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Aural Report

Daniel Ash at the Aladdin
Guitar is still king
by Kurt Dahlke

aniel Ash is a man who knows the value of the electric-guitar-as-bludgeon, and dammit, I'll be danged if it doesn't work.

Expecting little from someone I loved back when, on April 20 we get the insides of our skulls scraped out by a full-on British rock show, performed at the Aladdin for a bunch of sexy, young Portland things in fishnet stockings, white face-paint and black lipstick. And the girls are cute, too!

The modern approach: Dahlia's Jennifer Volker and Keith Schreiner.

But first, Portland's own disco-dance royalty, Dahlia, warms the crowd with a set of full-on, puddle-town electronica. The duo takes the modern approach.

Black-box master Keith Schreiner bobs back and forth between a cascade of electronic keyboards, sequencers and sundry, laying out counterintuitive grooves which work like a tightly held leash rhythmically jerking at our necks.

Meanwhile emotive, fiery Jennifer Volker stamps an earnest Portland-emo vibe on the top; part Tanya Donnelly, part Aretha Franklin, swinging from smooth, knockin' boots grooves to electrifying crescendos.

Complementing its neo-live-band electronica, Dahlia keeps you interested on the floor with unusual sounds and scrupulous avoidance of the usual DJ tropes, beats and breaks. It gets frighteningly serious when Schreiner steps out from his lab, breaks out the didgeridoo and Dahlia still grooves. It's not just dance wallpaper, for sure; Dahlia has good live songs that happen to also be downright funky.

My buddy and I toss beers on top of margaritas waiting for Ash to hit the stage. We're getting long-in-the-tooth after following Ash's career for more than 15 years. We marvel at his 20-plus years in rock, and we're thinking (or slurring): What's this? Out-of-date-geezer chasing the club kids?

The self-titled 2002 release: Disturbing and not too easy to figure out.

Not too many club kids here, however, but we best recognize: Ash is fired up with some young head-bangers backing him, laying down hard-core rock 'n' roll that says "guitar is king!"

As Ash and the bassist's mirror-covered instruments shoot rays from the spotlight back through people's retinas, an out-of-control train shakes the street. That's Mike Peeples, the drummer.

Even though the show weighs heavily on Ash's past (rather than his disturbing new album, which I'm still trying to figure out), the show rocks like a pile driver – bringing heaviness to fey, psychedelic Love And Rockets anthems as well as pseudo-funk Tones On Tail workouts.

We can't underestimate the importance of the young and hungry rockers (a car accident has put Ash's regular bassist, Patina Creme, in the hospital) backing Ash on bass and drums. They imprint on Ash's older tunes a raw intensity which finesse-players David J and Kevin Haskins never matched.

A kick in the Ash: the elder Goth-statesman still rocks out. [Chris Jenson photo]

It's kind of weird watching the elder Goth-statesmen rocking out with these temporary young sidemen; bassist John De Salvo's flailing, dreadlocked presence is particularly incongruous.

Still, Ash as a guitar-drunk latter-day George Michael cruising through his large catalog for only the best songs, is quite appealing. The shogun-style wide-bell-bottom-and-boots look matches well with his perennially sleazy presence.

"Don't touch it, it's concentrated evil!"

If the hammering rhythms, psychedelic lights and ripsaw guitar aren't enough, check this out: First, that rock 'n' roll mother sends the microphone out into the crowd so people can sing along to the Tones On Tail hit, "Go!" Then he invites 30 or so up on stage to dance and sing with him, still holding it together in the ensuing maelstrom.

That's the real rock, and I hope he gets another 20-plus years to do it.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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