Safriduo - Episode II Safriduo
Episode II

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a rare thing: an incredibly catchy instrumental pop rock record by Mint Royale maybe it was the start of a trend?

I plugged the new disc by Safriduo into my car CD player the other day to see what this band was all about, and was quickly nodding and tapping every finger and toe that wasn't necessary to keep the car on the road. Episode II is a drum lover's gem and another instrumental pop rock disc.

The cover shows the duo beating on kettle and bongo drums, and it's a representation of inside. This is a disc of celebratory modern and African rhythms. The duo uses drums to create rhythmic melodies, augmented by electronic dance beats and synthesizers.

Catchy, fun, occasionally danceable; this is hopefully only one of many "episodes" to come from Safriduo.


Jill Sobule - I Never Learned To Swim Jill Sobule
I Never Learned To Swim - Jill Sobule 1990-2000

If you've wondered whatever became of the girl who got a left field hit with "I Kissed a Girl" back in 1994, she's still around and kicking, though these days on a smaller record label.

That label released Pink Pearl from the singer songwriter last year, and this spring offered I Never Learned to Swim, a selection of 15 songs (including some from Pink Pearl) that covers her recording career. The disc offers brief explanations by Sobule of each track, and includes "I Kissed a Girl" as well as her marvelously catchy (and meaningful) "Bitter" and "When My Ship Comes In." Also included is her twangy, cynical Steve Earle duet about the end of relationships, "Love Is Never Equal." The latter three songs are all from her sadly overlooked 1997 CD, Happy Town.

Bon Jovi / Eve 6
The Tweeter Center, Tinley Park IL

You would have thought Bon Jovi was fresh from a series of big chart hits, given the sold-out Tweeter Center on Friday.

It's been awhile since "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Livin' on a Prayer" made Jon Bon Jovi and his band a household name, but their fans haven't drifted away. They sang along with the songs from last year's Crush album almost as much as to the old hits.

Modern rockers Eve 6 opened the show, and put on a short but energetic set, though they were hampered by a muddy sound mix and washed out by a still-setting sun. Singer Max Collins didn't seem to mind, pointing to the sky as he bounded through "Rescue" and "On the Roof Again" from their new Horrorscope disc, which he proclaimed to be "a great record, if I do say so myself."

The band also played a fuel-injected punked out version of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and their hit from their self-titled last disc, "Inside Out." They closed with the latter song and had the Eve 6 Dancers (two guys in black shirts) come out and break dance before ending the set.

By the time Bon Jovi hit the stage (making an entrance onto a stage designed like a rooftop through an "elevator" in the "brick wall" backdrop) the sun was down and the theater was jam-packed. The band opened with a newer song, the title track to its new live album, "One Wild Night" (appropriate, as one of its lyrics is "welcome to the party") and then dove headlong into "Raise Your Hands" from 1986's Slippery When Wet, with which the audience was happy to comply. Bon Jovi didn't have any problems with the stadium sound; the band's performance was bright and clear and helped out by 20-plus thousand fans singing along.

Three large video screens projected the show under the pavilion, and the cameras often scanned the crowd for an interactive feel, finding people holding up signs wishing Ritchie Sambora a happy birthday and license plates reading: BN JVI and SAMBORA.

The band did all the hits, from a rousing "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Bad Medicine," "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Livin' on a Prayer," to more recent offerings like "It's My Life" and "Blaze of Glory." Guitarist Sambora even got to showcase the title track from his 1991 solo disc, "Stranger in This Town."

The band closed with a couple of classics made famous before the rise of Bon Jovi and power pop anthems: "Tequila" and "Twist and Shout." While some bands from the '80s capitalize on nostalgia and tour without much preparation, Bon Jovi showed that it still knows how to put on a solid big rock show with a mix of both old and new material.