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The House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Jan 15 1997
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"Inability is often the mother of restriction ... and restriction is the great mother of inventive performance." So says German-born Holger Czukay. It was not Czukay's musical inability, but his dedication to musical exploration that found the would-be composer expelled from Berlin's Music Academy in the early '60s. Thankfully this did not salt the wings of the young upstart. His musical mentor, Karlheinz Stockhausen, had taught Czukay to relish his own wit and spirit -- to give weight to his compositions without getting trapped in the overintellectualization of the German avant-garde. The lesson stuck, and when one of Czukay's own pupils, Michael Karoli, began exposing him to the pop sounds of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys, Czukay was ready and willing. In 1969 -- with the Krautrockers Can -- Czukay first began experimenting with the sampling (read: a whole lot of tape-splicing) that would make him famous. A decade later, Czukay's solo work had gained him a reputation as one of Germany's most highly regarded musicians and (later) producers (of the then-unknown Eurythmics). His last solo project, 1993's Moving Pictures, found Czukay in an unusually somber mood -- a far cry from his earlier reworking of the Chinese national anthem or his treatments of Pope John Paul II's Easter Message; it is an ambient masterpiece that upcoming mood artists would do well to heed. Thursday night, Jan. 16, Czukay butts technoheads with Dr. Walker of Air Liquide, perhaps best known to Bay Area audiences for his musical contribution to Survival Research Laboratories' "Robot Wars." The trance begins at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell. Tickets are $12.50; call 885-0750. U-She and the Brain open. ... A couple of years back I had the strange misfortune to be at the Edge in Palo Alto during a rare performance by Ronnie James Dio. This was one suburban stop in many that would strive to regenerate attention for the ill-received Strange Highways, Dio's first studio album in over four years. It was a sold-out show. A highly trained team of security guards defended the Dio tour bus against several dozen large-haired blondes equipped with white leather boots, who were trying to climb aboard and prove their worth even as their mullethead boyfriends failed miserably at buying scalped tickets. It was a phenomenon, the stuff of which rock parodies are made: hair spray, dangerously tight pants, cherry-ice lipstick, hair spray, leather jackets, back-pocket combs, hair spray. Inside the nightclub awaited even more of an '80s spectacle. Among much beer-swilling and chanting of "Dio!" there were fevered tales of the last Dio concert, the glory days of Black Sabbath, and all that has "turned rotten in metal these days." I was impressed by the Marlboro Lights-filled room and mentioned to my tormentor/friend-with-passes that Dio ought to be pleased with the turnout. "I don't know," he said. "It might be a bit rough, considering it wasn't long ago that Ronnie James Dio was selling out stadiums." "Surely that was when he sang with Black Sabbath," I countered, proving once and for all my ignorance of things long-haired. My friend smiled mildly and referred me to a Dio tour video in which Ronnie James and crew brought crowds of mammoth proportion screaming to their feet. In fact, someone close-to-the-source told him that it was Dio who invented the now-standard devil-horn rocker salute (supposedly, Ozzy Osbourne had his own weaker variation, but when Dio took over Black Sabbath the goat was born). When the lights finally came down and the smoke poured onto the stage, I was primed. Dio charged out dressed in a swoop-necked, bell-bottomed, flared-sleeved purple velour jumpsuit that exposed just the right amount of chest hair. He struck the stance. He screamed. The audience screamed. He launched into "Holy Diver" and it was game over. For the next hour and a half Dio drove the crowd like a finely tuned 1987 Pontiac Firebird, putting his young (if highly accomplished) backing band to shame and parlaying his diminutive physical stature into 110 percent pure showmanship. After a second encore that ended all too soon, Dio flicked back his thinning hair, mopped the sweat from his brow, and prepared to sign autographs for the next hour. "Ronnie doesn't leave until everyone has an autograph," said my friend, "and he'd rather spend money to go on tour than to take a vacation." Now, that's a performer! You can check out the man and the myth on Monday, Jan. 20, at the Trocadero -- not. Actually, Dio canceled (no, not due to lack of sales, you cynical naysayer; there was an illness in the band), but I just had to reminisce. Stay tuned for rescheduling ....

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor

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