Pop Quiz: Kiefer Sutherland



Kiefer Sutherland, best known for his role as Jack Bauer on “24,” knows you’re weary of actors who pursue a side career in rock ’n’ roll. “I would question it too,” he says, calling from his Los Angeles home. “But I really like my songs and enjoy playing them for people.” Fair enough. Sutherland and his band, who have an album coming out in March, will do just that at the Great American Music Hall. They’re not terrible, either, trading in gritty, narrative rock that draws inspiration from such sources as Tom Petty and Johnny Cash. The “Lost Boys” star, 49, tells us what drew us back to his first love.

Q: How can you even tolerate musician catering after experiencing movie-star catering?

A: Well, we’re in no place where we get catering. We have to fend for ourselves. I’m not lucky enough to tell you what it’s like.

Q: You’re definitely slumming it. What do you get out of playing music at this point in your career?

A: It’s a very different form of expression for me. I can pull from my experience in theater and film, but at some point that drops away and the music is what it is.

Q: Most people are probably coming to your shows to see Jack Bauer. How do you get them interested in the music?

A: To be honest, I’m sure a lot of people are coming to see a wreck. But I like my songs. I don’t care why you come. I’m going to do what I can to help us all have a good night. So far we’ve been playing very small venues, and they’ve hung in there with us. Some nights are harder than others.


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Coldplay is Ready to Take the Field


Wearing jackets that looked as if they’d been dipped in tie-dye and shoes that sparkled with pink glitter, the members of Coldplay shuffled into a conference room at the Moscone Center on Thursday, Feb. 4, to give the sports media a preview of the band’s much-heralded Super Bowl 50 halftime show at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications, took the stage under an enormous Pepsi logo for introductions, promising “a day filled with pageantry and entertainment,” which will include a tailgate party with Seal, Lady Gaga singing the national anthem and Janelle Monáe opening the halftime show for the British band.

Coldplay was greeted with subdued applause from the press corps, many of whom may not have been familiar with the songs — “Viva La Vida,” “Clocks,” “Yellow,” “Adventure of a Lifetime” — that were piped into the room for nearly an hour before the band members reluctantly took the stage.

Most of the questions came from television reporters looking for quick soundbites, including one who thanked front man Chris Martin for helping her get over a breakup and another who asked Martin if his children would watch the band’s Super Bowl performance.

“I hope they’ll watch,” Martin said. “What else is on that day?”

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Further Reading

Coldplay becomes third wheel at its own halftime show

Sia, ‘This Is Acting’


Aidin Vaziri | Sia Furler may have helped write songs for superstars like Beyonce (“Pretty Hurts”), Rihanna (“Diamonds”) and Eminem (“Beautiful Pain”), but even she has delivered a few clunkers. On her seventh studio album, “This Is Acting,” the 40-year-old Australian singer-songwriter, who typically appears in public cloaked behind an oversize wig, proudly reclaims the songs that her famous clients rejected. Her voice, a helium-imbued rasp, is as distinctive as anyone’s, and she uses it to great effect to make the case for the soaring ballad “Bird Set Free” (originally intended for Adele) and the gently swaggering “Reaper” (turned down by Rihanna), but even Sia’s intrepid attitude can’t save a disjointed disco dud like “Sweet Design.”

Eliot Sumner, ‘Information’


Aidin Vaziri | If the name doesn’t exactly sound familiar, there’s no mistaking that furrowed brow — Eliot Sumner is the youngest daughter of Sting (né Gordon Sumner) and his second wife, Trudie Styler. On her solo debut, “Information,” the 25-year-old singer-songwriter is quick to establish her own identity while staying true to her family’s unrestrained creative spirit. She assertively lays her husky, androgynous voice over the insistent synthesizer rhythms of songs like “Firewood,” “After Dark” and the soaring “I Followed You Home,” all of which have an elegant, instant appeal. There are shades of her father’s work too, especially on the tracks “Species” and “Dead Arms and Dead Legs,” which sounds like an outtake from “Regatta de Blanc.” And why not? When everyone else with Fender Precision bass is trying so hard to capture that magic, it helps to have a direct line.

Pop Quiz: Willam Shatner


Aidin Vaziri | Willam Shatner is boldly going where he doesn’t really need to go. The 84-year-old star of television shows such as “Star Trek,” “T.J. Hooker” and “Boston Legal” is driving across the country, touring his one-man show, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It.” It’s just one of the projects the actor best known as Captain Kirk has on his plate as he enters the year “Star Trek” celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Q: You don’t have to do this tour. What made you want to drive across the country for a one-man show?

A: I believe it is called senility. The thing is, the show is saying yes to life. It’s an affirmative view of life, to taste all the good and bad. It’s this precious moment we’re on Earth. It’s about lowland gorillas and motorcycles and comedy and music. It’s about a vast variety of subjects, some of which apply to our lives.

Q: So basically we get everything you have learned throughout your life in roughly two hours.

A: I can sum it up in 10 seconds: I know nothing.

Q: You also have a book about your “Star Trek” co-star Leonard Nimoy coming out. What did you learn about yourself by writing it?

A: That’s a good question. I’ve been pondering it for quite a while. I think what I come up with is how little I knew about Leonard before I started doing research on him. He was remarkably talented in so many areas — his photography and poetry and performances. I wish I knew all that about him while he was alive.

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Vân-Ánh Võ on boat people’s ‘Odyssey’


Aidin Vaziri | Vân-Ánh Võ, the Emmy Award-winning composer who performs under the name Vanessa Vo, was at rehearsals last week in a warehouse in Richmond, trying to remember the cues for her epic new stage production, “The Odyssey From Vietnam to America.” It wasn’t easy. As the lead composer, musician and focal point of the show, it felt like she had to be everywhere at once and, well, sometimes that just didn’t work out.

“It’s funny because yesterday I ran to a spot I wasn’t supposed to be and my instrument wasn’t there,” said Vo, whose main instrument is the dàn tranh, a traditional Vietnamese 16-string zither, but who also plays the dàn bau monochord, the dàn tam thap luc 36-string hammered dulcimer and several other pieces.

Four years in the making, “Odyssey,” which premieres at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 22-23, brings to stage the struggle of Vietnam’s boat people, the refugees who fled the country on small boats at the end of the war, making hazardous crossings across the ocean in the hopes of finding sanctuary on foreign shores.

“I want to portray the human spirit — the resilience we can have to pass the most difficult time in life,” she said.

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David Bowie: Ultimate Hero


Aidin Vaziri | “Look up here. I’m in heaven.”

David Bowie bid his fans farewell as only he could, with the opening lines of his new single, “Lazarus,” released three days before the brazen British singer-songwriter succumbed to an 18-month battle with cancer Sunday.

With Mr. Bowie’s passing, at age 69, the world lost one of its most important pop culture figures of the past century.

Until his last breath, the Thin White Duke remained beautifully elusive.

Even as news of his death was posted to Mr. Bowie’s official social media accounts Sunday evening, after the release of his stellar return-to-form new album, “Blackstar,” fans were quick to contend it was all a hoax — or at least hoped it was just a bad joke at the expense of an artist who remained so vital and full of life throughout his five-decade career.

Mr. Bowie’s death was ultimately confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, and reconfirmed by his son, Duncan Jones.

“Very sorry and sad to say it’s true,” the star’s son, a film director, said on Twitter@ManMadeMoon.

For a generation, Mr. Bowie was a constant if ever-changing figure whose influence on the world at large, much like the Beatles, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones, was monumental.

Mr. Bowie released “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a New York jazz combo, on Friday — his birthday. His return was to be heralded by a tribute concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Keeping illness secret

But even with all the hoopla surrounding the new release, Mr. Bowie managed to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret from his fans, friends and music industry insiders.

“David’s death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him,” producer Brian Eno said in a statement.

But the way in which he prepared for it was no less than pure Bowie genius. In the video for “Lazarus,” named after the biblical character who rises from the dead, Mr. Bowie appears bandaged in a hospital bed singing the lyrics that foreshadowed his death.

“His death was no different from his life — a work of art. He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift,” Tony Visconti, Mr. Bowie’s producer and close friend for almost five decades, said in a tribute on Facebook. “I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.”

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