Newcomers and old favorites start the fall

Timed by concert promoters to coincide with the mass return of residents to urban centers after their summer breaks, this week’s sudden rush of concert activity in Athens and Thessaloniki will bring a mixture of veteran and contemporary acts to audiences back on home turf but not quite ready to let go of summer’s swing. The entertainment will be provided by the enduring pop-reggae band UB40, hard-rock legends Deep Purple, the stylish French newcomer, Air, as well as the renowned Argentinean artist Mercedes Sosa, who are all scheduled to perform shows in Greece this week. Booked to play two concerts, tonight at the Gis Theater in Thessaloniki and tomorrow at the capital’s Lycabettus Theater, UB40’s visit here comes just days ahead of the group’s 21st Birthday Show in hometown Birmingham on September 13. Besides marking the band’s long career, the anniversary show’s funds will be donated by the band to a Uni-ted Nations program for AIDS awareness. The issue was also the catalyst behind a forthcoming album to be released within the next few weeks. Further current activity surrounding the band, which was largely responsible for popularizing the sounds of reggae over the past two decades, includes an imminent release of The UB40 Story of Reggae in DVD format. Visiting now as a band long past its heyday, UB40 was originally touted to perform a fund-raiser here well over a decade ago – when the act was a chart-topper – for victims of a major earthquake that struck the city of Kalamata in southern Greece. But, reflecting upon the local concert circuit’s undeveloped, amateurish state at the time, the British band announced, according to reports at the time, that it had known nothing about the show until after it was canceled. UB40 did, however, manage to play here several years later in an unrelated event. As surprising as it may seem, rock’n’roll dinosaurs Deep Purple have managed to defy extinction after being in the business for over three decades. Still touring, the act, which has played here in the past, will stop over in Greece for two shows, tonight at the Lycabettus Theater and tomorrow at Thessaloniki’s Gis Theater. Die-hard fans, or even younger newcomers curious to experience the legend, will be pleased to know that Deep Purple’s current line-up – which has been subject to much rotation over the years – closely resembles the classic quintet of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice. Missing from that line-up is guitar-hero Blackmore, with another accomplished player, Steve Morse, in his place, and keyboardist Lord, who is currently recuperating from knee surgery. He is being temporarily replaced by Don Airey. Judging by the present tour’s reports, based on shows around Europe, the aging act still seems to be making an impact. Not long after playing in Sweden, for example, one of Deep Purple’s classic releases, 1972’s live album Made In Japan, reentered the country’s charts. As for fresh material, the band is reportedly at the early stages of putting together a new album. In a comment published on a Canadian music website, the band’s bassist, Glover, noted that here was great enthusiasm in the band for making a really, really great album, a spectacularly different album that will be bold. There is no question regarding the freshness of the material being produced by relative newcomer Air. This act has been booked for two shows, first, this Friday at Thessaloniki’s Lazariston Monastery and at the Lycabettus Theater on Saturday. The French pair of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benot Dunckel gained quick access to the dance community with 1998’s acclaimed album Moon Safari, a relaxing soundscape of lounge electronica. Both band members grew up in Versailles, but did not meet until they began studying at the same college. Dunckel and Godin cemented as a duo three years before the release of their debut album. Before that, however, the act released several singles and remixed material for Depeche Mode and Neneh Cherry. At its onset, the band decided to forego live appearances and focus on studio activity, but that changed after the release of pair’s debut album. An extensive tour of both Europe and the US was mounted after Moon Safari was released. Reflecting the band’s ability to render atmospheric music, Air was commissioned to pen the score for Sofia Coppola’s film, The Virgin Suicides, released early last year. The group’s third full-length outing,10,000 Hz Legend, appeared last spring. After postponing her tour here last year, Mercedes Sosa, one of Argentina’s most renowned performers – both for her artistic ability and political activism – has been rebooked for a show at the Lycabettus Theater this Friday. The veteran artist, a national figure in her homeland, spearheaded what was known as the nueva canci-n movement, which heralded the emergence of protest music across Argentina and Chile during the 1960s. It was crushed in 1973 by the coup in Chile that ousted the country’s democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende. Two years later, Sosa was arrested during a live performance along with members of the audience. A series of death threats in 1979 prompted the artist to relocate abroad for three years. Her return home was marked by a triumphant concert. The internationally renowned artist, who has collaborated with local contemporary Maria Farandouri in the past, recently hooked up with a far younger local act – the popular Athens-based Latin American band, Apurimac – for a guest appearance on its latest album. Sosa’s participation on the project was sealed following the efforts of the group’s leader, Argentinean expatriate Daniel Armando.

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