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The Globe's fall music preview: Pop explosions and classical bashes

POP / ROCK

The summer of 2010 was a tough one for the really big show, as the organizers of Lilith Fair found out when sluggish tickets sales forced the erasure of several dates in the travelling festival's calendar.

Maybe that's why there are so few stadium-sized tours rocking the country in the last months of the year. Only Ozzy Osbourne and Gorillaz are hitting the big venues, and even those showings are relatively modest: Ozzy (playing eight Canadian arenas from Nov. 12 to 27) used to come to Canada with a whole carnival of like-minded rockers (remember Ozzfest?); and Gorillaz (at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Oct. 14, and the Rogers Arena in Vancouver Nov. 3) - well, they're a cartoon band, aren't they?

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But as you get away from any place where hockey could be played, and move into actual spaces for music, the scene nationally gets much livelier, so much so that this short list is the proverbial tip of the ice cube:

Halifax Pop Explosion The annual East Coast clubfest (Oct. 19 - 23) is bigger than ever this year, with a lineup that includes dozens of bands from near (Sloan, In-Flight Safety, Old Man Luedecke, Brent Randall, the Mountains and the Trees, Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees) and away (New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club, Radio Radio, Ghostkeeper, Handsome Furs, Feuermusik, Golden Dogs, Great Lake Swimmers) playing in 17 venues around town. There's even a Symphony Nova Scotia gig with Basia Bulat (Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Oct. 22)

Broken Social Scene The Toronto band of many is currently marching across the Prairies, with shows this week at Edmonton's Winspear Centre (Saturday), Kelowna's Community Theatre (Sunday), Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria (Oct. 12) and Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom (Oct. 13 and 14), with more dates in Central Canada in December. There's also an operatic date on their schedule: a mash-up performance with members of the Canadian Opera Company's resident vocal Ensemble Studio, at a fundraising event at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre on Oct. 29.

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience The Led Zep reunion gig in London three years ago didn't persuade singer Robert Plant to revive the band for real; so the drummer on that occasion, founding member Jon Bonham's son Jason, is fielding a group that promises to be more than another tribute band. There seems to be a whole lotta love out there for the idea: Bonham Junior's tour, which began Friday night at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson City, has 13 more dates across Canada, mostly in large theatres, through Nov. 29.

Sufjan Stevens The Michigan-born musician made his name with delicately flamboyant songs on subjects of civic and historic import. His first major tour in several years finds him performing material of a more personal cut, from his new album, The Age of Adz. His Canadian dates are Oct. 12 at Montreal's Metropolis, Oct. 13 at Massey Hall in Toronto, and Oct. 28 at the Orpheum in Vancouver.

New albums I'm looking forward to new sounds from Kings of Leon, Antony & the Johnsons, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Elvis Costello, N.E.R.D., Kanye West, Robert Wyatt, Nora Jones, Cee-Lo Green, as well as the deluxe reissue of Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town, featuring a new documentary about the making of the 1978 album.

CLASSICAL

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The classical world loves birthdays so much that they're often celebrated for a whole year. There are plenty of tributes still coming for Frederic Chopin (born in 1810) and many yet to come for Gustav Mahler (born 1860 and died 1911, so we can fete his death centenary too).

Pianist Janina Fialkowska is the performer to watch this fall: She has two shows with Tafelmusik this weekend, playing a new chamber arrangement of Chopin's Concerto No. 1 in E minor on a vintage Pleyel keyboard; a live ATMA recording coming later this month of both Chopin's concertos (with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra); and a Nov. 27 performance with the Calgary Philharmonic of Prelude Variations, a new Chopin-inspired piano concerto by Canadian composer John Burge.

The most notable Mahler shows coming up are two programs by Kent Nagano and l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, featuring the Symphony No. 1 (Oct 12 and 17) and No. 6 (Oct. 19 and 20); and Montreal native Yannick Nézet-Séguin's performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra of the Symphony No. 5 (Oct. 29 - 31) - his first concerts with that orchestra since being named its incoming music director last summer.

Lillian Ailing, Vancouver Opera John Estacio's latest opera (with librettist John Murrell) is based on the story of a homesick Russian immigrant who walked home in the late 1920s via the northern United States, British Columbia and that strip of water Sarah Palin loves to gaze across. Vancouver Opera's premiere production at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre(Oct. 16, 19, 21 and 23) features mezzo-sopranoFrédérique Vézina in the title role. The Inventor, Murrell's full-length opera collaboration with Bramwell Tovey, follows at Calgary Opera in January.

X Avant, Music Gallery, Toronto; Theatre for the Ears, Vancouver New Music, Vancouver This year's annual X Avant festival (Oct. 16 - 24) tackles the issue of authenticity in music, through high-church presentations of major works by Arnold Schoenberg ( Pierrot Lunaire, in three separate versions) and Georges Aperghis (the complete Récitations, performed by French singer Donatienne Michel-Dansac), as well as DJ sets, video-game mash-ups and an irreverent retelling of the story of Wagner's epic Ring cycle (Myra Davies's 50-Minute Ring). Vancouver New Music's Theatre for the Ears (Oct. 21 - 23) offers new sounds from four countries performed in tandem with improvised animations, sound sculptures, lasers and interactive video.

Metropolitan Opera in HD, 150 Canadian cinemas The Met has become everyone's neighbourhood opera company, thanks to its live high-definition broadcasts to a zillion theatres around the world. This season's array starts Saturday with Robert Lepage's new production of Wagner's Das Rheingold (also showing Nov. 20 and 29). Next up are Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, starring the great German bass Rene Pape (Oct. 23, Nov. 27); Donizetti's Don Pasquale with soprano Anna Netrebko (Nov. 13, Dec. 4 & Jan. 17); and Verdi's Don Carlo, with tenor Roberto Alagna in the title role and Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting (Dec. 11, Jan. 5 and 22, Feb. 14).

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Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica Violinist Gidon Kremer has a talent for making old music sound new, and new music appear to fuse into the body of all that has come before. With his crack ensemble of young Baltic musicians, he plays two entirely different programs at Montreal's Place des Arts (Nov. 4) and Toronto's Koerner Hall (Nov. 5), featuring music by Bartok, Beethoven, Arvo Part, Geya Kancheli and others.

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About the Author

Robert Everett-Green is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail. He was born in Edmonton and grew up there and on a farm in eastern Alberta. He was a professional musician for several years before leaving that task to better hands. More

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