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Hot Ticket: Serene John Hiatt fans, rejoice

Published July 28, 2005

You don't want to mess with John Hiatt fans. They may look sweet and serene and smart (you know, the opposite of Parrotheads), but ask the wrong question about their favorite Hoosier - for instance, "John who?" - and you just might get a sweet, serene beatdown. The singer-songwriter's rabid flock has been very protective throughout its hero's relatively under-the-radar, 30-plus-year career. Fans don't like it one bit that Hiatt, whose folk-rocky songs have been turned into hits by just about everyone else, never achieved Springsteenian heights. (Bonnie Raitt's Thing Called Love - yep, that's Hiatt. Three Dog Night's Sure as I'm Sittin' Here? Ditto.)

A clever storyteller with a subtle way with a hook, Hiatt has toyed with with all edges of the pop-rock genre - even new-wavey stuff at one point - but lately he has been feeling a frisky Southern pull. On his critically drooled-upon new album, Master of Disaster, Hiatt whips up a wilder, funkier Memphis sound. As a rah-rah bonus for local fans, Hiatt's crackerjack backing band on the new disc, the North Mississippi Allstars, will also be his crew at tonight's Jannus Landing gig. Hiatt newbies are encouraged to attend. Just try not to say, "Oh, I didn't know he did this song" over and over. They might be listening.

John Hiatt plays with the North Mississippi Allstars at 8 tonight at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $30 day of show. (727) 896-2276.

- SEAN DALY, Times pop music critic

Ratt 'n' roll the right way

As any hair-metalhead worth his lifetime supply of Aqua Net will tell you, Ratt remains the most underappreciated '80s-born band to ever strut the Sunset Strip. Just take a look at that headbanging songbook: Sure, we all know Round and Round, but thanks to former frontman Stephen Pearcy, Lay It Down, You're in Love and Body Talk still rock harder than anything by, say, Poison, Warrant or Slaughter. I'm also willing to put my reputation on the line and say Givin' Yourself Away just might be the loveliest power ballad ever performed by a band named after vermin.

So it's just plain pathetic that the current lineup of Ratt features a rent-a-screecher instead of gone-solo Pearcy, who will play a deliciously throwback bill with Wasp and L.A. Guns at Jannus Landing Friday. Pearcy split with his old mates a long time ago, and despite begging from fans (duuude, pleeease!), he has stayed away from a full-fledged reunion. Still, even without old pals guitarist Warren DeMartini and drummer Bobby Blotzer, Pearcy will no doubt unleash all of Ratt's teased-hair hits (don't forget Back for More, Way Cool Jr. and Wanted Man) with a swarthy swagger that'll make you feel like it's 1984 all over again. "Out on the streets, that's where we'll meet . . ."

Stephen Pearcy plays with Wasp and L.A. Gun on Friday at 9 p.m. at Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $18 advance, $22 day of show. (727) 896-2276.

- SEAN DALY, Times pop music critic

[Last modified July 27, 2005, 09:54:07]

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