Friday, July 31, 2009

Bat for Lashes, August 31 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I didn't know Bat for Lashes well but Vanessa wanted to go so I was down for it. I had seen half of their/her set at Lollapalooza and it was energetic and good but I knew that they weren't meant to be out under the Chicago afternoon sun. I got a copy of Two Suns and really dug it. It's subtle, serious music but intense lyrics and delivery, something along the lines of a dreamy but troubled Sinead O'Connor, and all translated live in the best way possible. And I always notice good female drummers, especially when they seem attractive (though at a distance). I didn't really know about the hippie, Native American, wolves-at-night visual thing but it's only an accompaniment to the music, which is fantastic. Rachel went along and I don't remember that we drank much there (since Vanessa and I have been tot he Fonda enough to know that drinking there can be a pricey and disappointing proposition) but we drank at the place next door beforehand and that got us through, though it certainly wasn't necessary to chemically alter our brains to get the trippy vibe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Glasvegas/Ida Maria, July 28 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I wanted to see Glasvegas, Vanessa wanted to see Ida Maria. I pegged Maria as a shallow opening act but she ended up steling the show. Glasvegas were great, turning in a good rock show for one of the best albums of the year, though there was a feeling of desperation, especially from the frontman who was trying to channel Joe Strummer to a nearly embarrassing degree, and working against a thick Scottish accent in the singing that would be impenetrable to American audiences who are too lazy to decipher that kind of thing. The drummer was also a surprise to me, having about a third of a full drum-kit that I had taken for granted, when hearing it before the show, was a full one. They use it well, then. I never really considered a connection between Mo Tucker and Meg White but this is a continuation of that and seems to work just fine. Opening with "Geraldine", far and away their best song, was a bit puzzling to me but the rest of their set almost rose to the same level. Maria never sucked up to the audience or forced them to join her party. She was amazing, being even more fun and sexy but never fluffy or lightweight and looked like she was having the time of her life -- or just drunk. If the two groups' music wasn't so different, Glasvegas should have been afraid that their opener would blow them off the stage. It turned out that maybe they both coaxed their best performances out of each other.

Glasvegas' set-list:
"Lonesome Swan"
"It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry"
"Polmont On My Mind"
"Fuck You"
"Flowers & Football Tops"
"Ice Cream Van"
"Go Square Go"

"Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime"
"S.A.D. Light"
"Daddy's Gone"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jarvis Cocker/Little Joy, July 27 at the Wiltern

How old is Jarvis Cocker? Whatever you want to say, he's still got it. He still writes great songs (though not nearly as great as Pulp's great days) and he still knows how to charm an audience (though not as massive as he would get in England, instead settling for a modest but ravenous sold-out crowd at the Wiltern; at least he's touring the States, which he didn't really do last time). And he has a beard now. But it's still a good show, especially being amongst aging Britpop fans from the '90s (like myself). This is a show I got a ticket for only a few weeks before, and I opted for a seat, in the balcony, instead of on the floor like I could have done, but ended up at the front of the section, and the Wiltern isn't gigantic, so I did the right thing. Of course everyone was there to hear Pulp tunes more than anything and of course everyone waited until the last second of the encore for it and of course he didn't play any old stuff but I can't imagine anyone being too terribly disappointed by the performance.

Little Joy opened and I got there in time to only see the last song or two but they rocked out a lot harder than I thought they would have. Their album is really sleepy (though still pretty good) but live they really crank it up (as well as having a lot more people on stage than they probably needed to create the music originally). They certainly didn't sound a thing like the Strokes but at this point Fab can pretty much do whatever he wants. Was Fab even playing at that show? I don't know. It doesn't really matter.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rick Springfield, July 13 at the Pacific Amphitheater

I wouldn't have gone to see Rick Springfield if Alicia hadn't invited me. And I certainly wouldn't have gone to the O.C. Fair if Alicia hadn't invited me to see Rick Springfield with her there. I've never had much of a positive experience at country fairs, especially ones in California, and I was fine living a life where I'd never have to go to another one. But my apprehension was unwarranted and the two of us had a great day at the event, with Alicia's sister and Alicia's sister's friend. The concert started just after dusk, early enough to go back into the fair for an hour or two after the show was done. Obviously the house-wives wanted to get back home early but it would suck for good rock bands like Blondie (who also played at the fair that summer) to have to play so early. Springfield puts on a fine show, playing to the over-the-hill ladies in the front row and anyone who has known of him over the years, though there was a refresher course on video that played on the screens before the show in case anyone didn't know that he was mainly known for being on TV. I wouldn't have advised the cover of "Jet" midway through the set, though I commend him for not dragging out "Jessie's Girl" as the set closer (leaving I-don't-know-what for the encore). Though he did drag out "Don't Talk To Strangers", another, much lesser, hit, to about 15 minutes, leaving him plenty of time to wade into the audience, held aloft by manic women who will never wash him off their hands. He was also shirtless for most of the performance, and if I look that good at 60 (or so he claims he is. I still don't believe it), I'll be shirtless more often as well. The show was overly practiced and a bit stiff and he would probably be bored senseless by it if it wasn't for the desperate women screaming his name and throwing bouquets of roses at him (which he would shred against his guitar, which I've never seen and thought was cool but it didn't really show appreciation). The day at the fair was better than the evening at the concert but it was still enough of a reason to go.

Rick Springfield's set-list:
"Mr. PC"
"What's Victoria's Secret"
"Affair of the Heart"
"Living in Oz"
"I Get Excited"
"Venus in Overdrive"
"I'll Miss That Someday"
"Love is Alright Tonight"
"Don't Talk To Strangers"
"Love Somebody"
"Human Touch"
"Jessie's Girl"

"I'll Make You Happy"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Andrew Bird/Ra Ra Riot, July 11 at the Greek Theater

The only thing I knew about Andrew Bird is that he didn't set me on fire when I saw part of his set at Outside Lands but, shit, I'd go see Barenaked Ladies and Metallica if I was going with Vanessa, Noa, Andrew, and Leeza. We had a picnic before the show in the park next to the Greek (I brought chicken wings from Hooters, Vanessa and Noa brought wine) so, heck, I was ready to see anything. Vaenssa got tickets for everyone right after they went on sale, though we still had seats near the farthest row, just in front of where they sectioned off the seats that didn't sell. I don't know what that's about but it's bullshit.

No real comment about Bird's performance itself since I have no reference but it was a lot of whistling and music loops. As far as the show went, I really went to see Ra Ra Riot, whose album I liked but their live show didn't really make me like them any more. They were a little flat, betraying how they sound on a studio recording.

Then the 10:30 curfew and everyone went their separate ways on a Friday night.

Andrew Bird's set-list:
Fiery Crash"
Opposite Day"
Fitz and the Dizzyspells"
Oh No"
A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left"
Fake Palindromes"

"Weather System"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the Old 97's/Rhett Miller, July 9 at the Henry Fonda Theater

The Old 97's always put on a solid show, even if it's usually the same. Their newer songs have gone a bit downhill over the years, always somewhere between power-pop and alt-country, but they still play like they've always been big stars, especially due to singer/songwriter Rhett Miller's exuberance and charming, aw-shucks modesty that people keep showing up to see them yet again. I don't know if they had new material to tour or if it was only to support Rhett's new solo work, as he was also the warm-up act. From Twitter I found that the Old 97's weren't going on until after 10 and I didn't need to see Rhett's solo act (especially since I had seen him solo recently), so I showed up (finding no street-parking but opting for the lot next to place, which sure was convenient, but it damned well better be for the $25 I paid) and saw just the end of his opening act, which could have been an Old 97's set, for the music and as much as the crowd were into it, except that he was on stage alone with only a guitar. I've seen Rhett play solo shows before, in the intimate setting of Largo (so intimate I didn't even get a concert ticket for it) and this wasn't nearly the same but it wasn't supposed to be. I met up with Erin, who had gotten within 10 feet of the stage, and we chatted until the Old 97's went on, which included a refreshed but grateful Rhett. And it was another solid show, not particularly notable except that they got done just after midnight, so it's a good thing I didn't take the subway (though it would have saved me that $25).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Death Cab for Cute/Tegan & Sara/New Pornographers, July 5 at the Hollywood Bowl

If you haven't been able to tell by now, I'll go to just about any show. I'm a sucker for shows at the Hollywood Bowl and of course I trust Vanessa for her music taste (and ability to drink). She got tickets for us, along with one for Noa, and I don't really care what I'm doing if it's with those two. I'm not a Death Cab for Cutie fan but I admit I hadn't seen them when I had the chance at various festivals over the years and, playing with the L.A. Philharmonic, I looked forward to a special show that might change my opinion. But really, I was going to see openers the New Pornographers and Tegan & Sara. The three of us took our time picnicking outside and missed most of the New Pornographers but I didn't mind, since I've seen them before, they're not an amazing live band in the first place, Neko wasn't singing with them, and I was fairly full of wine. Tegan & Sara did a fine set but even they had to admit that they were way out of place in such a gigantic space (and looked positively tiny on stage). At that point, and with more wine in me, I anticipated Death Cab, and I suppose for a fan of theirs it was a splendid show but to me it was just as boring as anything I've heard by them. And a symphony playing behind a band might make the show a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle but it's not going to make it any more exciting. And when they played their own material as just the band I wondered what having the Phil did for them in the first place. And I never figured out which was the guy who wears glasses in the band, making pretty much all of them as uninteresting as their music.

Death Cab For Cutie's set-list:

"Marching Bands of Manhattan"
"Your Heart is an Empty Room"
"The New Year"
"Crooked Teeth"
"President of What?"
"No Sunlight"
"Summer Skin"
"I Will Possess Your Heart"
"Little Bribes"
"The Sound of Settling"
(with the Los Angeles Philharmonic:)
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
"You Can Do Better Than Me"
"Grapevine Fires"
"Title and Registration"
"A Movie Script Ending"
"Soul Meets Body"

Tegan & Sara's set-list:
"Dark Come Soon
"I Bet It Stung
"Walking with a Ghost"
"Hop A Plane"
"Living Room"
"Like O Like H"
"Burn Your Life Down"
"Where Do the Good Go"
"Call it Off"
"The Con"
"Back in Your Head"

The New Pornographers' set-list:
"My Rights Versus Yours"
"The Laws Have Changed"
"Use It"
"All the Old Show Stoppers"
"Mass Romantics"
"Sing Me Spanish Techno"
"The Bleeding Heart Show"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

She Wants Revenge/Living Things/Great Northern/Rocco DeLucca/the Honorary Title/Nico Stai, July 2 at the Echo & Echoplex

As I've said before, L.A. is a great place for unordinary shows, shows put on for benefits being common, with one-off performances by usually local bands. I don't know the person that this show was put on for to help but it had some great bands, mostly local, and I hope the person benefited. Vanessa and I just knew that we liked the bands that were playing and it would be a night out, which I reckon is all you need. We started out at happy hour at the French place nearby, knowing that it was close to the place but not realizing it was a short walking distance from the Echo/Echoplex, a place that somehow both of us had missed going to (though I dimly recall maybe going there once, maybe maybe). The place was confusing since there's an entrance on Sunset Blvd. for the Echo and another on Glendale Blvd. for the Echoplex, two clubs in the same building which are usually separate but as it happened, for this show, it was free to pass between the two, for two stages, one upstairs (the tinier Echo) and the downstairs (the Echoplex, a decent size). Both excellent, fairly intimate venues, once you figured out how to get there.

Vanessa didn't love Great Northern last time but I dug them, so we saw only part of their set, enough to see that it was a bit more solid and maybe just better in a space larger than the Roxy; The Honorary Title apparently was/is one guy and a guitar and nothing more notable than that; Vanessa went mostly to see Nico Stai, who she lusted after the last time we saw him; I don't know what Rocco DeLuca was about. This guy opened for U2?; The Living Things are one of the best live bands going, if not overall best bands, touring today. These guys' live shows put most headliners to shame. You want rock n' roll, well here it is. This band was who I came to see and even though they were playing to only about 50 people, they acted like they were putting on the heaviest set of their their career and they didn't disappoint. You get the feeling they're putting every ounce of their beings into the performance, whether it's for two people or an arena (where they should be). It's ferocious and dirty and has a message, all of it colored by monster riffs, a confident swagger, and a performance so tight that it can go as loose as they want because they can spare it; She Wants Revenge have worked their hometown of L.A. hard, enough to headline over Placebo for the local date on their joint tour and probably enough to make everyone in town sick of them but they were still big enough to play last at this one and in a space small enough that the place got packed by then. They closed the show, and with enough material from their first album to mostly forgive playing more from their second. But I've missed most of their other shows (sometimes purposely) so this was mostly new to me. I don't even care that they sound just like Interpol (who sound just like Joy Division. Hey, the similarity actually helps). By that time we were done with the extended show and for Vanessa to get home in time to go to work the next morning. We were even there early enough to get street-parking, which surely would have been impossible if we had gotten there after the show started.