Thursday, February 4, 2010

Help Haiti benefit, February 4 at the Nokia Theater

Jen is a lady who at the time was a friend-of-a-friend but from the time we started talking she knew I was a Guns n' Roses (probably what started us talking in the first place) and she invited me through Facebook to this benefit show, called Help Haiti with George Lopez and Friends. I think she asked me the day of and I don't generally like doing anything that last-minute but I also didn't have anything else going on that night and I hate to stay home when I have an invitation to go out and do something. And I know what it's like to be stuck for a ticket and, hey, it might be fun anyway. I had seen the ads for the show in the Weekly and disregarded them, thinking nothing of going to a big celebrity song-n'-dance, beg-for-money show-off. But the ticket was already available and I had someone to go with (or I was someone else's to-go-with). She even drove. I had been to the Nokia Theater before and liked it but this was a different night and this was a different place. The crowd was predominantly Hispanic, which is perfectly fine, but, after so many rock shows for white people, it wasn't really the crowd I was familiar with, and neither was Jen (even though she's part Hispanic). Everyone got along and everyone was there for the same reason (except maybe for us) and it seemed like everyone was having a good time but they laughed at different jokes than we would have. It was like any other big benefit show: there are a few performers doing short sets and some celebrities come out and beg for money for the cause, in this case being a perfectly acceptable one (for earthquake victims in Haiti) but that kind of begging can be wearying (and it doesn't make me want to give more because I know they still won't shut up). Besides, we'd already paid for tickets and hopefully at least part of those proceeds went to the cause. There were some acts that neither Jen and I knew, including a rap act that had the audience chanting "brown power" and some personalities from the local rap radio station Power 106, which illustrated another reason why I don't listen to the radio. There were a lot of celebrities that were listed in the ad -- Ray Romano, Cedric the Entertainer, Larry David, Kobe Bryant, Peter Facinelli, Samuel L. Jackson, Amber Valetta, Don Cheadle, Jennie Garth, Vanessa Hudgens (I don't recognize half of those names) -- and I honestly don't remember the ones that were there or weren't there. Though I recall the Osbournes were nowhere to be seen. The plan was the same: between performers a big name would come out and hopefully surprise everyone in the audience that they were in the same room as them so much that everyone would want to donate money. But it's not like Sam Jackson came out and reenacted Jules from Pulp Fiction in the name of performance to get everyone to cough up some bucks (though I might have maybe given over if he had done that). They were basically just begging for money, and it probably wasn't their own personal charity in the first place, just a night to go to downtown L.A., shmooze, get wined and dined, and ease their conscience by using their star-power to get people to donate money. As for the performers, it was actually a pretty wide spectrum. I think I used to think Margaret Cho was funny but here she did a a set that was at once not all that funny and also what I wouldn't think would be appropriate for a crowd that could have been a lot of families. There was an Indian-Candian comedian that I didn't recognize but it was easy to see how he could go big in America because he's funny (if only his name was more memorable). I would never pick Cypress Hill for a show, benefit or otherwise, but the crowd was all about them. Note to Andy Garcia: You are an actor and you get paid and you do it pretty well. No matter how well you play the bongos, you are not a cool musician and you look like an asshole wearing sunglasses indoors. And that reminded me that Los Lobos were there. Looking at it now, there were a lot of unannounced guests that showed up; if that was my kind of show it would have been pretty amazing. But also a lot that I don't remember and I wasn't even drinking. George Lopez was the organizer and big name behind the event, and I assumed that he would be headline and do a special set, but by the time most everyone who had played that night reunited at the end and got back on stage for a sing-along, I knew he wasn't going to do any more, which was a shame since the 10 minutes he had at the beginning of the night to introduce everyone was pretty good. But really, we were there to see Slash. The man came out, without a word, letting his guitar say everything for him, and performed with Beth Hart, a great-looking local who performs around town a lot, and they went through an explosive "Whole Lotta Love" and a new song written for the show. Nothing spectacular besides seeing one of the greatest guitar players alive today come out on stage and work his magic (as unattached as he seemed, but that's part of his stage persona). It was a short set but it was worth the price of the ticket (to ease my conscience by doing the right thing and paying money). And qualified well enough to count as a concert, so as to be included on here?