- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

They’re in the gate.

This fall’s rock shows, I mean. What better place to begin our little survey of the coming concert season than at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, where on Sept. 23, rock royalty and indie buzz magnets will collide for the Virgin Festival, the first-ever American-soil staging of the popular European event.

Headliners include Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Who. (“Endless Wire,” the British rock legends’ first new studio album since 1982, will see U.S. release Oct. 31.) Performances will be divided between two stages as well as a DJ tent for club spinners such as John Digweed.

Many critical darlings are on the bill, among them Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Keane, the Killers, New Pornographers and the Flaming Lips. The breakout alt-rap duo Gnarls Barkley ought to be interesting, and if you’d simply like to have the flesh on your face pinned back like the skin of a fighter pilot pulling six G’s, there are the Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers and their triple-guitar assault.

Fear not, though. You won’t have to travel to Baltimore again to feed your live-music habit. (If you’re wary of the festival scene, Roger Waters will perform Pink Floyd’s masterpiece “Dark Side of the Moon” at Nissan Pavilion while Pete Townshend warms up his windmills in the Pimlico paddock.)

More amazing still, you won’t have to light out to a minor-league ballpark in the provinces to see Bob Dylan this fall. The 65-year-old legend, riding a tsunami of glowing reviews for his latest album, “Modern Times,” will be at George Mason University’s Patriot Center Nov. 17. Get there early: Opening for Mr. Dylan will be the Raconteurs, the intriguing side band of White Stripe Jack White.

Bruce Springsteen will be off in Europe in the coming months, still promoting his “Seeger Sessions” release. However, the album’s namesake — Pete Seeger, all 87 years of him — will be at the Birchmere Music Hall Oct. 5 for a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Also on the bill are Washington’s own folk heroes Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer and Joe Uehlein & the U-Liners.

Warning: You may hear protest music.

If you understand Spanish, you might hear the same from Guatemalan-born singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona Nov. 22 at the Patriot Center.

At this point, I’d like to pause and ask two pressing questions about the night of Oct 13. First, will it be balmy enough at the outdoor Merriweather Post Pavilion for British singer James Blunt to re-enact that little striptease he does in the “You’re Beautiful” video? And will Barbra Streisand sell out Verizon Center with top tickets going for $750?

If you answer both queries correctly, I’ll send you an autographed copy of a CD I happen to be anticipating eagerly at the moment. No, not Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell III” (although I do look forward to that in a perverse sort of way). I mean “Once Again,” the sophomore release from hotshot neo-soul singer John Legend.

Willie Nelson’s “Songbird,” produced by alt-country bad boy Ryan Adams (taking a well-advised respite from releasing albums of his own) also sounds intriguing.

Yes, the title track is a cover of the great Christine McVie-penned Fleetwood Mac ballad. And speaking of the on-again-off-again supergroup, Lindsey Buckingham finally will release on Oct. 3 the solo album he’s been working on for the better part of the past 10 years. It’s called “Under the Skin.”

Dropping the same day are new releases from alt-rock favorite Beck (“The Information”); Australian retro-rockers Jet (“Shine On”); Las Vegas new-wave revivalists the Killers (“Sam’s Town”); and alt-metal Arkansans Evanescence (“The Open Door”). The latter’s Oct. 11 show at the 9:30 Club is, alas, already sold out.

Also booked to the 9:30 Club brim is a two-night (Sept. 17 and 18) stand from the Black Crowes, who will release (Sept. 26) a double CD of previously unreleased material and outtakes, aptly titled “The Lost Crowes.” Those holding tickets may be expecting emotional fireworks from singer Chris Robinson, freshly separated as he is from actress-wife Kate Hudson.

Tickets are still available for a great lineup at the Black Cat Sept. 24, jointly sponsored by local classic rock station WARW-FM and Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Melodic ‘60s pop-rockers the Zombies, with original co-frontmen Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, will top a bill that includes New York garage-rock throwbacks the Mooney Suzuki and the Fleshtones.

Also appearing at the Black Cat (Nov. 18) is Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Millan, who took time off from bands such as Broken Social Scene and Stars to release my favorite record of the summer, “Honey From the Tombs.”

If you haven’t blown your entire concert budget on Miss Streisand (and how could you, unless you’re obscenely rich or weirdly obsessed with the Simon Cowell spawn Il Divo, who will open for Her Highness?) you might want to check out the up-and-coming the Fray, a Denver-based band on U2’s family tree. It’s at DAR Constitution Hall Oct. 28.

Whatever you do this season, pray that the upcoming release (Sept. 19) from the exasperatingly talented singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur doesn’t come true.

It’s called “Nuclear Daydream.”

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