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UP ON THE ROOF

It was 40 years ago today (well, Friday, actually) that The Beatles ceased to play -- at least for an audience.

Friday will mark the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' concert atop the Apple Records headquarters in London, the last time the band performed for an audience. Among the tracks rolled out were Get Back , Don't Let Me Down , One After 909 and Dig a Pony .

Though we can wax poetic about the importance of the event, it was a symbolically sour and anticlimactic event, cynically staged by a band that hadn't performed live since 1966 and was, in fact, imploding.

Still, the event is worthy of commemoration. It's probably too late to get Ed Turner and his Number 9 bandmates atop the Imperial Theatre to crank out a few tunes -- that would have been my choice.

So, instead, I'll choose some quiet reflection and consider the lasting importance of The Beatles, the sadness that surrounds their final performance and what, if anything, Dig a Pony is about.

RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Wycliffe Gordon's Nu-Funk project and Unknown Hinson have been booked for return engagements at Sky City.

These are extraordinarily talented performers, and I know there are fans who might have missed the previous performances. I missed the Gordon show, a mistake I hope to rectify Friday when he brings his new music around again. Unknown Hinson is booked for Feb. 19.

That these acts are returning to town so soon after their initial appearances does worry me a little: It could be the first small step toward mistakes committed over and over again in Augusta.

Here's the scenario: An act plays in town and does well. The fans are happy. The promoter is happy. The act is happy.

In the belief that lightning will strike twice, said act is booked again. The draw is smaller, but respectable.

The process is repeated a third time. People stay away in droves.

It's a question of diminishing returns.

I'm not saying that is the case with these Sky City dates. Coco Rubio is a smart and responsible booker, and I feel certain he understands this phenomenon. That he's bringing these acts back after a relatively short break, however, does offer an excellent opportunity to illustrate this all-too-common phenomenon to both promoters and fans.

IS ANYBODY HOME?

Remember the University of South Carolina Aiken Convocation Center?

The athletic/entertainment facility was supposed to represent a new dawn for touring entertainment in the Augusta area, and in the beginning it looked as though it might fulfill its promise. There was a variety of high-profile acts booked early last year, from rock band Hinder to more family-friendly fare such as the circus and Sesame Street Live.

Then, the shows seemed to dry up.

It's possible, because the center was built to be used for USC Aiken's athletic program first and entertainment second, that the building's primary mission has gotten in the way of shows.

It's also possible that Global Spectrum, the management company at the center, has shifted its focus from Aiken dates. The company recently took over responsibilities at James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium, and it's possible that acts are being tossed closer to the region's population base.

Bookings certainly have increased at the Augusta facilities during the first few months of the Global Spectrum era.

Whatever the reason, the convocation center is not getting the books it probably needs and certainly deserves. The last high-profile show was the Guitar Pull last fall.

Next on the schedule are a wedding expo at the end of February and a concert by the Canadian Brass in March. Hardly blockbuster stuff.

I'll be looking into this. Stay tuned.

SIGNAL RECEIVED

Augusta act Signal 18 should be right up my alley. This is an unapologetic rock band that specializes in simple, straight-forward music served in short bursts. The music is built on the Motorhead/Ramones model. Perfect.

There's something on the band's new release, That's What She Said , that doesn't work for me, though. Part of it stems from the mixed signals the band puts out.

I can't decide whether Signal 18 considers itself a punk act or a bar band with arena rock influences. I hear a little of both, sometimes at the same time.

If queried, the members will probably answer "straight-ahead rock." I hear that a lot, but what they want people to believe and what an audience hears might be different.

There's a density to the Signal 18 sound I also found off-putting. Each track is loaded with instruments playing all the time. The songs have no space to breathe. It feels like getting punched in the mouth by a pop song.

Still, there is stuff to recommend. This seems like a band that survives and thrives on its live show (which I haven't caught yet) but finds it difficult to translate the energy of live performance onto a recording.

The Ramones had the same problem. The songs here are simple but show some strength, an understanding that great rock isn't always about technique.

It's an emotional outpouring.

There's an honesty that illustrates that idea beautifully. Capturing that can be tricky, and this time out the genie stayed in the bottle.

SPOOKY

Finally, a question. Has anyone else been creeped out by the music being piped out of the Miller Theatre? I always feel like there is an undead orchestra performing on the empty stage.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

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story1 01/29/09 - 12:01 pm
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Steven, the "creeped out"

Steven, the "creeped out" music from the Miller Theatre is solely for entertainment. Some of the selections are from the era the theatre was built, Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden, The Mills Brothers and others from the 1940s. Lynyrd Skynyrd selections are included as they appeared on the Miller stage in 1973. Also included are some Elvis, Sinatra and Boston Pops for everyone's enjoyment. Thanks for the mention and if you have requests please contact savethemiller@bellsouth.net and we will spin your favorite tunes.

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