Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blur/Courtney Barnett, October 20, 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl

A friend of mine said some years back that if you were a Britpop fan (presumably from the ‘90s), out of Oasis, Suede, and Blur, you loved two of those but not all three. It’s stuck with me since then and I’ve found reasons to argue then not argue it. My love for Oasis is well-documented, but there’s some Suede stuff I don’t connect to, so I always figured it was them and that would automatically make me a Blur fan. But in considering most of their stuff I’ve had since early on, I can’t always be excited about listening to it. Some of it I’ve just gone with putting it on and took my fandom for them for granted. Looking at it closer, there were probably singles that I really liked, but some I hated (in particular “Boys & Girls,” which has taken me years and a Pet Shop Boys cover just to tolerate), and a lot of other material that doesn’t always move me. I’ve even seen them before, at a pretty lackluster show that wasn’t necessarily representative of what they built their name on, but Graham also wasn’t with them at that time, so they could get some slack, but provisionally. So all this could explain why I didn’t jump on getting Blur tickets for their Bowl show and would have been cool with missing it, but then Rachel came through with an extra on a free night and I went, almost like it was just any other show. It wasn’t a guarantee that I would have considered any show a bunch of my friends were going to, but being Blur helped. I rode over with Jen and the bunch of us got together before and picnicked, like usual for a Bowl show. Courtney Barnett opening was more of a draw than Blur themselves, and a coup of an opener, near her initial height, and should have been a big deal on her own. But part of her appeal is her slacker aesthetic and that’s hard to translate to such a massive space as the Bowl and she couldn’t fill it, especially with folks just wandering in and too cool and/or British to be taken over by her catchy songs about very pedestrian topics. It didn’t work but anyone could chalk it up to being the wrong venue for her and wishing to go back in time to see her at a more appropriate club (or, even better, a bar, if that could even happen) (and, for us, seeing more than just the second half of her set). Blur finally did their thing, even making a showing of putting in songs from their newest album, The Magic Whip like this was just another tour stop for an album so successful that everyone would want to hear the new stuff. They only did two shows in America, here (pulling a Tuesday night) and New York, so it could be assumed that this could have been a big deal for all the fans in the western half of the country, and a presumed showcase of new stuff might not sell well for those who are obsessed enough to only want classic stuff. And the new singles (if they even had any) didn’t catch on enough here to get more to fill the Bowl with, by my estimation from the cheap seats, about half full, and even most of those present lethargic at best, if because of L.A. cool or these fans not being the teeny-boppers they once were and were more content to stand back with arms crossed and hoping it would pick up and they would get more out of it than the just-enough that the band wanted to passively offer (even with Graham). We were dancing, helped when they wisely jump-started it with “There’s No Other Way” early on, even if that didn’t do anything for the field of empty seats where we were. No mention of Gorillaz, unless Damon’s lack of spirit could be attributed to having to drag along his old band when he could have played to more with the new, more energetic stuff by the ones who weren't Blur. If there’s an explanation for how Gorillaz got bigger in the States than Blur, it could be that he had contributors that actually still wanted to do the stuff, and material and a brand that could move with the time and stay fun and cool, instead of some stodgy English blokes with no big hit songs except for the “Woo Hoo” one that was completely unlike anything else they did and which had already been played to death and lost to the generation that would make them stars here. Not the show to polish their legendary status (if only somewhere else in the world) but the other show wrapped their series in less than a week and they could move on from whatever obligation they had, just like the States would go on with them only being a footnote in popular music from somewhere else. As for me, I got the Oasis side-projects and started getting more out of Suede.

Blur’s set-list:
“Music Box Instrumentals“ (PA intro)
“Go Out“
“There's No Other Way“
“Lonesome Street“
“Ghost Ship“
“Coffee & TV“
“Out of Time“
“Thought I Was a Spaceman“
“Trimm Trabb“
“Tender“ (outro: "Don't fall for Trump/He's such a chump")
“Parklife“ (with Fred Armisen)
“Song 2“
“To the End“
“This Is a Low“

“Girls & Boys“
“For Tomorrow“
“The Universal“

Courtney Barnett’s set-list:
"Avant Gardener"
"Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party"
"Small Poppies"
"Elevator Operator"
"An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)"
"Dead Fox"
"Pedestrian at Best"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Garbage/Torres, October 6, 2015 at Humphrey’s By The Bay

I actually hadn’t originally planned to see Garbage for their 20th anniversary show for their self-titled debut album. I won’t say I’ve seen them enough, though I’ve seen them plenty, and they’d already played most of it over all the times I’ve seen them since they played their first club show for those songs. But Corey got tickets for the San Diego stop and would have needed someone to go with, and since it was around the time of the wedding, it became another bachelor party. Though for my other bachelor party event we were drinking and carousing and partying, I didn't necessarily need to do all those things to celebrate the end of my bachelorhood, and just getting to see a show is totally fine. So I drove down for the evening and left the next day, and I got to see a new venue. Humphrey’s By The Bay is a place I’ve noticed many mid-range bands use as their San Diego stop. It’s basically the court-yard of a hotel that might as well be a concert venue for the open space, but it’s near the water so it has a romantic ambiance, then no seats (at least for that show), and most of all, it’s not a large place, much more intimate than most of the places those bands would play in L.A., especially the Greek (where I normally would have seen them). Maybe there are bigger places to play in San Diego, or maybe that’s just the size of the crowd they’re playing to, or their fair-weather fans there for the hits have drifted away, but it fit well for the show. A run-through of their first album is fairly unnecessary, as those songs are still cherished enough to play well and enjoyed even still in their standard set, but if they can sell a show with it, they might as well. They only get one year to celebrate an anniversary. It might be more encouraging to get old-school fans out to see that album since they might not be getting as many new ones with new material. It was a trend for a while for bands to play whole albums and they did pretty well with them, at least as a reason to tour without new stuff that was grabbing anyone like it once it did.  For that night they laid on the strategic nostalgia, opening with “Subhuman,” their first, pre-album single (and what would have gotten me to the show if I'd known they were going to play it), then stopping half-way through to play a set of era-appropriate B-sides, which was a treasure enough to make it a show unique from every other time we’d seen them, even the very first. The album, played chronologically except for the mid-set pause, could have been said to have come in remixed cuts, some heavier than others, or could be said to have been updated into new versions, since they’ve been playing those songs for 20 years and have found new arrangements and ways to make them fresh to play. It might have thrown those fans who wanted to hear the album just as they have for two decades -- which doesn't make much sense since they already have it that way -- but it sounded fine to me, especially as I get to hear the evolution of those tunes (“Vow”) and the few they rarely play ("A Stroke of Luck"), haven't in years (“Fix Me Now”), or I haven't heard ("Dog New Tricks"). Then of course an encore with some tracks from other albums, maybe some hits, as per the usual for bands doing this.  The whole thing was unnecessary but if this keeps them going and helps to get new music out so we can get a new show next time, it’s good enough. It’s not likely I would be completely content with anything but a show of rarities and deep cuts anyway, so any time they’re playing the hits in a standard set is a version of another show anyway, though the change of scenery did more than anything to change up the familiar formula.  And I finally got “Subhuman” (albeit heavily remixed).  Torres opened, which we didn’t feel we had to give much attention to, so we wandered for a bit, not drinking, but partying in our own way. And plenty fantastical, to be in a setting close to the water with a great band that has held up all these years.

"Alien Sex Fiend" (20 Years Queer video intro)
"Only Happy When It Rains"
"As Heaven Is Wide"
"Not My Idea"
"A Stroke of Luck"
"Girl Don't Come"
"The Butterfly Collector" (the Jam cover)
"Trip My Wire"
"Stupid Girl"
"Dog New Tricks"
"My Lover's Box"
"Fix Me Now"
"Kick My Ass" (Vic Chesnutt cover)
"Driving Lesson"
"Push It"
"Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)"
"#1 Crush"