Friday, October 18, 2013

Sleigh Bells, October 18 at the El Rey

We'd seen Sleigh Bells at various festivals and they were always great.  Not so much of a main course but as a side dish they were fantastic.  I might have missed them if not for Carla, though I could have run into them somewhere else and they might have made an impression if not a deep mark.  As it was, while I'd check them out at at festival, I probably wouldn't have gone out to see them for their own show.  But it was a Friday night, Carla was out, and I was finishing up at work when Rick texted me and said he had an extra ticket for the show.  I didn't have any reason not to go.  It's hard to turn down a concert, especially on a free night, though it might have been more to hang out, since he and I hadn't done that in a while and it's always a good time. On our way we stopped at a Rite-Aid to pick up a pack of ear-plugs -- I've never felt older in my life but I rolled with it.  We got in before they went on (skipping the Doldroms), maybe enough time to get up close like we used to but ended up staying in the back -- we knew the volume would overcome us anywhere in the facility anyway, and we'd already seen Alexis up close on SNL.  The crowd was fairly young -- I don't keep up with popular music enough to know how they rate, even in the indie world. I don't think too much about the intended audience when I get into a band, and I can't assume that any band I'm into will fit in my age range. I just like the music. But if the audience reflected the band then it was led by Alexis screaming and jumping and thrashing about the stage. The walls of the venue were stacks of amps, making for volume approaching MBV levels. This is a band outfitted for festivals and large spaces, and this night they were crammed into the El Rey which, to its credit, somehow continued standing after the show. I ended up being grateful for those ear-plugs. Age brings wisdom. I'll let the kids go deaf. The band, as always, were over-caffeinated and over-amplified and I wouldn't expect anything less. The show was noticeably short, over in just over an hour, which could be for any number of reasons we won't find out, whether for a curfew for the crew or for the kids or whatever. It was satisfying, even if I still don't know why she has her bean & cheese in a drawer. Thanks again to Rick for the ticket!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Simple Minds, October 15 at the Orpheum Theater

I grew up on Simple Minds. Back when I was a pop-radio-loving kid they were a modern-rock band that seeped into the mainstream just enough that I could see there was another world out there. I even caught a few of their songs that weren't "Don't You (Forget About Me)", which I wasn't always a big fan of anyway. They had great videos on MTV. I didn't get any of their albums until years later, Real Life for "See The Lights" then the '93 greatest hits after that, and I had a few others but lost interest beyond what I stared with. When they were still touring the States, after their biggest peak but when I was old enough to go, I still might not have made a huge effort to see them, such was my limited fandom. A concert-friend had told me that they were great live so they were on my radar but by then they weren't coming back around much. So when they did a modern-day U.S. tour I was in. It was proposed to be a greatest-hits show but it wouldn't have mattered to me if it was or wasn't anyway. What they played were hits but most of them big anywhere but the U.S., and even those that got through to America were mostly for the nostalgic set. There was plenty for real fans, and it might have played better elsewhere but there was still enough of a crowd with enthusiasm to eat it up. I don't even count myself as a real fan, as I know only slightly more than the rest of the crowd, but what I was familiar with was enough to carry me the whole way, and the other stuff sounded great enough to be hits (just not here). For me, just to hear one song from Real Life made it. They still play a show like they're a big, relevant band, and Jim Kerr still brings the swagger even when he's aged only slightly better than everyone else. They're still significant enough to play the Orpheum, which is always a prestigious place to be, and not tiny, even if they're in considerably bigger venues in Europe and elsewhere. Maybe putting off touring the States and building anticipation worked, though if they're not going to have any more hits that get through, it's good they pulled the trigger to make the trip before they (and their audience, and their hits) get any older. They even did "Don't You (Forget About Me)" outside of the encore like it was just another song to play, and in Europe it probably is, though here it's good it just happened to come near the end since that, more than likely, was their (American) peak.

Simple Minds' set-list:
"Broken Glass Park"
"Once Upon a Time"
"Up on the Catwalk"
"All the Things She Said"
"Mandela Day"
"Let the Day Begin" (The Call cover)
"Glittering Prize"
"New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)"

"I Travel"
"Someone Somewhere in Summertime"
"This Fear of Gods"
"She's a River"
"The American"
"Love Song"
"See the Lights"
"Don't You (Forget About Me)"
"Promised You a Miracle"

"Theme for Great Cities"
"Sanctify Yourself"
"Alive and Kicking"

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bon Jovi, October 11 at Staples

Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet is one of the first albums I ever had, during my formative early-teenage years. (I had Thriller before that so that was my official first album but that seemed more like a novelty for the time and what everyone had anyway.) I got the Slippery cassette in 7th grade as a gift from a friend who lived next door, who seemed much cooler than me because he knew Bon Jovi and I barely knew them from MTV, but before they went super-nova a year later. Back then hair-metal was still coming up and it was the thing at the time anyway. (It might have been a golden age for "alternative" music but that was about as far away as could be for me at the time.) Tango in the Night and Invisible Touch were constants for me in 8th grade, every day after school while I did dishes and waited for Jem to come on, but I rarely ever put on Slippery, for fear that anyone would catch me during that time when the backlash had begun and my cool friends deemed him (not usually them, as a band) as -- quote, unquote -- gay. Typical middle school. After that I kept being a Bon Jovi fan, openly displaying my love for "Wanted Dead or Alive" and New Jersey in high school (with a different set of cool friends), even when that wasn't a good time to be a fan. I got those albums eventually on CD, and I even got the new ones for a while but they never had the charge, and certainly not the nostalgia, that those early ones had for me. Even though I had moved beyond hair-metal just as Bon Jovi had (though they could hardly be considered any version of "metal"), I had moved beyond them in any genre. I still played those early two albums, and kept their first greatest-hits, but that's as far as I ever went again. I would still admit, without irony, to being a fan, at least for those bygone years. In my adult life I could have made any effort to see them in concert, but I was already well past the time when it would have been the best to go (as if I actually could have in middle school or early high school). Just to do it I wouldn't have gone alone, though I would go if I had friends who were interested, but who did I know that would want to go to that show anyway? Well, Tom, as it turns out. He suggested getting tickets and I couldn't say no.  I didn't even have to go on a goof; we made an evening out of it with Carla and Tati, got dinner at Trader Vic's before, and might even have gotten there on time. There might have been times when Bon Jovi might have played bigger places than Staples Center but they wouldn't play a place smaller than that, even 20-odd years past their greatest peak. Few bands can keep up that kind of momentum for that long, and they might be the only band that survived that hair-metal era intact, though they had the advantage of being more of a pop-rock band and willing to shift to go along with trends (since they didn't have a lot of artistic integrity to sacrifice in the first place). Jon himself also didn't destroy himself with the excesses of the halcyon days, and he always seemed to have a good business sense to keep the music and the company that was the band going. That didn't make for the best art, and even their best moments were way too broadly accessible, but he kept the whole thing rolling strong. That same sense of business and pushing ahead comes out in the show, when they charge through the songs, with more routine than heart in the music, but professional enough that they could satisfy anyone who would consider themselves a fan. They started strong with a few early hits and ended and encored with more and what I could assume were their biggest post-'80s hits, but the middle was a long slog. There was probably enough for post-'90s fans and anyone who cared about stuff from their newest album, but there was barely anything I felt I needed to know. Tati and I had a regular conversation as we were waiting the songs out. That sequence only showed how they've moved through changing genres, for better or worse, but a countrified album or two at least means they can keep doing shows with the old songs (whether they want to or not -- sorry, there are still plenty of lapsed and casual fans that still want to hear your best stuff, even if it was from decades ago. The price you pay for keeping it going as an aging rock band). The biggest disappointment was the absence of Richie Sambora, who had quit part-way through the tour just a short while before this show. It was probably over money or ego, which are ridiculous reasons to stop a good thing from going, especially when all parties involved already have more of enough of each, but at least they didn't try to pass it off as anything regarding creativity. The band was still solid, and the scab guitar player might have been technically just as good, but there was always something about Sambora tempering the band with another creative head, that there was another talented musician around to make it an actual band and not a solo act, which would not have been as appealing (since it's easy to quickly get too much of Jon Bon Jovi). Inevitably Sambora will come back to the band and maybe he'll inject some heart and excitement back into it, and maybe the reunion would be celebration enough to get some interest in the L.A. date. But it would take a great night out with a good friend, and I can't count on anyone much in my life for that more than Tom. If only I could have taken my 8th-grade self. He may or may not have liked the later songs but at least he could have seen that it wasn't an issue if Jon Bon Jovi was gay or not.

Bon Jovi's set-list:
"That's What the Water Made Me"
"You Give Love a Bad Name"
"Raise Your Hands"
"Lost Highway"
"Whole Lot of Leavin'"
"It's My Life"
"Because We Can"
"What About Now"
"We Got It Goin' On"
"Keep the Faith"
"Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" (acoustic)
"Thick As Thieves" (acoustic)
"(You Want to) Make a Memory"
"Born to Be My Baby"
"We Weren't Born to Follow"
"Who Says You Can't Go Home"
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", with "Rockin' All Over the World", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and "Start Me Up" snippets
"Bad Medicine/"Shout"

"In These Arms"
"Wanted Dead or Alive"
"Have a Nice Day"
"Livin' on a Prayer"


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stereophonics, October 10 at the Fonda

I admit I am a slave to the Stereophonics. It's based mostly off their earliest stuff, but I got in too late for them while they were maybe cool and now they're a dad-rock band at best in Europe and almost completely obscure in America. But as long as they're doing shows means I'll probably go and I'll still get albums even though it's been years since I've really connected to a new one. There's not much reason to see their shows now since they're going to play progressively less off my beloved You Gotta Go There To Come Back, if any at all, but I'm still a fan. At least they're consistent with their newer material barely registering a memorable single, much less to offer anything for anywhere but England, but they still keep trying to crack the U.S. Their shows here might be some kind of obligation but probably more hubris to think they maybe this time they'll really do it. Yet they keep playing smaller venues, bottoming out at the Fonda, which isn't a tiny place, but there must be some kind of contractual thing to play there and nowhere smaller, since they didn't even sell it out; they could sell out stadiums overseas. I can be thankful that they always play an L.A. date, for as much good as it does them, and I usually seem to go. This was the tour for Graffiti on the Train but it might as well have been for Keep Calm and Carry On (which they didn't tour the States for), as if a more popular title was needed, for as much as I remembered the new songs or even cared. I wanted to say that I was there for the early stuff but I've already heard most of that a few times already by now. I thought maybe the new stuff would register, and it did fine but nothing that stuck out anywhere near to the old material. But it was a good enough show. Carla got to see them, and that's probably enough for her for as long as I'm a fan. It's a shame that the Stereophonics will probably never play a bigger place in American than the Fonda since they're a good band when they want to be, better live than most of their recorded stuff, and Kelly is a capable and charming frontman, but it's just as well since they're just churning out new stuff to hang on, and they and their fans keep getting older. The English music scene can be fickle so maybe they could turn it around with a good single, like another "Dakota," and that could translate to some cache in America, but until then their cycle will probably keep grinding away like it has for the last few years. And I'll probably still go to their L.A. date. The Wind and The Wave opened this show but we missed them.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mark Lanegan, October 4 at the Troubadour

I wasn't planning to go to the Mark Lanegan show but Cidney bailed so Carla so had the extra ticket and I took it up. I have no problem seeing Mark Lanegan, whether solo or with his band or with another group or when he shows up to a Greg Dulli show because he was hanging around anyway. Lanegan's voice might do something to the nether regions of ladies but I can only wish to appreciate it in the same way, so for me, a male rock n' roll fan, it goes through my ears, not my panties. This night it was just Lanegan and an electric guitarist and that was it and that was enough. It was putting the voice right front and center. Lanegan might not like being in the spotlight but maybe he doesn't have a problem putting his voice out there. Maybe this was a show as a supplement to a full tour and he was just staying out on the road, which is what he does anyway. It's a shame Lanegan can't make enough of a living to not have to be such a road dog but maybe for this show he at least didn't have to divide up the revenue with a band or big road crew and could just ride along and do a minimal show. And it still worked, but that isn't hard when his voice is the star of the show. Of course the place was packed and hot and sweaty but on a Friday night so that was fine. He was touring for a covers album, Imitations, which blended in so well that it was hard to tell that he had a chunk of songs that weren't his own in there. But he's got a quite a catalog of material from dark places to pull from so we can go both metaphorically and figuratively. I wasn't familiar with everything but hearing that voice growling whatever he too or came up with was fine enough for any performance. 

Mark Lanegan's set-list:
"When Your Number Isn't Up"
"The Cherry Tree Carol" (traditional)
"One Way Street"
"Don't Forget Me"
"Where the Twain Shall Meet" (Screaming Trees)
"The Gravedigger's Song"
"Phantasmagoria Blues"
"Can't Catch the Train" (Soulsavers)
"Mack the Knife" (Kurt Weill cover) (first performance ever)
"You Only Live Twice" (Nancy Sinatra cover) (first performance ever)
"Autumn Leaves" (Yves Montand cover) (first performance ever)
"Resurrection Song"
"One Hundred Days"
"On Jesus' Program" (O.V. Wright cover)

"Wild Flowers"
"Halo of Ashes" (Screaming Trees)