Gang of Four | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Entertainment!, Gang of Four's 1979 debut, took the classic elements of rock 'n' roll--bass, drums, guitar, vocals, and songs about desire--broke them into jagged pieces, and reassembled them into something that rocked fiercely even while challenging the genre's conventions. Bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham played stiff funk grooves at punk velocity; guitarist Andy Gill hacked against their momentum in the verses and dropped dissonant, out-of-tempo chords where the solos were supposed to go; and lead singer Jon King wailed above a babel of conflicting slogans chanted by the rest of the band. On songs like "Damaged Goods" and "Contract," they took an unflinching look at how larger market forces shape our longings, perverting them so badly that romantic desire and economic desire feel like the same thing. Both Entertainment! (about to be reissued by Rhino with eight extra tracks) and its 1981 follow-up, Solid Gold, were great records, but they couldn't capture the mad exhilaration the band pulled off onstage, where Gill's punch-drunk persona balanced King's hysterical, kinetic flailings; the first time I saw them, in Ann Arbor in 1982, remains one of my favorite concert experiences. Allen had already left by then to form Shriekback, and Burnham would leave a year later; after releasing an awful disco crossover LP, Hard (1983), Gill and King called it a day. The two reunited in the 90s to make a pair of albums that added no luster to their legacy, but this tour promises to be an improvement. In January they got onstage with Allen and Burnham for the first time since 1981, blew through a set of songs from the first two albums, and, according to the New York Times, "reclaimed their meticulous ferocity." The band hasn't written new material, but a double CD of remixes and rerecorded vintage tracks is slated for release in August. Radio 4 opens. See also Thursday. Wed 5/11, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $23.50. All ages.

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