SAT 10/18

Randy Newman earned his reputation with darkly ironic songs like "Rednecks" and "Sail Away" long before becoming the beloved tunesmith who put "You've Got a Friend in Me" on the lips of every tot and tot-at-heart who's seen Toy Story in the past decade. Along the way, Newman was denounced by Ann Landers, who didn't understand that his 1977 hit single "Short People" was an obvious attack on bigotry, not a heightist manifesto. A few years after that, he came up with "I Love L.A.," another blatant example of making one's point by saying the opposite; eventually, this song became an unofficial civic anthem, despite lyrics like "Look at that bum over there, man/He's down on his knees."

Newman has always had a knack for writing exquisite, haunting melodies. This has tended to make some people misunderstand or even ignore his lyrics entirely. For those who have paid attention, when Newman switched to writing children's songs for Disney movies, it was hard to believe he wasn't hiding some ironic commentary in there somewhere. Nope, it turns out that Newman can leave out the bitter filling and just be downright sweet.

Newman performs at 8 p.m. tonight at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Boulevard; tickets are $40 and $45, with patron tickets including parking and a post-concert party at $125; 314-533-9900. His brand new album, The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1, the first of three planned solo recordings revisiting all of his material, gives us an idea of what to expect from this rare visit to St. Louis. This is one of America's greatest songwriters, and there's no hidden meaning in that. -- Steve Pick

Germany Invades
Artistically, that is

Germany is often the butt of jokes, either for its checkered political past or for its citizens' notorious dourness. In the world of art, these apparent deficits become strengths, however, especially in the tumultuous second half of the twentieth century. In the space of a generation, Germany's identity transformed from that of aggressive fascism to penitent reconstruction to prosperous democracy, emerging into the current millennia as a newly reunified nation. Throughout all of this, Germany's artists were creating works that commented on and prodded the national psyche, exploring the country's past and present with a serious eye cast toward the future. The German Art Now exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum (1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, 314-721-0072) gathers some of the most potent and provocative works of this era, including Markus Lüpertz's Titan. The exhibit opens on Saturday, October 18, and runs through January 11, 2004. Tickets are $6-$10, but admission is free on Fridays. -- Paul Friswold

Big Arted
Artists helping artists

SAT 10/18

Art. What is it good for? Sure, it enriches our lives, makes us think and gives artists something to do. But do we really need it? Who benefits from its existence?

Here's one answer: Today, an arts collective known as Beneficial Art makes camp at the Art Coop, two blocks west of the City Museum (1620 Delmar Boulevard) from noon to midnight for an ambitious all-day fund-raiser to benefit What's Up magazine, the Community Arts and Media Project and the Southside Community Open Studio and Gallery. The event features a juried exhibit, live music, a poetry open-mic, food, libations and a bevy of interactive activities. It should please you to virtually no end to know that the $5 suggested donation goes entirely to the aforementioned organizations. For more information, call 314-398-5532. -- John Goddard

God, That Rocks!

SAT 10/18

Sexxx, drugs, and rock & roll! In the histrionic history of '80s hair metal these things are as much a staple as hott guitar lixx, hotter chixx and "artistic" spellings. Proving that Jesus also loves spandex and Aqua Net by replacing "The Looks That Kill" with "A Love That's Real" and getting high on God, the strange subgenre of Christian hair metal was born. Resuming the missionary position after twelve years gone, the most successful band of this weird amalgam, Stryper, is bringing the revival to our own den of iniquity, Pop's (1403 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois; 618-274-6720), at 8 p.m. and for $20 you can party, too, though it's strictly BYOB (Bring Yer Own Bible). -- Erik Carlson

Dinner on the Run

THUR 10/16

Get your stomach in shape for Thanksgiving stuffing -- both the food and the act of shoving food in your mouth -- tonight at the annual Soulard Progressive Dinner, happening from 5 to 10 p.m. in the St. Louis neighborhood that gives gluttony a good name.

For $25 a person, six courses can be savored among 21 area restaurants and bars, including Joanie's Pizzeria, Hammerstone's, Lagniappe's, John D. McGurk's and loads more possessively named establishments. You can wolf down courses in any order you please, and free trolleys cart your fat ass from one stop to the next. To pass the time during digestion, stop by The Framery at 11th and Russell and cast your vote in the Mardi Gras Poster Contest. -- Rose Martelli

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