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Bring on the soft-core!

The beat

Tampa's Beauvilles (Sept. 6, the Social) want very badly to be rock & roll. How do I know? Well, besides all the posturing and attitude, singer-guitarist Shawn Kyle Beauville goes out of his way to tell you. If that sounds a little canned to you, then your compass is working. Onstage, they're highly self- conscious about coming off as reckless young men. Thing is, it's all pretty PG-13. They can talk about liquor and drugs all they want, but their music and mien are gonna have to get a whole lot more dangerous to even come close to backing it up. The thing about style is that you can never pull it off if it looks like you're making an effort. And these cats are trying awfully hard.

It's too bad, really, since their Brit-leaning, glam-licked rock is competent. That's why they either need to get dirtier — waaay dirtier — or lay off the unconvincing rock star affectations altogether and just play their already decent rock & roll.

There seems to be an idea behind local headliners the Dealers. They blend '60s melodies with burning roots rock to produce a show of sweat and swagger, only not everyone in the band is feeling it yet, and their aesthetic won't crystallize until they all get on the same page. They still need to peel the blander petals off their blossom, but there's some promise there.

Though they were icons from inception, Pet Shop Boys were never your typical Tiger Beat pop pinups. From the start, they were wise to and weary of the world. And because of this grown-up perspective, ironically, they've been able to remain relevant longer than nearly all their contemporaries. Besides a keen visual sense, their uncanny turns of both phrase and melody have produced pop music that transcends its inherent disposability with substance and style.

Their performances have long been known as an elevated form of modern pop theater, and their most recent local stop (Sept. 11, House of Blues) was no exception. Though there was more interpretive dance than, say, I would put in there, this multimedia cubist dream was still as cultured an experience as you'll get at a pop concert. If Britney is the circus, the Pet Shop Boys are Cirque du Soleil, and in the pop family tree she'll always be a sideshow next to their artful performances. Their profile isn't what it used to be, but they still rep credibility and not some freeze-dried nostalgia act.

Speaking of which, all you kids bask in the glamorous side of the '80s now, but there was another side — struggling unknown bands trying sadly in earnest to catch the New Wave, but unable to because of lack of talent, originality or whatever. Well, that was sad. But how much sadder is it that Vrba Escape is exactly that in 2009? Very.

Not only does this local throwback band not offer any remotely fresh spin on black-clad post-punk sensitivity, they don't even give a solid Xerox of it. Even by 1985 standards, their recent set (Sept. 11, Will's Pub) would be considered bush-league. It was a shaky performance that showed a band barely fit to perform in public for a cover charge. Oh, don't even go all "poor guys" on me. You weren't there. I was.

Hey, do you think the Dropkick Murphys are a buncha scary skinheads? Think Riverdance is just the bee's knees? Then, boy, is Enter the Haggis (Sept. 12, the Social) the band for you. This popular Toronto band takes an adult-contemporary approach to Celtic rock, which robs the grand tradition of all its hard-drinking fun and so raises the question: What's the fucking point?

Luckily, the openers were much better. I totally have a thing for bagpipes, so the Orlando Firefighters Pipes and Drums squad did it for me. Not only do these brave people save our damned lives, but they also rock the pipes pretty well. That's value!

But one small tip, fellas: Having Glow Stick Boy as your majorette ain't helping you out.

California's Smart Brothers were the night's best act. Refracting lively melodies informed by the '50s and '60s through an acoustic folk lens, they breathed youth into the old-timey with the vigor of early Avett Brothers.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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