You (and your fellow audience members) have died and gone to the underworld. You're in a waiting room, waiting to be processed. To entertain you, the gatekeeper drags various unsuspecting souls onto the stage to “perform songs defending their character and existence.”
And you thought American Idol was hell.
But that's the concept behind the 90-minute rock oratorio Cabaret of Souls, the latest project from British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson. The 61-year-old guitar virtuoso wrote the work as a commission for the International Society of Bassists, and tonight in Los Angeles it gets only its third staging.
The music for the whimsical evening — some 30 songs — ranges from folk to jazz to showtunes Thompson's troupe for the project includes humorist Harry Shearer (as the gatekeeper) and his wife, singer-songwriter Judith Owen, a longtime Thompson collaborator, along with percussionist Debra Dobkin, bassist David Piltch, singer-flautist Pete Zorn and the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra.
Cabaret of Souls is staged tonight at UCLA's Royce Hall.
More highlights: Wild Flag — the supergroup featuring Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole and Janet Weiss — plays at Spaceland tonight and at Aladdin's Jr. II in Pomona on Sunday. … The “Pretty in Punk” benefit show goes off tonight at the Roxy featuring the Bangles, the Dollyrots and more. … And Daedelus and the Gaslamp Killer bring their “Magical Properties Tour” to the House of Blues on Saturday.
Also tonight: Avi Buffalo at the Echoplex; Shadow Shadow Shade at the Echo; Yukon Blonde and Eulogies at the Mint; Tift Merritt at the Troubadour; Jon Brion at Largo; Tunng and the Good Listeners at the Bootleg Theater; Hey Monday and the Cartel at the El Rey Theatre; Black Label Society and Children of Bodom at the Palladium; Strung Out at the House of Blues; American Hi-Fi and Dynamite Walls at the Viper Room; Vicente Fernandez at Gibson Amphitheatre; the Crystal Method (DJ set) at Avalon; Angel Taylor and Chris Pierce at the Hotel Cafe; Dick Dale at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown; Cosmonauts and Devon Williams at the Smell; People Under the Stairs at the Glass House; Curt Smith at McCabe's; Goldenboy at Casey's downtown; and RX Bandits at Saint Rocke.
Also Saturday: White Sea, Hello Dragon, Wait. Think. Fast. and Wet & Reckless at Spaceland; Bob Mould and Nico Stai at the Bootleg Theater; Daedelus, the Gaslamp Killer, Free the Robots Samiyam and Teebs at the House of Blues; J. Cole at the Key Club; Clinic and the Fresh & Onlys at the Troubadour; Moving Units at Lesands at the Glass House; Lukas Nelson at the Viper Room; the Harvest Beer Festival at the Echoplex with Vaud and the Villains, Shannon and the Clams and more; Aziz Ansari at the Orpheum; Demetri Martin at the Wiltern; David Guetta at the Palladium; Lelia Broussard at the Hotel Cafe; the Smiles, Hi Ho Silver Oh and more at KXSC's Mini Festival at USC Fisher Art Gallery; the Crazy Squeeze at the Redwood Bar; Nite Jewel at the Central in Santa Monica; Tommy Santee Klaws at HM 157; Pizza! and Voice on Tape at the Smell; and Judith Owen at McCabe's.
Also Sunday: Eisley at the El Rey Theatre; the Satin Peaches and Stab City at Spaceland; Bouncing Souls at the Troubadour; John Wesley Harding at McCabe's; Dar Williams at the Hotel Cafe; Richard Ramirez Beatdown at the Redwood Bar; Zs at the Smell; Belanova at the House of Blues; and Rabbits Running at the Viper Room.