Bill Hicks loved music nearly as much as he loved cigarettes, skewering the government and the idea of space travel. We live in a world where John Lennon was murdered, yet Barry Manilow continues to put out fucking albums, said Hicks in one of most famous routines. But goddamnit! If you're gonna kill somebody, have some fucking taste. I'll drive you to Kenny Rogers' house." Bill, like the armed forces he so liked to criticize, occasional fired at some innocent bystanders. Sure, he's had some obvious plastic surgery. Sure, he's something of the Bob Seger of the country-pop world. But he was in the New Christy Minstrels (sang and played stand-up bass), moved on to the hippie-fied First Edition and then effortlessly morphed into his MOR-is-less "Cowboy Kenny" period, which produced more than 60 Top 40 hit singles on the country and pop charts. What's more, he more or less forged the duet power-ballad craze of the 1980s (you can thank him later, James Ingram) with songs like Islands in the Stream with Dolly Parton and We've Got Tonight with Sheena Easton. Is he the hippest fellow in the world? Probably not, and thats likely why people wear thrift-store "The Gambler" T-shirts and croon the shit out of his back catalog down at the local karaoke dive. Still, if only he could still smile, here's betting he'd get a kick out of that.
Thu., Feb. 4, 7 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 5, 8 p.m., 2010