Bebe’s back

And she wants to know if you’re ready to rock
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  September 13, 2006

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ROCKING OUT: Bebe Buell still has it
“Remember what you used to do before there were computers?” Bebe Buell asks. “Start living your life like that again.”

For a live music scene that is struggling to find its identity, this is just the call to arms we should all be hoping for from Portland’s original big-breasted rocker. Buell’s old enough to be called a grande dame, but in many ways she’s younger and more immature (in a good way) than most of the young turks you might find out and about on a Friday night in Maine’s biggest city. Chatting with her over breakfast at Steve and Renee’s, talk is still mostly about who’s a rock star, MySpace, and who’s got the best sound system in town.

Why shouldn’t it be? Bebe’s never stopped living the rock life, from her days dating Jagger, Tyler, Stewart, Rundgren, and Costello to her now-four-year-old marriage with Jim Wallerstein, guitarist and frontman for Twin Engines, with turns in Das Damen and Vacationland on his resume. Oh, and her daughter is Liv Freakin’ Tyler, who, herself, is married to rocker Royston Langdon, formerly of Spacehog, and now fronting new band Arckid.

The woman still likes to rock out. She still wants to leave a club half-deaf and sweatier than a fat golfer on the 18th hole. Do you?

Dead Season, who sell discs like hotcakes, can’t quite manage to fill the Big Easy for their CD-release show. Lines form for DJs who push play on Fore Street every weekend, while Best Music Poll Best Act winner Pete Kilpatrick is happy with 100 or so for his Wednesday night gigs at Bull Feeney’s. How many times do I have to hear people complain about a $5 cover?

Suddenly, it seems like everyone’s a rock critic — if the Rolling Stones aren’t playing, it can hardly be worth the effort to go see live music.

Well, if nothing else, Bebe Buell and the Beantown Babies, when they play September 23 at the Big Easy, ought to remind you why sometimes a show is worth going to just for the experience, itself. Bebe, who sports a voice to rattle the heavens, will be backed by three guitars (Wallerstein, John Powhida, and Brett Rosenberg of the Boston-based Rudds), Neighborhoods drummer Johnny Lynch, and bassist Tony Goddess, so you’re guaranteed to have little need for conversation. And the songs are nothing but guilty pleasures, heavy on your standard sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well, maybe not the drugs anymore.

Bebe is a grandmother, after all.

“I’m bringing a guitar army,” Bebe says. “It’s blistering, so bring your armor. Pretend like you’re a Viking for a night. I’ve never skimped on giving people exciting shows, that’s kind of what I do.”

But Bebe’s doing a lot of other stuff, too. She’s working now on her next book, less worried about finding a publisher now that she’s a certified New York Times bestseller, thanks to the success of her autobiography, Rebel Heart. The book will be called Kiss and Learn: 50 Things I Learned in 50 Years, starting as early as year two with something as simple as “Don’t make out with the neighbor’s cat.”

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Related: Packets of Sugar, Bebe does the Middle East, Boston music news - June 16, 2006, More more >
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