If there's one thing that PBS viewers hate more than intrusive solicitations, it's merchandise that bears a misleading resemblance to their favorite musical franchise. Amazon.com users assailed the 2000 compilation Celtic Woman, Vol. 2, with one-star reviews after mistakenly purchasing a product in no way affiliated with the PBS-popularized stage show Celtic Woman, which debuted in 2004. If these easy-listening enthusiasts blanched at hearing unfamiliar variations on Irish acoustic folk, they'd likely combust if they accidentally ingested any of Celtic Frost's toxic sludge. We've created this guide to help readers determine which Celtic concert would make their eyes smile.
Celtic Frost: Tom Gabriel Fischer unleashes a gut-punched "ugh" during almost every song; fans use this groan as a greeting on message boards. When singing actual words, Fischer sounds like an eerily robotic version of "madly in anger"-mode James Hetfield. Celtic Frost pioneered the use of operatic female vocalists in hard-rock songs, suggesting potential for an epic PBS pledge-week Celtic Frost/Celtic Woman collaboration.
Celtic Woman: Known as "Riverdance for the voice," this sextet, featuring several Riverdance vets, includes five singers and a full-time fiddler. Teenagers Hayley Dee Westenra and Chloë Agnew handle the high range (most notably on Agnew's helium-huffing version of the eunuch-pitched "Walking in the Sky"), Órla Fallon and Lisa Kelly sing with theatrical flair, and Méav Ní Mhaolchatha boasts a rich operatic soprano.
Celtic Frost: This Swiss group co-created black metal in the early '80s, fusing atmospheric dirges with thrash dynamics and avant-garde elements.
Celtic Woman: Like KISS, Celtic Woman's members released solo albums emblazoned with their faces. Lamentably, the ladies preferred traditional cosmetics to cat whiskers and star-raccoon eyes.
Speaking in Tongues
Celtic Frost: On 2006's Monotheist, Celtic Frost ruminates on translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls ("Ain Elohim") and Aleister Crowley's writings ("Os Abysmi Vel Daath"). It seems alarmingly likely that Fischer's solemn incantations of these phrases could conjure evil spirits, like the serpent that slithered through the speakers in the seminal metal-creates-monsters propaganda film Black Roses.
Celtic Woman: Featuring one singer from New Zealand and five from Ireland, Celtic Woman harmonizes in a variety of languages. Sample lyric: "'S chuirfeadh sí cóistí ar bhóithre Cois Fharraige." New-age listeners usually don't pay much attention to lyrics while drifting into a trance-like state, and such songs allow them to ignore the words altogether while also enjoying a passive ethnic experience via aural osmosis.
Celtic Frost: At a show in Lawrence, Kansas, last fall, bassist Martin Eric Ain bantered thusly with the crowd: "Is Lawrence a godless city?" (Tepid cheers.) "Every city is a godless city, because there is no fucking God!"
Celtic Woman: The ensemble's 2006 Christmas album perilously juxtaposes hymns such as "Away in a Manger" and "O Holy Night" with several ambiguously near-phallic song titles ("Christmas Pipes," "Ding Dong Merrily on High," "Panis Angelicus"). Andrew Miller
Celtic Frost at Pop's, 1403 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois. 7 p.m. Friday, April 13. $22 to $25. 618-274-6720. Celtic Woman at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22. $47.50 to $57.50. 314-534-1111.
Since its birth in Brooklyn in 1998, the multi-ethnic collective Antibalas (Spanish for "bulletproof") has captured the spirit and sound of the late Nigerian bandleader Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Building on the fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelia and high life Kuti called "Afrobeat," Antibalas adds Cuban and dub elements on its just-released fifth album, Security. Saxophonist Stuart Bogie explains how the Antibalas sound came together and what it all means.
B-Sides: Afrobeat was an African take on American styles like funk and jazz, which were themselves rooted in African music. So in a sense, Antibalas is the latest volley in this musical back-and-forth across the Atlantic. But how did you guys get into Afrobeat to begin with?
Stuart Bogie: Many people in the group were familiar with the music of Fela for years, including our lead singer, Amayo, who used to hang out at the Shrine [Fela's compound in Lagos, Nigeria] when Fela performed there. But all of that gets into a discussion about authenticity and originality that's really, at the base, a bunch of horseshit. That's talk for people who don't trust their ears and don't trust their hearts.
Fela's music was an expression of the chaotic situation in Nigeria in the 1970s and '80s, a feeling that the people running the country were out of their minds. It also seems like an increasingly apt way to express the mood in the U.S. right now. Is that something you've put a lot of thought into?
Every time we develop lyrics, we struggle with how we address the situation that's emotionally moving us. Every artist deals with this, I think, just in a more- or less-direct way. Fugazi's lyrics are very provocative and could be seen as political and definitely socially conscious. But they can also be artistically nebulous. With this latest record, Security, we've begun to explore that side of things. I think it's safe to say that our music is an emotional music. It's not a dry, academic, political sort of music. It's not a talking head that you would see on CNN set to a beat.
Indeed. On Security, you don't even hear any words until most of the way through the second track. You're ten minutes into the album before you hear a human voice.
If you want to read into that, that tells you something about the concept of action. Sometimes doing is more important than saying. We lead with action. Words enhance; words confirm what we already know between us. But that feeling is in the music.
Beyond the sonic elements, one thing I think you have in common with people like Fela is a transcendent quality, a feeling of being jolted or lifted out of the mundane.
If you focus on the sound, the rhythm, the solos, the interaction of the guitars, the repetition of the bass, the punctuation of the drums if you listen to that for the ten or fifteen minutes that our songs will often be, I think it has a deeper effect on you than if you listened to it for three minutes. It's a sort of massage for whatever node in your body receives music. Jason Toon
9 p.m. Wednesday, April 18. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. 314-727-4444.
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