Asking Alexandria in Concert at Roxian Theatre; ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Opens at Benedum Center (Tues., 4/30/24)

Pop culture quiz: “Asking Alexandria” is (a) an advice column in Australian media, (b) the city directory for Alexandria, Egypt, or (c) an English rock band that plays dire and deathly metal, with dramatic howling and drumming. Picking (c) means you are smart! And counterintuitively smart, since the metalcore members of Asking Alexandria somehow chose a name that neither evokes mayhem nor has an umlaut. Founder and longtime lead guitarist Ben Bruce formed the band in 2006 in Dubai. Then came a move back to England and a major personnel shuffle in 2008-09. Most of that reconstituted lineup remains, including lead vocalist Danny Worsnop, although Bruce recently stepped away, citing a desire for more personal time and thanking his fans. Asking Alexandria has evolved musically over the years while compiling a proud track record. On the U.K. scene, the band has won several Kerrang! Awards and Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. The latest of their nine studio albums is last year’s Where Do We Go From Here? And they’ll be in the Pittsburgh area for a concert at the Roxian Theatre. Guests are Memphis May Fire, The Word Alive, and Nerv. 6:30 p.m. 425 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks. (M.V.)

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (rock opera) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Touring company at Benedum Center. April 30 – May 1. 

When Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway in 1971, it marked the converging of several new trends in rock music and theater—a convergence that ran partly through Pittsburgh. One trend was the notion that rock and Christian themes could go together. Christian rock was still a radical idea, as songs like “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” (from California rocker/evangelist Larry Norman) expressed the sentiment but didn’t chart. Meanwhile, The Who’s 1969 Tommy showed that a concept album with a narrative thread could be staged as a “rock opera.” At Carnegie Mellon in 1970, drama student John-Michael Tebelak and his mates presented the initial version of Tebelak’s Godspell—a standard musical in format, but featuring Jesus himself as a character. And by that time, two young British guys were putting the various pieces together. Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice released Jesus Christ Superstar as a concept album in 1970. Then they fleshed it out for a live U.S. tour. It premiered here in Pittsburgh—at the now-gone Civic Arena, in July of 1971—before a fully developed Broadway production went up later that year.   

Superstar added bold new twists of its own. This rock opera put Judas at the center of a fictionalized drama depicting personal and political tensions among Jesus, his followers, and the authorities of their era. The show was a shocker in ‘71. It won no Tony Awards. But it has been playing worldwide ever since. Now, the prize-winning revival produced by Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre of London is on tour. This production of Jesus Christ Superstar plays in Pittsburgh for two nights only. See it at Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (M.V.)

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Rick Handler

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