Critic's Choice for the week of September 4-10, 2002 

"Important" punk rockers, a French country boy, Rio by the bay, Cubanos in Oakland, and a Baroque Faerie Queen.


Mixing the influences of Twin/Tone, crime fiction, country, leftie pinko liberalism, and good ol' punk rock, the Mekons have truly earned their stripes in the rock 'n' roll pantheon of "important" bands. So gather all ye homeboys and meet down at the Starry Plough on Thursday to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary, hot on the heels of a new book (Hello Cruel World, containing art, lyrics, and photos of the band) and album (ooh!). This will be an intimate and rare night, so get there early and claim your space. 510-841-0188. (Katy St. Clair)

In June, when Tucson cinematic soundscapers Calexico made a stop at the Starry Plough, among the band's ever-revolving ranks was one Naïm Amor. The wiry Frenchman contributed violin, guitar, and melodica, and gamely performed the femme fatale vocal duties on Calexico's "Ballad of Cable Hogue." Saturday night, Naïm brings his own band, simply called Amor, to the Plough, opening for Mark Growden's Electric Piñata. Amor performs his avant-French pop with the help of cellist Nathan Sabatino and vocalist Marianne Dissard (the chanteuse from the original recording of "Cable Hogue"). 510-841-0188 (Stefanie Kalem)


Why go flying down to Rio when there's so much world-class Brazilian music happening in the Bay Area over the next four days? The unofficial bossa nova fest begins Wednesday at Freight & Salvage as Oakland-based guitarist Carlos Oliveira plays elegant original compositions that draw on the folkloric rhythms of his native Northeastern Brazil with a group featuring saxophonist-clarinetist Harvey Wainapel (510-548-1761). Thursday and Friday find pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, and vocalist Paula Morelenbaum reprising songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim from Casa, their exquisite new Sony Classical CD, at Bimbo's 365 Club (415-474-0365). And bringing her silky alto tones to San Francisco's Cowell Theater on Saturday is ballad singer Monica Salmaso, accompanied by Bill Evans-inspired pianist Benjamin Taubkin (415-345-7575). (Lee Hildebrand)


With his latest effort Sentir nominated for "Best Latin Jazz Album" in the Latin Grammy Awards, pianist-composer Omar Sosa is becoming an internationally recognized figure for his innovative musical blends. Fusing his own Afro-Cuban heritage with influences from Morocco, Venezuela, Ecuador, and African-American jazz and hip-hop, Sosa brings his sextet to Yoshi's in Oakland on Monday and Tuesday. 510-238-9200. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

When Texas country-folk-rocker Jimmy Lafave sings, one can feel the vast stretches of the Southwest and almost see the untamed characters in his story-songs come to life through his haunting voice and guitar work. In addition to his own songs, Lafave is just about the best interpreter of Bob Dylan songs extant, and he's making a rare East Bay appearance Thursday at the Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

The irreplaceable Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, opens its season Sunday evening in Berkeley's First Congregational Church with a performance of Purcell's delightful 1692 music theater masterpiece The Faerie Queen. Loosely based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the work features stellar soloists Christine Brandes, Suzanne Rydén, Jennifer Lane, Alan Bennett, and Neal Davies, plus the Philharmonia Chorale directed by Bruce Lamott. 415-392-4400. (Jason Serinus)


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