Earle's well: More than one songwriter has spent time in seclusion, perhaps trying to figure out how to live right. Steve Earle, who jangled out of the gate with dark-edged, pithy work on '80s albums such as Guitar Town and Copperhead Road before sinking into dangerous oblivion, is back--critics and old friends on his side--with a new album. Earle appears tonight at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, with another back-from-the-dead iconoclast getting critical kudos for new solo work: Dan Zanes of Boston's defunct Del Fuegos. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $16; call 322-2308 or 1-800-444-SEAT.
The OK chorale: Named for Chaucer's "clear-singing" rooster, the all-male a cappella ensemble Chanticleer mixes classical and contemporary material while blending ethereal countertenors and resonant bass voices with unmatched skill and beauty. The San Francisco-based vocal group performs tonight at 8 at St. John's Cathedral, 14th Ave. and Washington St.; admission ranges from $8 to $12. Call 831-7115, ext. 17, for tickets and information.
Faithful fangs: Two of showbiz's most famous barbed-tongued entertainers, talk-show fashion plate Joan Rivers and master of insults Don Rickles, will share the stage at the Paramount Theatre tonight. The glitzy 8 p.m. benefit performance, dubbed "Can We Talk?" will raise funds for the historic downtown venue; to reserve tickets, $28.50 to $49.50 plus service charges, call 830-TIXS. The Paramount is located at 1621 Glenarm Pl.
Fair appraisal: Ever wonder how the folks who run the Capitol Hill People's Fair determine which of the dozens of musical groups that apply will actually get to perform at the June event? Quite simply, they do it with help from the public, which is invited to sit in at the Capitol Hill People's Fair Entertainment Auditions today and tomorrow at Metro Express, 13th Ave. and Grant St. More than 100 contestants, representing rock, reggae, blues, jazz, rap, alternative and more, will compete between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day for the chance to perform at the fest. Admission is free, but those wishing to participate in the judging must purchase $1 score sheets. (So that's why they call it a "people's" fair!) For details call 830-1651.
Ballet high: Don't expect the Colorado Ballet to end its 1995-96 season on a stodgy note. The troupe wraps things up with an adventurous mixed bill of modern works choreographed magnificently by George Balanchine, Choo San Goh and Peter Pucci. First on the program is Balanchine's "Rubies," a play on American social dance set to music by Stravinsky, followed by Goh's "Configurations," a work originally choreographed for Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1981. Rounding out the trio is Pucci's "Roll 'Em," propelled jazzily by the strains of Benny Goodman's big-band music. The spring concert will be performed at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; six additional performances are scheduled through April 14. For showtimes and tickets, $12 to $38, call 98-MUSIC or 830-TIXS.
Creature feature: The Bug Performance and Media Art Center in north Denver is an oasis for unusual cultural fare, from performance art to experimental film. And it depends on volunteer help and donations to continue its affordable cutting-edge presentations. To that end, Bug members are teaming up with the Rock Bottom Brewery, 1001 16th St., for tonight's Bug Bottom Ball, a fundraiser with plenty of representative entertainment, food, handcrafted microbrews and Bug-themed local artwork at auction. Area bands the Denver Gentlemen and Saw and performance artists Dirt and Circuits, Bill Amundson and Kirby Henderson will all chip in some of their time. Admission to the event, which takes place from 7 p.m. to midnight, is $20 ($15 members); call 477-5977 for information.
Potters' field: Year after year, the Colorado Clay Exhibition goes out of its way to point out that the boundaries of ceramic art extend beyond the realms of the mug, the ashtray and the saucer. The juried show, which this year includes the work of 25 Colorado ceramicists, features everything from freestanding pots to vast wall assemblages decorated with illusory images from nature, textural surfaces and primitive motifs. The exhibit continues at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th St., Golden, through April 14; for gallery hours or other information call 279-3922.
One hot concert: Disappointed fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rejoice: Drummer Chad Smith's broken wrist, which caused the group to cancel a date in Denver last November, has mended. The alterna-funk innovators will finally bring their high-energy music and antics--along with new guitarist Dave Navarro and selections from the long-anticipated album One Hot Minute--to McNichols Arena tonight at 7:30. Toadies and Weapon of Choice open the show; for tickets, $22.50, call 830-TIXS.