X-treme: The b-boyz are back in town

"Hey you, the Rock Steady Crew; show us what you do, make a break make a move. Hey you, the Rock Steady Crew; B-boyz break to electric boogaloo..."

Pop: Techno crew's good vibrations

"I think you guys are better for a sex group than America," praises Ross Harris, from California's horny-techno frolickers Sukia, on the blower. "All those adverts in the telephone boxes! When I was over there and had to call my wife at home, the walls of the box were plastered with naked women busting their backsides at me," he adds, amazed. Sukia are on their way back to Britain, to tour with veteran moodsters Stereolab. The Anglo-French Stereolab are reserved and resolutely indie, while Sukia - named after a comic book lesbian vampire - jump up and down in silly cartoon character masks and indulge in slutty club-culture grooves, so the contrast should prove bizarre. Sukia have found, however, their sense of humour is perhaps, not to everyone's taste.

The boy done good

America had Jimmy Dean, we had Phil Daniels, the angry young man in 'Quadrophenia'. But the archetypal Cockney wideboy has kept surprisingly busy between 1979 and his bit part in Blur's 'Parklife' video. Now he's returning to hard-boiled drama in BBC2's 'Holding On'

David Byrne Shepherd's Bush Empire, London; LIVE REVIEW

David Byrne is giving us his pyscho stare. He's dressed in a furry pink suit, and his skin is slick with sweat. It looks as if he's had doll's eyes implanted, or glass eyes. He looks half-blind; he looks like an alien. They're probably just contact lenses. You could think they were a cheesy trick. But, like the several costume changes tonight, which amount to a slow strip from fur to shirt to an encore in which he looks mournfully out from a costume of a body flayed of skin, the lenses suggest David Byrne, the cool collector of world music, is no longer in the building. New Age hippy Byrne has been banished, too. He's been replaced by someone resembling the punk Byrne who led Talking Heads when they were the most modern band in America. Almost everyone in the venue is old enough to remember that vanished time, to want a little of it back. As Byrne has just released his best solo album, Feelings, expectations are high. But it's not clear, at first, if Byrne knows in which direction to meet them.

BLUE-EYED BOYS

In a bumper week for the blues, the possible highlight is a chance to compare and contrast Eric Bibb, star of the current vogue for acoustic blues, with Taj Mahal, old master and one of the younger man's inspirations when the two play together at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on 17 July. Though Mahal's latest, "Senor Blues" is winning ecstatic praise after a lean period, life just seems to get better for Bibb. On the strength of two records largely composed of country blues and gospel released by an obscure Swedish label, he is the toast of just about everybody. Bibb, who returns to the UK for the Cambridge Folk Festival on 25 July, is not the only young performer ploughing the acoustic blues furrow these days. But what distinguishes him is his ability to appeal to folks who would normally run a mile from the blues. Which is pretty much the case with Robert Cray (above), who starts a short UK tour in Glasgow tomorrow (Manchester on Monday, Shepherd's Bush Empire on Tuesday). Purists berate him for sounding too soft, but there is little doubt that he almost single-handedly rejuvenated the blues market in the early 1980s. The latest Cray offering, "Sweet Potato Pie" offers no real surprises, but, like most of its predecessors, it is a hugely-accomplished set that should do wonders for anybody still mourning the end of Stax. While Cray's audiences will no doubt find themselves nostalgic for a particular era, those listening to Bibb are liable to find themselves bounced about from time to time and style to style. Be prepared for anything from a man who has managed to make two of the most authentic-sounding downhome records of recent years - in Sweden with European musicians.

David Essex Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Towards the end of his performance, David Essex surveyed the swaying crowd before him and sang "Girl, you'll be a woman soon". This was an act of kindness. His audience consisted mainly of mature women and there was barely a girl among them, in the strict sense of the word. Nevertheless, the moisture count must have risen sharply when he added, "And soon, you'll need a man". David Essex only had to cast a twinkly smile upon his fans and they swooned and gasped. When he sang as well, it was almost more than they could take.

POP D'Influence / Youngbloods Convention Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Every year there's one dance record that breaks out of its accompanying underground and becomes the nation's summer soundtrack. Soul II Soul, Jamiroquai and Goldie have done it in the past and D'Influence, hot from supporting Michael Jackson and Prince, are aiming to wrestle the coveted mantle of the nation's groovsters from their illustrious predecessors with their impending album, London.

Come lie with me and be my support

This space doesn't usually cover support acts. But this act won't be a support for long. Her name is Holly Palmer, and her forthcoming single deserves to be the song we remember this summer by. Entitled "Come Lie with Me", it's a beguiling jazz-pop tune with a chorus that slips down like iced coffee.

Review: Ben Harper Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Judging by his righteous performance tonight, Ben Harper must be on ethical steroids. If you could be breathalysed for moral stimulants, the 26-year-old blues/gospel singer would no doubt face charges of being in possession of a slide guitar without due self-pity. Don't let that put you off, though. Thankfully, he's no Henry Rollins, who'd nick his own dinner money just to induce a rush of injured self-disgust, nor is he Sinead O'Connor's damaged angel, taking to the stage for a spot of public exorcism.

Rock concerts that drive a lad insane

arts notebook

Review: Tricky; Hackney Empire / Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Tricky's mind can't freeze long enough to be recorded. Since Maxinquaye's trip-hop trigger, he's been too edgy, too impatient, to stay in the studio honing the noises in his head. So we have to make do with creepy, insidious affairs like last year's Pre-Millennium Tension. Meanwhile, Tricky has darted from Jamaica to New York to New Orleans, reconnecting to hip-hop and reggae sources, forging ahead, smoking spliff, dropping albums and eps like it's a natural function, like he can't help it. And sometimes he plays gigs, where he only needs to focus for an hour or two. Given free, focused rein, on his two nights in London his talent was undeniable. The first night, in Hackney, had been advertised as an acoustic, seated show, some kind of hellish "unplugged". But Tricky had already changed his mind. The night would be odder than that.

Review: John Martyn; Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

John Martyn's gold-coloured electric guitar looks a little bit too small for him. He's a stout bloke, and in his hands it appears no bigger than a toy - the sort of thing he might have picked up in a department store. His shiny blue jacket seems as if it should be the next size up as well, if only to stop the buttons bursting. The net result of all this is that he doesn't quite look the part of world-class blues genius - more like someone's long-lost uncle just returned from his travels. The transformation only comes about when John Martyn plugs in and kicks off. Surrounded by a bunch of musicians half his age, he produces sounds so pure and simple that grown men and women call out his name with joy.

Rock: Let's hear it for the roadie

Why are Wilco so damned likeable? Most pop music is retrogressive these days, and the American country-rockers more than most. At the Shepherd's Bush Empire they evoked a mighty arsenal of comparisons, the most obvious being early-Seventies Stones. But somehow they are always more than the sum of their parts.

SIMPLY THE BEST?

"If Ike Turner had fallen under a bus sometime in 1959," wrote the critic Charles Shaar Murray, "he would have gone down in cultural history as one of the most important figures in the development of 1950s rhythm and blues." Even before he enjoyed his first hit with 1960's "A Fool In Love", he had made his mark as a guitarist, pianist, band leader, arranger/producer and talent scout.
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