Three major out-of-town bands that have made powerful/interesting/great music are playing here this weekend; that’s more than have come to Chicago in the last three months combined. The debut LP Licensed to Ill by young snots the Beastie Boys is the most kick-ass record to hit Billboard’s #1 in a much longer while than I’d care to recall; the mbaqanga-based LP Graceland by old fart Paul Simon is the most fascinating record he has made in a much longer while than he’d care to recall; but for a great live show I’m picking in-betweens Husker Du. This onetime hard-core punk trio have changed dramatically since they discovered melody sometime in 1984; these days, they rely as heavily on their compositional skills as they used to rely on their tremendous sonic punch. The amazing thing is the results are almost as charged. Their grand and inspiring most recent album, the double LP Warehouse: Songs and Stories, may not be as powerful as Licensed to Ill or as interesting as Graceland (and it’s certainly not their best: where their lyrics once questioned, they now philosophize–a big, bad difference), but their live shows are more expansive than their records, meshing the parts of their impassioned, inspired career in a broad but unified presentation. They’ll simultaneously nail you to the floor with a dense rush of sonic distortion and pull you through the roof with the most stunning songcraft around today. Fine as the Beasties’ and Simon’s shows may be, neither will achieve anything as breathtaking. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Riviera Night Club, 4750 N. Broadway; 769-6300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Helgeson.