these rising stars on the alt.country and roots-rock scenes return for a show at this popular vegetarian restaurant and counterculture performance space. Recently featured in the New York Times as key figures in Nashville current underground country movement (alongside Gillian Welch, Todd Snider and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Sicor), they offer yelping, yodeling, old-time acoustic rave-ups, sweeter than sweet harmony-drenched ballads —that recall Everly Brothers’ style rock and roll— and unabashedly retro country weepers. They’re the real deal. Listen & Learn: jeffandvida.com. Fri., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean - ALL-AGES.

Richard Leo Johnson ***

Considered one of the most accomplished avant-roots-fusion guitarists on the international scene today, this Savannah resident has released instrumental solo albums on such esteemed labels as

Blue Note (jazz) and Cuneiform (far out), and seen major music critics rank his idiosyncratic approach to percussive fretwork with the innovations of no less than Jimi Hendrix. Of late, this soft-spoken and dazzlingly inventive self-taught artist (who often employs a battery of self-created alternate tunings used by no one else) has been writing and releasing high-concept albums which find him crafting narrative song cycles inspired by the imagined provenance of various inexpensive vintage guitars he won on eBay. His most recent bag contains elements of old-time mountain music, psychedelic acid-rock, minimalist prog and noise music, tempered with a playful and freewheeling attitude. The chance to see a composer and player of this caliber for free (in the beautiful garden area of this historic downtown building) should not be missed by any fan of complex and touching music — young or old. Listen & Learn: richardleojohnson.com. Info: 232-1511. Sat., 8 pm, Ships of The Sea Museum (41 MLK, Jr. Blvd.) - ALL-AGES.

Claire Lynch & Band ***

You’ll be hard-pressed to find many folks with an unkind word to say about this phenomenally talented singer/songwriter and guitarist who’s one of the most critically lauded female bluegrass artists of the past 3 decades. With an angelic voice that’s earned her jobs singing backup harmony on albums by the likes of Patty Loveless (who’s also recorded some of Lynch’s material), Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea and Ralph Stanley. But it’s her work as a band leader and front-person that has earned her the most acclaim. With five albums under her belt on famed Americana label Rounder Records and two Grammy nods, she was named Female Vocalist of The Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1997, and nominated again in that same category last year.

After more than a decade off the road, she regrouped in 2005 and since, her crack band has included famed bassist Missy Raines. They normally sell out this intimate 100-seat listening room far in advance, but as of press time, there were still seats left for this show. Pick up on it! Listen & Learn: clairelynch.com. $30 tix at 748-1930. Info: randywoodguitars.com. Sat., 8 pm, Randy Wood’s Concert Hall (1304 E. Hwy 80, Bloomingdale) - ALL-AGES.

Maximo Medeiros

This Brazilian-born journeyman musician and “child of the earth” moved here several years ago after making port on an extended sailboat ride down the East Coast. He’s a fixture in Tybee’s bars and restaurants — both behind the scenes and in the thick of them. An accomplished cook who’s worked at some of the Island’s most popular eateries, back in his homeland, Medeiros played in a few flashy, shred metal outfits and produced several CDs worth of original tunes in his DIY home studio. Now, he rarely plays in public, preferring to occasionally post no-frills, homemade videos of himself tackling tricky blues, jazz, rock and bossa nova numbers on

YouTube. This low-profile, free show at a laid-back bar and grill known for its pizza finds him singing and playing both fingerstyle and slide covers and originals on a dual-necked instrument. Listen & Learn: myspace.com/orpheusmaximo. Sat., 7 pm, Huc-A-Poo’s (Tybee) - ALL-AGES.

The Riddle's Farewell Bash ***

Argyle —one of the more intriguing rock bands to form here over the past decade— has officially called it quits. The brotherly duo of singer/drummer Stephen and singer/guitarist Jeremy Riddle have continued to play in town for the last few months, peppering their cover-heavy sets with standout originals from that band’s two impressive indie CDs. Now, after a solid offer to work as session musicians, they’re moving to L.A. — but not before inviting more than two dozen of their favorite local players to join them for one final gig they describe as both a thank you to those here who befriended and supported them, and a sincere show of unity in a music scene not always known for such things.

If anyone can bring together disparate players it’s these two, whose versatility and positive attitude earned them tons of live or studio gigs with a wide variety of rock, funk, hip-hop and even country artists from our area. The list of folks confirmed to appear at this gig includes such local luminaries as songwriters Greg Williams, Jeff Beasley and Philip Palmer (of Port City Music), as well as rock, prog, jam and pop bands like Sinister Moustache, The Train Wrecks, Turtle Folk and Listen 2 Three. Look for local rap collective Dope Sandwich to be on hand as well, plus members of Phantom Wingo, Superhorse, Rhythm Riot and The Chuck Courtenay Band. Free, but donations will be accepted to help the boys move to Cali. Tues., 10 pm, Live Wire Music Hall.

13th Annual Asian Festival ***

This year’s installment of a local tradition is said to be a little lighter on authentic ethnic foods than in year’s past, but there’s still plenty of options for those eager to sample the sights, sounds and tastes of the Far East. Described as one of the largest celebrations of Asian culture in the entire South, it finds hundreds of Asian-American volunteers utilizing funds from the

City of Savannah’s Dept. of Cultural Affairs to create a one-day overview of the diversity found in the world’s largest and most populous continent. Crafts and artwork from several nations will be offered for sale. Live entertainment includes one of China’s greatest acrobats, Kung Fu Lion Chinese Dancers, the Matsuriza Taiko Japanese Drummers and performances by assorted music, martial arts and dance groups representing Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Polynesia, Thailand and India. Plus, for the kids, this year’s attractions include a special children’s area geared toward hands-on learning through origami, calligraphy, story-telling, puppetry and jewelry-making. Info: savannahga.gov/arts or 651-6417. Free admission and parking. Sat., 11 am - 5 pm, Savannah Civic Center.

Sol Driven Train CD Release

This rising Charleston-based organic pop-rock act’s new CD was tracked in a beach house on N.C.’s Outer Banks and at another home by a Wisconsin lake. The “mellow undercurrent” the band cites as running through

Lighthouse’s songs helps to both clarify their group’s dynamic and allow plenty of the easygoing, positive feel of their crowd-pleasing club and festival shows to bleed though in the kind of studio setting which can often sap such vibes. Listen & Learn: soldriventrain.com. Fri., 11 pm, Locos (downtown).


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