Along with the season’s other promising newcomer, Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Friday Night Lights may be a little too good—and expensive—for network TV, languishing in precisely the 8 p.m. hour NBC is now threatening to turn over to reality series and game shows.
Does It Always Get So Dark This Time of Year? Could It Possibly Be Global Warming? Or Satan?
1. Bob Dylan live at the Forum, L.A.:
Last time I saw Dylan in concert about a year-and-a-half ago at the Pantages, he was in the process of doing one of his stubborn sing-everything-in-the-same-phrasing-like-he’s-davening-in-shul mood, and getting blown offstage by opening act Merle Haggard to boot. On an arena tour to launch the critically acclaimed Modern Times, his third modern-day classic in a row after the Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft, “He’s determined not to suck now,” as my musician friend Willie Aron, sitting in back of me, put it. In a calf-length frock, a glittery wide-collared shirt and a neckerchief, Dylan, once again playing the bandleader on keyboards, sweat droplets falling from his nose, looked like a cross between a preacher and a guy “in a cowboy band/Got a pile of sins to pay for and I ain’t got time to hide,” as he sings in “Nettie Moore,” one of four songs from the new album interspersed in the set. And while Dylan’s voice is practically a croak at this point, the lyrics in the opening “Maggie’s Farm” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” ring as true as ever, though this time they segue seamlessly into the blues-rock of Love & Theft’s post-9/11 “High Water (for Charlie Patton)” and “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” which mirror “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Highway 61 Revisited” later in the set. Dylan’s current band, featuring lead guitarist Denny Freeman and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron on pedal and lap steel, violin and electric mandolin, is arguably the best backing ensemble he’s had since The Band itself, freshening these old warhorses without turning them into aimless jams. And lest anyone doubt that Modern Times is up there with the best of Dylan, he tosses in the apocalyptic, end-of-time “Thunder on the Mountain” as part of an encore triptych that also features a cathartic “Like a Rolling Stone” and a sardonic “All Along the Watchtower.” “The hammer's on the table, the pitchfork's on the shelf/For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself,” he sings before leaving the stage by doffing his Zorro-style toreador hat, a slight grin playing across his now-grizzled visage. How does it feel? The man just cracks me up. —Roy Trakin

2. The Decemberists at the Wiltern Theatre, L.A.: Along with TV on the Radio’s Interscope debut Return to Cookie Mountain, The Decemberists have created the most impressive major-label bow by an indie in The Crane Wife, on Capitol, but the group’s full pedigree was on display at this coming-out party, as fans sang along with songs from their previous three albums on Kill Rock Stars. Leader Colin Meloy is indie-rock’s most engaging tunesmith this side of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, a David Byrne-style nerd with an affection for Irish sea chanteys, delicate Japanese folk tales and the backhand satire of “Los Angeles, I’m Yours,” in which he had the hometown crowd chanting, “Oh how I abhor this place/Its sweet and bitter taste/Has left me wretched, retaining on all fours.” Never has this town’s love of self-loathing been made so apparent. Although he made several pointed comments about certain songs from the new album being cooked up in the basement of the Capitol Tower, Meloy seemed pleasantly resigned to his fate, with "The Perfect Crime #2" bringing the funk, and “You’ll Not Feel the Drowning” and “Summersong” standing out as melodic and literary gems, with sharp lines like “Lips parting like a flag all unfurled/She’s grand the bend of her hand/Digging deep into the sweep of the sand” catching the ear and not letting go. The band’s fans seemed young, knowledgeable and hip, and if you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine the Decemberists playing for a lot more of them in the not-too-distant future. —RT

3. The Killers, Sam’s Town (Island): One listen to “The River Is Wild” and you know why the critics have called this sophomore album the band’s Born to Run, the musical fashion faux pas equivalent of Brandon Flowers’ much-maligned mustache. And you can’t blame ‘em, considering lyrics like “And my brother, he was born on the Fourth of July” (the title track), “We’re burning down the highway skyline” (“When You Were Young”), “the Promised Land” and “the stars are blazing like diamond rebels cut out of the sun” (“Read My Mind”) or “the thunder speaks from the sky” (“Bones”). But this Vegas band is actually aiming more for The Joshua Tree than the Boss, as they stay true to their hometown’s reputation by throwing the dice and gambling all the hard-won stardom of their first album on a very idiosyncratic left-field follow-up. Desert motif? Check. Campy Wild West costumes? Check. Flood and Moulder producing? Check. Anton Corbijn photo session? Check. Guitarist Dave Keuning doing his best The Edge, with guitars alternately winding (“Read My Mind”), grinding and ringing like a bell (in the anti-drug “Uncle Jonny”). You got it. Of course, the trouble is, there’s nothing here anywhere remotely as catchy as “Mr. Brightside” or “Somebody Told Me,” though the sensually yearning “My List” could be the band’s “Let It Be,” with its leering “let me wrap myself around you,” while the Spector-meets-Bowie “Bones” also captures Mormon Flowers’ own deadpan ambivalence about his rock-star sex appeal. Caught between the desire for success and being repulsed by its increasing irrelevance, The Killers are the perfect embodiment of their glitzy Sin City, at once catering to their audience, while not-so-secretly wishing we would leave town and our money behind, like a pimp ushering a john out the door. —RT

4. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant): Now, if you’re looking for a real Springsteen fix—actually he reminds me more of Aquashow troubadour Elliot Murphy to be honest—there are a lot worse places you could go than Craig Finn’s joyous homage. Where Flowers and company aim for a vague sense of dissatisfaction, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Twin Cities singer/songwriter creates an actual universe of people like Sal Paradise and real-life poet and suicide victim John Berryman (“Stuck Between Stations”), a girl who bets on the ponies (“Chips Ahoy”), someone who gets blotto on Cinco de Mayo (“We started recreational/It ended kinda medical” he sings in “Hot Soft Light”), Gideon’s “pipe made from a Pringles can” (the Dolls-like “Same Kooks”), a strung-out Charlemagne and Holly (“First Night”), getting kicked out of the school dance by a chaperone (“Massive Nights”), meeting in front of the Rainbow Foods mart (“Southtown Girls”), a guy who’s “Tennyson in denim and sheepskin/he looked a lot like Izzy Stradlin” (“Chillout Tent”). Finn repeats lyrical motifs throughout the album, stringing the whole together like one of Brian Wilson’s “teenage symphonies to God.” In “Stuck Between Stations,” he has a girl observe about Berryman’s death, “You’re pretty good with words but words won’t save your life,” then has Holly say virtually the same thing in “First Night”: “She said words alone never could save us.” Still, the way Finn writes, you know he doesn’t really believe that, and it’s easy to hear he feels the same way about his brand of classic guitar rock, which may not be the backdrop it once was for the kids he sings about, but you’d never know it from his heartfelt narratives. Finn’s boys and girls in America are still looking to get fucked-up and find a higher meaning—a timeless rock & roll pursuit if ever there was one. —RT

5. Minka Kelly: The TV version of the film Friday Night Lights shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, but this charming newcomer, playing Lyla Garrity, the perky cheerleader girlfriend of the paralyzed star quarterback, gives the show much of its heart and soul. Indefatigably standing by her man every day in the hospital and organizing pancake breakfasts to pay for his expensive rehab, Lyla turns the cliché of the good girl inside out, succumbing to the wiles of her boyfriend’s best buddy Tim Riggins, the damaged, alcoholic loner played by another future star in the marvelously named Taylor Kitsch. She brings home the internal conflict with full force, along with the combination of passion, sorrow and remorse that both drives her to it and results from it. Not only is the Texas backdrop perfectly replicated, but the individual characters create an emotional underpinning absolutely essential for the viewer to get involved in the outcome. Still, along with the season’s other promising newcomer, Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Friday Night may be a little too good—and expensive—for network TV, languishing in precisely the 8 p.m. hour NBC is now threatening to turn over to reality series and game shows. —RT

6. World Series: Emerging from a self-imposed 24 hours of sitting shiva for the Mets, I went against my vow to ignore Tommy Lasorda’s entreaties and joined the ever-diminishing audience for the Grand Old Game’s climax. I’m now watching in disbelief as the hated St. Louis Cardinals do to the Detroit Tigers what they did to the New Yorkers, slowly dismantling them through a combination of clutch hitting, shutdown pitching, dumb fucking luck and the opposition’s meltdown. Despite my feeling for the Tigers, who I always used to root for against the hated Yanks, I find my National League allegiance bubbling to the surface, along with a strange satisfaction knowing that the 83-win regular season Cards are just on one of those magical, inexplicable rides that win championships, and my Amazin’s put up a pretty damn good fight, certainly better than the ragged Tigers have so far. Anyway, it’s a match-up for the traditionalist in me that brings together two of the sport’s most storied franchises, neither of which has won the whole enchilada in more than 20 years, though they put on a classic seven-game battle back in 1968, with the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich winning three to give Detroit the Series. One small suggestion: the winner of the World Series should dictate league home-field advantage for the following year. Let the outcome of the All-Star Game determine whether the entire World Series should have the dreaded designated hitter (if the AL wins), or not (if the NL emerges). Otherwise, it just doesn’t seem fair. —RT

7. Bright Eyes, “Devil Town”: Speaking of Friday Night Lights, this cover of the Daniel Johnston song from Conor Oberst’s latest Saddle Creek album Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) caught my ear with its lyric, “And all my friends were vampires/Didn’t know they were vampires,” attached to a scene of a football team partying before a big game. The effect was pretty eerie and had me Googling to find out what it was, making this just the latest example of TV supplanting radio in breaking new songs. —RT
(Bug Music Director of Creative, Film, TV and New Media Mara Schwartz writes: "That's not Bright Eyes'  version of 'Devil Town' that was in Friday Night Lights. It's actually a version by Bug client and L.A.-based singer-songwriter Tony Lucca. I arranged for him to record this and helped to place it in the show.")

8. Lisa Nova: Move over, lonelygirl15, you’ve got some competition in this fair lass, who has her own videoblog and a number of axes to grind. So far, no one’s stepped up at CAA to take credit for this latest cyber-vixen, who started as a spoof of lonelygirl15-styled diary missives and now deadpans her way through a dis at Diddy’s YouTube campaign, gets turned on to coffee and takes a bus to the tune of Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” In the latest installment, Lisa is a B!%@H!! she takes a dig at her own incipient diva-dom, which you can see here, complete with a ringer for Kevin Spacey as director and a fawning staff of petty backstabbers. The means of production and distribution is now in the hands of whining Jewish American Princesses. So what else is new? Check www.lisanova.info/ to place yourself in her world. —RT

9. Brown Boy, “Superman” (Street Noize/AME): Mexican-American, Inland Empire native Dario Perez graduated from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in criminal justice and had a stint as a math teacher in his hometown middle school before launching a music career by embracing his Latino hip-hop roots in groups like Cypress Hill and Lighter Shade of Brown. This R&B-infused hip-hop hit from his new Livin’ Shady album, reminiscent of LL Cool J’s romantic rap, “I Need Love,” is breaking out all over Rhythm, Crossover and even some major Top 40 stations in the West and Midwest. Brown Boy takes on female abuse in the song, whose message of empowerment is reflected in his philosophy of a drug-free, gang-free, pro-education lifestyle he delivers as a mentor for Latino youth at area high schools as well as through his music. Here’s one hip-hop yarn with a positive, feel-good beat. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: You know you’re getting old when you start complaining about people standing up at rock shows, but it’s really a situation that has to be addressed. During the Dylan show at the Forum, there was one guy with floor seats who insisted on dancing, and was just as insistently told to sit down by the usher. Trouble was, the usher ended up being just as much in the way. I’ve attended two shows at the Wiltern over the last few weeks, one featuring Sufjan Stevens with seats, the other a Decemberists concert without. Now, aside from the fact you can probably squeeze more people in with general admission, why the difference? Neither artist is what you’d call a dance act, so what gives? Hey, I don’t mind standing, but how about some consistency in the policy? That’s not too much to ask, is it? —RT

Friday, Oct. 27th
New Found Glory w/Early November and Cartel @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney) in Anaheim

Shawn Colvin w/Buddy Miller (guitar) and Debra Dobkin (percussion).
with Brandi Carlile @ House of Blues on Sunset

MTV $2Bill Series @ Roseland Ballroom in New York: Jared
Leto and his brother Shannon started 30 Seconds to Mars in 1998, but since then, and with the help of their 2005 release A Beautiful Lie, the outfit has become a stand-alone act in its own right. Also on hand for the entire tour extravaganza are noisemakers Head Automatica and Cobra Starship, while up-and-comers like Rock Kills Kid, Pink Spiders, the Receiving End of Sirens, Envy on the Coast and Men, Women & Children hitch a ride for selected shows.

Nuggets vs. Clippers @ Staples Center: Last exhibition game before the regular season begins. These two teams will meet up again in the Clips home opener next Thursday. If you think this is just a meaningless exhibition game, you’re wrong. Dunleavy has his troops playing to win every game, instilling a winning mentality from the getgo.

Hitchcock for Halloween @ Phoenix Symphony Hall: Hitchcock films, the epitome of cinematic suspense, provide the backdrop for the Phoenix Symphony's Halloween homage to musical terror in a series of three concerts.

Cypress Hill w/Ironic @ House of Blues on Sunset

Daddy Yankee @ Gibson Amphitheatre

Saturday, Oct. 28th
Georgia @ Florida on CBS: The Gators, who moved up to #6 in the BCS standings this week, look for a key SEC East win over the reeling Bulldogs.

Dia De Los Muertos @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Although it once withered under the sprawl of Los Angeles strip malls, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery has come back to life with parties, screenings and this annual cultural feast for the deceased.

The All American Rejects @ The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York

The Cramps with the Demolition Dollrods and the Groovie Ghoulies @ House of Blues on Sunset

Sunday, Oct. 29th
Down Home Blues Festival w/Solomon Burke, Marvin Sease, Clarence Carter and others @ Gibson Amphitheatre

Pretty Shifty @ The Sanford Meisner Center, North Hollywood

Clippers Season Ticket Holders Party: The annual event shifts from Knott’s Berry Farm to Universal Studios this year. The whole park will be shut down for season ticket holders to come and meet the players, coaches and Clippers Spirit Dancers as well as enjoying all the rides and attractions. If you’re part of Clipper Nation, come on down—but remember, this one’s for season ticket holders only.

OK Go @ The Troubadour.

Sean Lennon @ The Living Room in New York

Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith
Jigsaw has disappeared. With his new apprentice Amanda, the puppet-master behind the cruel, intricate games that have terrified a community and baffled police has once again eluded capture and vanished. While city detectives scramble to locate him, Doctor Lynn Denlon is unaware that she is about to become the latest pawn on his vicious chessboard. One night, after finishing a shift at her hospital, Lynn is kidnapped and taken to an abandoned warehouse, where she meets Jigsaw, bedridden and on the verge of death. She is told that she must keep the madman alive for as long as it takes Jeff, another of his victims, to complete a game of his own. Racing against the ticking clock of Jigsaw's own heartbeat, Lynn and Jeff struggle to make it through each of their vicious tests, unaware that he has a much bigger plan for both of them…
Finally, the conclusion to this awesome trilogy. When I saw the billboard to the first one, I didn’t think it would be anything special, but I was wrong. Many people just think it’s a pure terror movie, but it has a lot of really cool twists and turns, as well as a pretty interesting story. Can’t wait to see it at midnight of opening night!

Catch a Fire
: Derek Luke and Tim Robbins
: This film from director Phillip Noyce tells the story of a South African hero's journey to freedom. The political thriller takes place during the country's turbulent and divided times in the early 1980s, and in today’s South Africa of today.
Thoughts: The buzz on this movie is that it is really good. I think Derek Luke is a much underrated actor and of course Tim Robbins is just awesome. I think this movie could be another contender for the Oscar.

Also opening this week:
Shut Up and Sing: The Dixie Chicks documentary, which is supposed to be amazing.
Starring Brad Pitt

The Lupe Fiasco CD is a must-have if you’re a hip-hop fan—it’s a nearly flawless debut for the Chicago-based rapper. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I popped the disc in the car, I found myself hypnotized.

John Legend’s sophomore album, Once Again, is absolutely brilliant. It’s definitely more adult than the big-selling 2005 debut, as Legend solidifies himself as one of the best R&B singers around. A must-have for R&B fans, young or old.

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

The Last King of Scotland: All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable, and although there are still plenty of good movies to come out, I hope Forrest wins for this role. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.
The Prestige: I was a fan of the Illusionist until I saw this one. The twists in this movie r so much better executed and the actor is amazing. I mean you can’t go wrong with a cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett and Michael Cain.

Little Children:
This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

The Illusionist: Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.

Pissing outside the tent. (2/14a)
The siblings strike again. (2/14a)
We, too, are thinking of going public. (2/14a)
Takin' care of business. (2/14a)
Nice run. (2/14a)
Also, don't leak the memo about not talking to the press to the press. Please.
How the sausage is made.
Changes changes the conversation.
So hard to decide...

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