[FONT=Optima]Piano Man[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]Classic-rock lounge singer skirts the cheese factor.[/FONT]

On a dimly lit stage, keyboardist Dale Hopkins sometimes wonders whether his audience thinks heís a jukebox. "Up here, itís like playing in my living room," he says. "You can talk to me. Iím not a record." Hopkins has played piano since he was eight. After high school, he jammed in local rock bands, including one that toured France. Today, the 38-year-old administrative assistant is back home, blending his "bari-tenor" vocals to improvised chord arrangements of pop classics by Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees, and Carole King. "I donít think of myself as a lounge singer, because of the cheese factor involved," says Hopkins. "This is my thing." Hopkins performs from 9 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Apex (11633 Lorain Avenue; 216-476-1970) and from 8 to 10 p.m. Fridays, at Arabica (29325 Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe; 440-516-0872). Admission is free. Tue., Dec. 13, 9-11:30 p.m. Apex, 11633 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-476-1970.