Troubador's act might be new, but still tres Sheik

                  Jon Bream
                  Star Tribune
                  Friday, April 6, 2001

                  Singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik plans to use Minneapolis to try something new.

                  Working with only an acoustic guitarist, he has to figure out a way to incorporate material from his hauntingly
                  understated new album, "Phantom Moon," into a nightclub format.

                  "Because it's the first show, there's a lot of things that get worked out out along the
                  way," said Sheik, who returns Monday to Mineapolis' Fine Line Music Cafe. "So you
                  can expect a lot of mistakes and funny comedy bits during the show."

                  He's joking. He knows that Fine Line crowds often are divided between careful
                  listeners and, um, socializers.

                  "It won't be the first time that I've struggled with this issue," Sheik said Tuesday from
                  Hamburg, Germany. "Hopefully, I am road-savvy enough to make sure the energy is up
                  when it needs to be and that I can let it go down when they're going to follow me

                  Sheik promises to play songs from each of his three albums, including the 1997 hit
                  "Barely Breathing." He might even toss in some Nick Drake numbers. The late British singer/songwriter's
                  melancholic style was an inspiration for "Phantom Moon," a meditative collection that could be described as
                  ambient chamber pop, or art-songs for Gen X.

                  "Even though it is 'a little arty,' the songs are not inaccessible; I'm not being atonal," Sheik said of the album
                  that was released on the arty-oriented label Nonesuch instead of Atlantic, his usual pop label. The disc has
                  received glowing notices, with the New York Times calling it "the most entrancing collection of pop dream
                  songs since Nick Drake's 1969 'Five Leaves Left.'"

                  The project started when Sheik met New York playwright Steven Sater, 38, at a Buddhist organization. He
                  asked Sheik, 31, to write some music to go with lyrics culled from his play "Umbrage."

                  Sater never had written songs, and Sheik had always penned his own lyrics. They worked separately, with
                  Sater faxing lyrics and Sheik then writing music. One of the songs was incorporated into the play, and the
                  rest became "Phantom Moon."

                  MORE MUSICALS

                  Sheik found this process less painstaking than writing his own songs. Moreover, he was more enthusiastic
                  about singing someone else's words.

                  "I was able to let myself go because it wasn't my work. Musically and in terms of the performance, it's
                  probably more personal than what I had done before."

                  Sheik said that Sater has since adapted the play into a screenplay and that there are plans for an indie film
                  featuring "Phantom Moon" music.

                  Although Sheik is midway into writing a modern-sounding pop album for 2002, he and Sater are collaborating
                  on a musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 play, "Spring Awakening." And Sater, who has had a few
                  of his plays staged in the Twin Cities, has been talking to Children's Theatre Company about developing a
                  musical version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale" with Sheik.

                  "Steven is going to try to have [CTC folks] come to the show," the singer said of Monday's tour opener.

                  They'll be the quiet people listening intently.

                  DUNCAN SHEIK

                  Opening: Fisher

                  When: 9 p.m. Mon.

                  Where: Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 1st Av. N., Mpls.

                  Tickets: $17.50. 612-338-8100.
                  © Copyright 2001 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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