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Amy Rigby and Warren Zevon played their brand of contemporary music late Friday at the Sideshow. The Blues Kings held court Saturday night in the Lafayette Tap Room. Incredible Venus Flytrap played original rock Saturday at Club KC.

Amy Rigby,
Warren Zevon

Amy Rigby has been cheated on, lied to and seen her marriage vows dissolve. She's had to scrimp and save, denying herself even the most basic material goods. And, as she approaches her 40th birthday this week, her age makes the attractive singer-songwriter feel like the invisible woman.

So Rigby's another one of those angry women with a guitar, right? Hardly. Rigby takes her anger and molds it with humor into the realistic, poignant and provocative songs heard on her critically acclaimed releases "Diary of a Mod Housewife" and the new "Middlescence."

At The Sideshow Friday evening, her clear vocals made it easy for an audience unfamiliar with her material to understand her songs, drawing lots of laughter and cheers as people made connections to their own lives. "When are you going to get a job?" was the last of "20 Questions" she asked a cheating spouse.

Rigby dedicated "Invisible" to all women over 35: "I walked into a bar, what was I thinking? Nobody asked me, 'Honey what are you drinking?' I'm invisible."

She shares her horror stories of "Single-Parent Dating" with its self-deprecating line "He's alive, that's saying a lot," as she dates a guy with a bass drum in his living room. Rigby stopped mid-song to indulge in a lengthy list of drummer jokes, (her ex-husband is a drummer). My favorite had an obvious punchline, but is still amusing: "What's the difference between a drummer and a savings bond? One eventually matures and earns money."

As expected, Warren Zevon unleashed his own satirical humor on the appreciative audience. He opened his solo performance with "Lawyers, Guns and Money," drawing appropriate responses from his fans throughout the song.

He dedicated "Mr. Bad Example" to President Clinton, but said he was "more broken up when Sammy Hagar was kicked out of Van Halen," than about the impeachment.

-- Toni Ruberto

The Incredible Venus Flytrap

Hours into a three-set performance, The Incredible Venus Flytrap had managed to lure a large number of the Club KC patrons onto the stage to dance and sing. "We'll teach you the words," singer-guitar Michael Iten told the few left who wouldn't share the spotlight with the jamming quartet.

It's all about having a good time, Iten said, as his band proved it song after song during the long evening. The laughter and good times were infectious as IVF jammed around a funk, blues and rock base on original numbers including the mid-tempo funk song "Misbehave" and the more soulful "Without You Here" (with strong harmonica by Iten).

Bassist Brian Iten took over vocals on the dense funk of "Something in Between," a song filled with the character of keyboardist Rob Pacillo and more solo harmonica by Michael Iten. Pacillo's work was strong throughout, especially on the group's rendition of Ben Folds Five's "Jackson Cannery."

Vocalist Mary Morgan joined the band on the slow and leisurely "Warm, Windy Summer Night," and was outstanding belting out the blues groove of "Fifth Wheel."

IVF let loose for about 15 minutes on "Last One Home," with Brian Iten's walking bass line and drummer Dan Schieder moving the blues-tinged song that finally erupted into a full-fledged jam.

The performance by the young rock band Plastic Soul was a pleasant surprise, with the band showing great improvement over the past year. Vocalist-guitarist Gerry Love, guitarist Andy Russell, bassist Alan Colicchia and drummer Dan Wiedenbeck were more relaxed, confident and tighter on stage than I've ever seen them. And there's clearly been an emphasis on vocal harmonies, which sounded great.

The group tends to perform a lot of slower indie-rock songs (without all the usual murkiness), but with the fantastic beats of drummer Wiedenbeck, 19, Plastic Soul is strongest on numbers that rock.

-- Toni Ruberto

Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings

Blasting horns, sizzling guitar, and Ernie Peniston's three hundred pounds of joyful vocals cranked the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings' party-machine into overdrive, Saturday at the Lafayette Tap Room.

A roomful of baby-boomers danced and boogied away their scruples to the big-band sound generated by the sextet.

Carrying on the party-band sound originated when the group was known as "Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows," the streamlined outfit brought an unflagging energy to their blues, R&B, soul and ballads.

They play an infectious brand of R&B that has made them favorites among young and old alike from their hometown of Carbondale, Illinois to Chicago's famed south-side juke joints.

From full-tilt boogie to soul ballads, from swinging, horn-driven dance tunes to down-home blues, Peniston's giant voice and the jumping super-tight band gave life to the classic r&b sound without losing any of the music's integrity.

Peniston drew on the great American soul tradition of Ray Charles, Little Milton, Hank Ballard and Junior Parker while saxophonist Terry Ogolini anchored the horn section, adding raw-bone solos on classic songs like "Since I Fell For You."

Sly Stone trumpet veteran Don Tenuto gave the high-end punch to the band's horn-powered sound, while Dave Mick's go-for-the-throat guitar solos were impressive.

Bob Halaj on bass and Willie Hayes, formerly with the late Luther Allison, on drums kept the room in the groove-pocket, guaranteeing a full dance floor.

Highlights of the first set included a tender version of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," a telephone-pole erect "I'll Go Crazy" and Jimmy Reed's classic, "Baby, What You Want Me to Do."

With more than 20 years on the circuit, laying down a deep-fried, backbeat, the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings have been there, done that and continue to lay down their serious party music.

-- Jim Santella

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