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Picks for the week of September 24 - 30, 2008

Sunday Sept. 28
HP Pavilion
525 W. Santa Clara St
San Jose

Neil Diamond

"THEY'RE COMING TO AMERICA!" I can still hear Neil Diamond's anthemic cries from the 1981 single, a song that crept up the pop charts three years before I would take my first breath on this earth. Why my mother would envelope me in car rides with this song is beyond me; nevertheless, I was raised with Neil Diamond in my ear. Funny thing is, even today I have a strange inclination toward Diamond classics. Songs like "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Hello Again," and "Forever In Blue Jeans" give me solace, perhaps subconsciously evoking memories and feelings of my pre-pubescent youth. Ok, I'm looking way too hard into this, but I guess some Diamonds really are forever.

Steel Pulse
Wednesday Oct. 1
Mission Santa Clara
Santa Clara University


THIS SPRING, the all-male, 12-member vocal choir Chanticleer made a musical journey along the mission trail, stopping at nine missions to perform colonial-era liturgical music in the actual missions where the pieces where heard more than 200 years ago. The selections for this unique moveable musical feast included Misa en sol, a Latin mass by Juan Bautista Sancho, who spent most of his life at the Mission Antonio de Padua near Paso Robles, as well as less familiar works by Spanish Baroque composers. With admirable alacrity, the tour has been distilled onto a just-released CD, Mission Road, recorded at Mission Dolores in San Francisco. The marvelous harmonic interplay of the voices belies what must have been a harsh time. For its latest concert, "Wondrous Free," the chorus explores early American songs, with a special nod to "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free," composed by Francis Hopkinson (when he wasn't busy signing the Declaration of Independence). Depending on your definition, it is considered to be the first art song (written circa 1759) created in the young land. The program also features songs by Samuel Barber, William Billings and David Conte.

Friday–Sunday (Sept. 26–2)
Great Meadow in Fort Mason
Marina Boulevard and Laguna Street
San Francisco

San Francisco Blues Festival

Downbeat magazine called it "the oldest ongoing blues festival in the world ... set in one of the most beautiful places on the continent," and if that doesn't convince you to take a gander, maybe this year's headliners (Elvin Bishop and Johnny Winter) will. Author's note: A recent discovery of Winter's 1975 album, Johnny Winter Captured Live! led me to find new adoration for the guitarist, whose mastery of electric blues guitar has been greatly overshadowed by other legends (Hendrix, Page, Clapton) of the era. The bill also includes acoustic blues band Hot Tuna, Elmore James Jr. and Buckwheat Zydeco.

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