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Sunday, Feb. 13, 2005



Dan Hicks

He turned 63 last December, but even back in the 1960s and early '70s, Dan Hicks could have been mistaken for a middle-aged hipster, more interested in clever, sexy wordplay and jazzy harmonics than in rockin' or jammin', which is more unusual than it sounds. As the drummer for the short-lived psychedelic progenitors, The Charlatans (not to be confused with the current Brit rockers), he was at the center of the San Francisco music scene.

Hicks invented The Hot Licks -- guitar, bass and fiddle and two stylishly dressed female backup singers (The Lickettes) -- as a novelty warmup act for The Charlatans, but he quickly made it his main gig since he obviously preferred playing acoustic jazz guitar to drumming. He was fun then, and as the albums he's released since reconstituting The Hot Licks several years ago prove, he's still fun now. In spite of his flip, wry stage demeanor, Hicks is a notorious curmudgeon and reportedly had to be talked into reviving the group, but he's since written dozens of new tunes that are not only as quirky and lively as his old stuff, but also fresher and funnier than 99 percent of the new music coming off either coast right now.

When he played here five years ago, Hicks proved he could still swing as hard as Louis Prima and toss off cracked pearls of wisdom as good as Bob Dorough's. My favorite one was "Hell, I'd Go," in which he contemplates abduction by extraterrestrials: "I've got my bags and I've got my shots/So come on Shorty, read my thoughts." He'd probably fit right in.

Feb. 20, 6 p.m., Bessie Hall, Sapporo (Smash East, [011] 261-5569); Feb. 22, 27, 7 p.m., Shibuya Club Quattro, Tokyo, (03) 3477-8750; Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m., Hiroshima Club Quattro, (082) 542-2280; Feb. 24, 7 p.m., Nagoya Club Quattro, (052) 264-8211; Feb. 25, 8 p.m., Umeda Banana Hall, Osaka, (06) 6361-6821. All tickets 6,500 yen in advance, except Sapporo and Osaka, where they are 6,000 yen.

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