Offerings from Pittsburgh's cultural arts and entertainment events:
George Carlin once used sly, subversive humor to remind us to question authority. Now he mostly dispenses with the jokes and just tells us outright that we shouldn't believe what we're told.
The faithful who gathered to hear Carlin on Saturday at Heinz Hall saw a set that whipsawed between caustic and confrontational. Laughs? Well, sort of.
Carlin, who recently turned 70, refuses to mellow. He channelled the spirit of Lenny Bruce with a trio of raunchy jokes that he described beforehand as disrespectful, vile and nauseating, respectively.
He wasn't kidding. But he scoffed at what he saw as the hyopcritical chorus of groans. Don't pretend to be outraged, he told the audience. You know you'll end up repeating those jokes to someone else.
Carlin's meaness can be refreshing. He spoke to the grouch in all of use when he ridiculed sanctimonious slogans like "Children Are Our Future" or attacked the concept of ethnic pride. Of the latter, he wondered why people were proud of something they had no control over. Some of the old Carlin shone through in a routine about organized religion and its obsession with hats.
But he couldn't help offering some empty slogans of his own, including the tired old radical cant that the police lie all the time in order to make the case for the state. Right. The audience whooped and applauded unquestioningly. Most of the attacks on the government, media and big business where delivered with a bludgeon instead of the old, fanged Carlin wit.
-- William Loeffler
George Jones -- the 75-year-old country music legend also known as "The Possum" -- isn't about to hang up his hat anytime soon.
At his show at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse on Friday night, Jones -- backed by a band of several men in bright camp shirts and a sequin- clad female vocalist -- entertained a mostly middle-aged audience, but the crowd clearly included some second- and third-generation fans. Jones' voice may have faded somewhat, but he still performed beautifully for a full hour and a half. As the lyrics to his final song of the evening say, "I don't need your rocking chair."
In his plain-spoken style, Jones lamented about the good 'ole days of country music.
"They stole the real country," Jones said, referring to the modern Nashville recording industry. "They need some other name ... like pop rock."
-- Kellie B. Gormly
Drummer Paul Wertico and guitarist John Moulder added a steady dose of aggressive virtuosity to a gig at Gullifty's in Squirrel Hill Friday.
With the help of Brian Peters, who played bass and added some odd electric effects at times, the Chicago trio offered a strongly rock- influenced brand of jazz. But they never got away from the improvisation that is the essence of the genre.
The gig, for example, opened with "African Sunset," a piece shaped by a forceful bass pattern from Peters. But it was introduced by a 10-minute improvised exploration of sound and rhythm from all three and ended by drifting into another song, "Little Creatures." All told, the first presentation lasted more than 20 minutes.
The performance of Moulder and Wertico was nothing short of overwhelming. Both played with never-ceasing energy and creativity, examining a wide variety of sounds and styles.
It was a night with …