Talk about ...pop music: Fall Arts concerts

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Friday September 2, 2022
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Lil Nas X; Grace Jones; Adam Lambert
Lil Nas X; Grace Jones; Adam Lambert

From legacy acts to newcomers, there's an unusually queer season of pop ahead at major Bay Area concert venues. Brace yourselves for a glitter tsunami.

Ben Platt @ Frost Amphitheater

Broadway's original Evan Hansen is touring behind his second self-penned solo album, "Reverie", which adds an exoskeleton of chiming synthesizers to the more organic sound of his earlier "Sing to Me Instead." He's got a sweet, sensitive emo vibe and a talent for earnest songwriting in an early Billy Joel mode. In an era when celebrity musicians often burnish their bonafides on Broadway, Platt is the first theater singer to successfully spin-off into mainstream pop. $49.50-$129.50. Sept. 11. 351 Lasuen St., Stanford.

Grace Jones @ The Fox Theatre

From the disco era through the late 1980s, attending a live performance by the Jamaican-born diva and one-time Bond villain was a risky bet. On some nights Jones would show up hours late, on others she'd bail after just two or three songs, cavalierly sneering at the audience, occasionally flashing her genitalia. But in her two most recent Bay Area appearances, at the Fox and the Greek, the now 74-year-old (!) has delivered spectacularly.

Jones' starkly lit, stunningly costumed modern rituals, driven by Afrobeats, modern electronics, and 100-proof attitude have been indelibly brilliant. Effectively canonized through her cameos on Beyoncé's "Renaissance", Jones now graces us with a victory lap. This ain't your grandmother's grandmother. $85-$125. Sept. 23. 1807 Telegraph Ave, Oakland.

Elton John @ Levi's Stadium

In which Reginald Dwight and Cherilyn Sarkisian meld into a single amalgam of feathers, sequins and moxie. Farewell yet again, Rocket Man. $48 and up. Oct. 8 & 9. 4900 DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara.

Pet Shop Boys, New Order @ Chase Center

Coy, dry and smart as a whip, Neil Tennant, the Pet Shop Boys' singer and lyricist as a pop music critic before "West End Girls", his first single with keyboardist and co-conspirator Chris Lowe (the Andrew Ridgely of electropop) hit the charts in 1986. His cool, slightly cerebral approach has served the duo well over the course of 14 impeccably produced studio albums and a series elegantly staged tours that feel as much like theater as pop shows.

The effete, twig-like Tennant is now 68 years old and looking every bit his age, the unlikeliest of arena performers. But like some robot cousin of Leonard Cohen, he serves gnomic magnetism, holding audiences rapt amidst the digital light show and processed vocals. Both the Boys and New Order will be playing full-length sets, with DJ Paul Oakenfold also appearing, which is why this show kicks off at the near-matinee hour of 6:30 p.m. $69.50 and up. Oct. 12. 1 Warriors Way.

Adam Lambert @ Paramount Theatre

It's been more than a dozen years since the kohl-eyed glamorpuss rose to fame on "American Idol", came out with a sequined shrug, made out with a dude on the Grammies, then dodged the very real possibility of becoming his generation's Liberace by paying highly credible homage to a prior generation's Killer Queen.

While a series of global treks subbing for Freddie Mercury have been enormously successful, Lambo has done relatively little touring on behalf of his own four albums. His last Bay Area solo show was at the Warfield in 2010. A generous, charming and effortlessly charismatic performer, Lambert never takes himself too seriously. You shouldn't either. Go have fun. $42.50-$195.00. Oct. 19. 2025 Broadway, Oakland.

Lil Nas X @ Bill Graham Auditorium

When the "Long Live Montero Tour" at long last hits the (old town) road next Tuesday in Detroit, the high profile 22-year-old gay hip-hop artist and internet provocateur will finally play live for his fans. There will be ridiculously hunky dancers, flashy rompers, smoke pots, flames, the works.

The excursion makes its final U.S. stop at a near-instantly sold-out San Francisco show at which point Lil Nas' career will be have reached its high point, be effectively over, or both. Exorbitant and beyond (resale only). Oct. 23. 99 Grove St.

Jake Wesley Rogers @ Chase Center

If you've yet to discover this 25-year-old queer pop phenom from Springfield, Missouri, you're in for a treat (opening for Panic at the Disco!). While his lyrics are emotionally vulnerable, his melodies are thoroughly mope-resistant with Velcro hooks and irresistible singalong choruses. His country-grained voice swings from Daddy-o depths to a twinkling twinkie falsetto and his fashion sense is unapologetically Bowiesque. $60.50 and up. Oct. 25. 1 Warriors Way.

B-52s @ The Masonic

That wacky little band from Athens, Georgia is taking one last "Roam" around America to wrap up an unexpectedly lengthy career that dates back to the Bicentennial. After appearing on Saturday Night Live in 1980, the sorta-surf-punk quintet became the patron saints of artsy queer kids everywhere.

Five years later, tacky iconoclasm took on a poignant undercurrent after guitarist Ricky Wilson, older brother of vocalist Cindy, succumbed to AIDS five years later. Vocalist Kate Pierson once did a little moonlighting gig as the secret sauce back-up vocalist on R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" and the whole band appeared as the BC-52s in the live-action "Flintstones" movie (also featuring Elizabeth Taylor, in her final film role, as Wilma's mother, Pearl Slaghoople). Rock on, you crazy queerdos! $54.95 and up. Oct. 28, 30. 1111 California St.

Live Concerts @ Orinda Theatre

Over the Bay Bridge or through the BART, the 2022-2023 Concert Season at the Orinda Theatre features a line-up of Broadway veterans and current stars, including Eden Espinosa on Oct. 16 ("Wicked," "Rent"); Jimmie Herrod on Nov. 6 (NBC's "America's Got Talent" finalist and Pink Martini vocalist); Bobby Conte on Dec. 4 ("Company"), with more show in 2023. All shows at 5pm.

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