Critic's Choice for the week of June 25-July 1, 2003 

A show for lovers at the Paramount, a Van Van band, a second-generation Morrison, and rock for earnest weenies, among other things.


June is traditionally the big wedding month, but if you or your honey is still a little reticent to, you know, pop the question, how about a consolation prize? Nothing says "I love you, snoogums" more than tickets to Al Green at Oakland's Paramount Theatre Saturday night. Green is easily one of the most emotionally affecting and straight-up romantic singers of all time, not just in the R&B genre -- he's also a member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Green's tantalizingly minimalist phrasing on classics like "Here I Am," "Call Me," "Tired of Being Alone," "Love and Happiness" and, ahem, "Let's Get Married" put the soul in soul music. Though he went through a gospel phase following the infamous grits incident (a spurned lover threw a plate full of 'em down his back as he took a bath) and a fall from a Cincinnati stage in 1979, he has since returned to secular music and live performance, which is good news for Green's multigenerational fan base. 510-465-6400. (Eric K. Arnold)


From tiny Gause, Texas, blues-gospel singer Ruthie Foster is possessed of a powerful voice, an incisive guitar accompaniment, and a repertoire of moving songs new and old, growing out of the Southern African-American tradition. Check out her most recent CD, Runaway Soul. Accompanied by singer-percussionist Cyd Cassone, Foster returns to the Freight & Salvage Thursday for an uplifting evening that draws on everyone from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Sarah Vaughan. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


One whiff of Arin Simonian's voice and you can smell the cappuccino: Her powerful voice and flashy acoustic strummin' is tailor-made for the coffeeshop open mic circuit. But don't expect any weak-ass "All Along the Watchtower" covers -- the Bay Area songwriter's new disc, All These Wounds, is a sultry, jazzy, and supremely confident take on the sort of caffeinated sass folk that makes Berkeley egghead types jump outta their pants. At the Freight & Salvage Sunday. 510-548-1761. (Rob Harvilla)


Maktub's (say it "mock tube") soul includes generous accents of hometown Seattle grunge for a funky good time. Singer Reggie Watts has more than a gravity-defying Afro going for him -- his astounding voice ranges from Barry White bass to Jackson 5-era Michael Jackson alto, and he's not afraid to mix the two in a single song. See 'em tonight at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. 415-885-0750. (Michael Gowan)


In the late '90s, San Francisco's hardcore indie rap scene was making big noise, and two of the major factors in that movement were UDI and 11/5. Collectively known as the Kill-a-Hoes (along with Cold World Hustlers), they seemed poised to become artists of national significance, after establishing themselves as players in the Bay Area rap game with songs like UDI's "Tennis Skirts" and 11/5's "Garcia Vegas" -- a highly infectious track based on a lick from the Time's "The Walk." Creative differences with their label (both were signed to Dogday Records) and a region-wide slump in the sales of thuggy party rap resulted in the decline of the Kill-a-Hoes, who resurface Friday night at Blake's, of all places. Order us a double Hennessy and save us a seat at the bar. 510-848-0886. (E.A.)


Orchestra Baobab has been around since 1970, when singers Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis put together a band to play a Senegalese version of Cuban music. The group was marked by inventive arrangements, soulful vocals, and the amazing fretwork of guitarist Barthelemy Attisso, an original stylist with a wide knowledge of Cuban roots, American rock, and West African styles. After 33 years together, the band still ignites dance floors and souls. Wednesday and Thursday at Yoshi's in Jack London Square, Oakland. 510-238-9200. (j. poet)


Like her dad Van, Shana Morrison's wide-ranging vision includes elements of folk, blues, R&B, country, jazz, and Irish traditional music. She delivers her tunes with a big, brash, soulful voice that's a perfect compliment to a songwriting method viewing the details of everyday life through her own vaguely mystical prism. Friday at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


When it comes to MCs, few true-schoolers are as respected as J-Live. The Brooklyn rapper first jumped on to the scene in the early '90s with the singles "Hush the Crowd" and "Braggin' Writes," which resonated with indie hip-hop fans at a time when underground hip-hop was still kicking in the Big Apple. In between albums, J-Live supported himself by teaching in the public school system while he worked on 2002's All of the Above, easily one of last year's best hip-hop albums. If you've never seen J play live, you're in for a special treat: He's one of the few artists who can rap and scratch at the same time. He'll be at the Great American Music Hall tonight. 415-885-0750. (E.A.)


Los Van Van are the mothership of Cuban dance bands. Innovators of the post-revolutionary beat called "songo," they changed the dancehall landscape by adding strings, flute, trombones, and funky trap drums. Formed by bassist Juan Formell in 1969, the fifteen-piece ensemble is a groove machine with a hot new live album, En el Malecon de la Habana. The new-and-improved Van Van arrive at Bimbo's in SF Sunday. Catch them if you can! 415-474-0365. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


John O'Brien is an earnest, semiarticulate dude trying to pick up cute indie-rock chicks. This does not make him innovative, but it does make him more relevant to your life than, say, Marilyn Manson. Pernice Brothers fans and general enthusiasts of sensitive-guy guitar rock may dig the SF-based songwriter's new disc, Real Life, which he will liberally plunder Monday night at the Makeout Room. Yes, kids, he's got a tune titled "Doc Marten Dreams." 415-647-2888. (R.H.)


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