Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith No More, November 30 at the Palladium

I’ve never been an enormous Faith No More fan but I wanted to see if they were capable of putting on more of a show than they did with all the novelties at Coachella. I thought for sure that they could rock out a lot more with their own show and didn’t have to rely on joke-covers. As it turns out, doing a longer show only meant more silliness. Not that they couldn’t rock out. When they got down to it they rocked harder than nearly any other act I've ever seen. They might be old guys now they have the experience and the songs to play hard, loud, and fast. Their first song of the night, the now-old joke of "Reunited" hung notes in the air that were supported only by the anticipation of what song they were going to tear into when they finally got the funny (to them, at least) out of the way. And when they finally got to it they exploded. When they were on, they were on fire and right on target; when they weren't it was just more novelty songs, which might have broken the consistency of the show but at the same time, maybe it paced them so they could get through the whole thing. It was definitely an old-school crowd but there's a lot that the younger set could learn from them -- namely, if you're going to joke around on stage, be ready to bring it after you're done with the punchline.I met up with Ahmed for the show but we couldn't find Andrew (though younger than me, a much bigger FNM fan).

I met up with Ahmed for the show but we couldn't find Andrew (though younger than me, a much bigger FNM fan).

Faith No More’s set-list:
"Reunited" (Peaches & Herb cover)
"From Out of Nowhere"
"Everything's Ruined"
"Surprise! You're Dead!"
"Poker Face" (Lady Gaga cover) intro/"Chinese Arithmetic"
"Last Cup of Sorrow"
"Cuckoo for Caca"
"Easy" (The Commodores cover)
"Midlife Crisis"
"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
"I Started a Joke" (Bee Gees cover)
"Ashes to Ashes"
"Just a Man"
"Chariots of Fire" (Vangelis cover)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weezer/Best Coast, November 27 at the Gibson Amphitheater

Sometime in the late summer or early fall the tickets for the short Weezer tour went on sale. Of course Noa had to go. I would have skipped it, having had my fill of Weezer for a while, but they did the one thing that could get me to see their concert: They committed to playing all of Pinkerton. While I can’t say that I love Weezer anymore, I will have Pinkerton on my top 100 albums of all time for a long time. So I told her I was in and we planned to get together for it. (She also had tickets for the night before, when they were playing the Blue Album but that was way more than I needed.) As it turned out, Noa got sick and she had to give up her tickets (and she had to have been deathly ill for her to miss those shows). I don’t remember what she did with the first night’s tickets but since I was going to the second night I took the other ticket she had and, since she was with me, took Carla with me. Noa gets her tickets through e-mail nowadays and I didn’t think I’d have a problem printing out the tickets on my own but I had printer problems (yet again. That printer didn't last much longer after that) and I knew that I couldn’t take it to Kinko’s (since we had a problem with accessing the site there before). I had a bit of luck and was able to get the printer to work but it was nearly at the last minute and we rushed to Universal, getting there in the nick of time to see Best Coast, but only because we valet-parked (and that cost $25). Best Coast is another local band that I’ve missed until they got (relatively) big but that they were opening was another clincher in the deal for me to go to this show. Live, they were a little flat, only showing that their debut album owed much of its thrill to the production but it was still a good enough performance, especially considering they weren’t really built to play a place like the Gibson. Weezer went on, beginning not with Pinkerton but with a best-of set showcasing pretty much post-Pinkerton, an era when Rivers decided to go along with his fame and become a real, full-time musician, though it might also be argued that it was when he approached it as a job and lost the spark that made the band’s early stuff so loose and fun. It could also explain why they did this full-album cash-grab, since they could feel their relevancy slipping away as Rivers kept pooping out new music, perpetually with lessening returns, and felt that they could get the spotlight again, playing their most beloved albums, even if they hadn’t played more than a sparse spattering of Pinkerton since they originally toured (limply) for it and, as it's said, an album that Rivers would rather forget. Also goes to show why Rivers has let go of the control over the band that he held with an iron fist in the past: by letting the other guys write or sing some of the new material, he can care even less and the rest of the guys are happy, even if they suck. At least Rivers was smart enough to get an awesome drummer to replace Pat when he decided to play guitar, which also means that Rivers doesn't even have to play guitar anyone, though with Josh Freese on drums, it only shows how much a marginal drummer Pat is. There’s so little that Rivers does with the band anymore, it’s a surprise he even shows up for the shows. As for Pinkerton itself, the performance was mostly flat and joyless, which is mostly what it was on the album, on purpose, and while that was part of the album's charm, it doesn't work as well live, and so to say it was even more flat and joyless in concert is remarkable. It wasn’t bad (and credit for playing two B-sides, including "Suzanne," secretly one of their best songs), since the songs were still the same, but it was clear that they engaged a lot less with their own material than the audience did, which is sad since it's sad that Pinkerton was the start of the mass-market emo movement. The kids at that show grew up with and were built from that album so they probably didn’t notice or care that it was a lackluster performance. Even though I knew that it wasn’t going to be a great performance, I still had to go, to experience all of those songs performed live all at one time, especially since they'll probably never bother to do it again, if they even play any of those songs at one of their standard shows. It could be either good luck or bad luck that Weezer are still together so it’s fortunate to get to see their best songs performed, even if it's by the modern-day version of Cuomo and the band. It was probably the only way to make their newer music sound vibrant and exciting, to do a set of songs they were playing begrudgingly against a set of stuff they actually wanted to do. But really, if they played all of their stuff like the set they played before Pinkerton, they might be able to reach the heights they once (almost) had (as long as they keep away from the stuff from the accursed Red Album).

Weezer’s set-list:
"Pork and Beans"
"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)"
"Perfect Situation" (with Jorge Garcia)
"Dope Nose" (Scott Shriner sang, Rivers played guitar)
"Island in the Sun" (with Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast)
"Hash Pipe"
"You Gave Your Love to Me Softly"
"Only in Dreams"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Greg Dulli, November 16 at the Troubadour

I’ve seen Greg Dulli before, back in the day with the Afghan Whigs then later with the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, even a night co-billed with Mark Lanegan (though pretty much still the Gutter Twins), and it was always a great show, but in his later groups he's seemed like he was always holding something back. With the Whigs he was chatty and cantankerous (and probably also drunk and/or high); these days he's trying to be cool in front of Lanegan, say, or maybe just getting older and sober and letting his songs -- the good, new ones -- speak from themselves. As it was, this was billed as a show featuring not the band but the man himself so it could have gone anywhere, and that was the fun of it: was he going to show off the new stuff or would he reach deep into the catalog or could it be a bunch of covers (as he’s known to whip out spontaneously) or maybe be a little of all of that? Was he going to rock out or was he going to keep it cool and low? He certainly had a smorgasbord of material -- even just originals -- to choose from. Even with only two other band members -- and one of them being a violinist/cellist/upright bass player; no drummer -- he can still fill a room, with people and with sound. Even playing stripped-down, the band still rocked-out as much as if they were a full band (though the Troubadour's sound-system and the relatively small space could get some of the credit. It's never sounded better, though it helps that there was little distortion in the music and there wasn't a bunch of extra noise in it). He started out (only 20 minutes late) with what some might have considered an acoustic set then he brought out a very special guest -- the Whigs' bassist, John Curley -- and it suddenly became a very special, near-Afghan Whigs show, the closest we've gotten in more than 10 years. Curley fit in just fine with the band, playing mostly later Whigs numbers, but for the real fans that were there (and how many weren't long-time Whigs fans from way back when?), it was as close to rapturous as anything could get. Even for those few songs, it would have been more than enough, for the price of the ticket and for a satisfactory show by the current version of a rock star (in his own mind if not in fact). Of course Lanegan came out to guest for a song and Petra Haden also appeared, to play some of the new songs that she helped record. The rest of the show was, indeed, a mix of the stuff by rest of his groups, certainly his right to play, including stuff from the soon-to-be-released new Twilight Singers album, and it all sounded great. Though still the highpoint would be the Whigs stuff, the stuff that really rocked out, though “Teenage Wristband” never disappoints in that regard (but of course you knew I would have to say that). Carla and I went with Cid & John and we all waited around afterward for Dulli to come out to the merch table to sign stuff (something I likely wouldn't have done if I were there alone). Of course we were at the front of the line. I’ve met him before and I had nothing for him to sign this time but I still had to make an effort to engage him somehow, if only to have an etched memory of the event, so I said I was a fan and asked if there was any chance for the Whigs to get back together, maybe even to play Coachella. To the latter question he said, “It’s too hot,” then for the former, “Ain’t gonna happen, dude.” Though it makes me wonder: if he’s still cool with Curley, and they could get a new drummer (as the Whigs had a revolving cast in their day), and obviously Dulli doesn’t mind playing the old stuff (unless he was just doing it to include some Whigs stuff for his solo show since he knew the audience would expect it), and if it’s not legalities stopping them from getting back together (since those kinds of things can be worked around), and assuming it’s not McCollum holding them back (though I would guess that this is the main reason), then what’s the deal? Maybe we should have waited at the back of the line so I would have had time to get a more complete answer. Then again, the music always speaks for itself, the man’s new stuff is still good, and the old stuff was magic for back then and it's good now in its recorded form. That’s all we need. Though it’s nice when you get more than you were expecting.

Greg Dulli's set-list:
"St. Gregory"
"God's Children"
"Blackbird & The Fox"
"Bonnie Brae"
"A Love Supreme"/"Please Stay (Once You Go Away)"
"The Killer"
"What Jail is Like"
"Let Me Lie To You"
"Forty Dollars"
"Step Into The Light"
"If I Were Going"
"Summer's Kiss"
"Follow You Down"
"The Stations"
"Never Seen No Devil"

"Candy Cane Crawl"
"Down the Line" (José González cover)
"Teenage Wristband"
"The Twilite Kid"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ghostland Observatory, November 4 at Club Nokia

Rachel’s birthday happened to be the same day as the Ghostland Observatory show so it was decided that that was what we were going to do that night to celebrate, also a Thursday, often the best night to go out. There was a group of us, most of the drinking group at the time, and we had drinks and dinner at the adjacent Trader Vic’s beforehand, an added significance of the event being when Carla met a lot of my L.A. friends. This time Club Nokia wasn’t a bad place for the show, not being so packed that we couldn’t get around, dance if we wanted to, and not so exclusive that the only place we were allowed to stand was a three-foot square at the very back of the place. Jenn had been raving about Ghostland for years, and I missed them at Coachella and other fests I’ve been to, so I was glad to finally see them, though I was not versed at all in them. The laser-light show would have been enough even without the music. As it was, I don’t recall any of the music they played since I was busy dancing and being silly and then, during the encore, um, hanging out with Carla back by the bar.