Friday, May 16, 2008
My first major concert since, oh, 1994 when I caught Nine Inch Nails in Evansville IN at Robert's Stadium. That show, with it's super-long lines, security checks, traffic snafus, and protesters (hah!) was an eye-opening experience after seeing so many shows in smaller, mid-size venues. NIN (and openers Pop Will Eat Itself and the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow) were excellent, or should I say, what I could see from the distant bleachers - was excellent.
I can say similar things for this one. In way Northwestern St. Louis, amongst expanses of farmland, fast-food eateries, and a massive gambling casino, sits this excessively-huge outdoor amphitheater, which is evidently another investment opportunity for a major cell-phone wireless provider (I refuse to further promote this, so we'll just called it the V Wireless Amphitheater, and leave it at that). Anyhow, after a decent drive (relatively trouble-free despite the detours due to a complete re-structuring of I64 inside St. Louis), we grabbed our cheap hotel room (which wasn't all that bad, now was it c?), and went out to meet our destiny, and see the show.
Fine restaurants were in short supply, so we were forced to utilize the horrendously overpriced snack and drink valley within the amphitheater. Hmm. Let's see. $8.00 per plastic bottle of Budweiser. No, thanks. Bottles of water for $5.00. Ugh. Personal-size Papa John's pizzas for $8.00. Yipes. Little cup of french fries for $5.00. Shudder. So we had to dole out some cash for a few small bits (fries and a pizza, we luckily brought our own water). Not long after we ate, we made our way to the lawn. Yes, the grass. To it's credit, it was nice and fairly soft grass. Nice and soft on our asses, cuz that was where we had paid $50 apiece to be! Better still, it had rained the previous day or night, so it was wet grass. Prepare for discomfort.
Anyway, the openers were Liars, and they kicked ass. Like a mixture of Bauhaus (the vocalist had some of Peter Murphy's patented moves down perfectly) and Joy Division, these guys exhibited more than a trace of great 80's-era dark rock, but edged up with a pulsing 90's noise-rock aesthetic (think Sonic Youth or some proto-industrial acts). The sound was superb, even on the lawn. I will certainly be revisiting their latest CD, 'Liars', soon. The audience was fairly supportive, at least from what I could detect.
Nicely enough, as the throngs became mobs, and the entire amphitheater became a mass-collection of band t-shirts, tattoos, funky clothes, funkier aromas (patchouli, cloves, cigarettes, and mary j, to be specific), we were approached by some upstanding young lasses with a tarp and blanket. The deal? We share our spot of prime real estate in exchange for use of their wet-grass-combatting articles. We affably agreed and thus began our mutually-beneficial symbiosis. The girls had fun taking digital pix of 'wet asses'. We dare not stand up, as we would likely have ended up part of their gallery collection! Hah!
Anyhow, after a prolonged break, the crowd roared as, it would seem, Thom Yorke and company were onstage. I could detect them as slight, featureless figures onstage...but yes, it was Radiohead. The monitors were switched off (at the band's request), but luckily they had their own light show and backing screens that showed the group in a much more artful and obscure way. Dig. Well, the show was sold out, and some estimates I've read said 18,000 people. It seemed that way when Radiohead was onstage. The place was full, and reportedly sold out!
The band opened with 'All I Need', and it went from there. Rapturous applause and screams at every turn. Rather than detail it here, here's the necessity..the setlist:
01. All I Need 02. Jigsaw Falling Into Place 03. Airbag 04. 15 Step 05. Nude 06. Kid A 07. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi 08. The Gloaming 09. You And Whose Army?a 10. Idioteque 11. Faust Arp 12. Videotape 13. Everything In Its Right Place 14. Reckoner 15. Optimistic 16. Bangers and Mash 17. Bodysnatchers
Encore One: 18. Exit Music (For A Film) 19. Myxomatosis 20. My Iron Lung 21. There There 22. Fake Plastic Trees
Encore Two: 23. Pyramid Song 24. House of Cards 25. Paranoid Android
Pretty impressive. TONS of great music, well-performed and with solid sound. Yes, Radiohead can perform their studio magic live just as well as on their numerous spellbinding and influential CDs. A very cool light show with video effects, and modern but oh-so moving and intimate live presence, despite the nipply cool weather (mid-50's) and oversize venue. I did manage to see the band in better detail, thanks to my 10X zoom camera, and I must concur with Cori that the show was superb, and the band still at the top of their game. I do abhor such venues, and profess to never having a need to see a show so huge ever again in my life. I am, nonetheless, very glad to have been able to see Radiohead live at last (one less thing to do before I die). Now I still need to see Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and perhaps Einsturzende Neubauten. Ah, someday.
What do you get when you get a bunch of veteran California punk rock stars together to pay irreverent tributes to both Elvis AND pigfuck punk slimester G.G. Allin? Your answer is right here. These 'nardcore' buffoons, eh, liven up these old Elvis songs and do 'em up in grand three-chord punk rock style. 'Blue Suede Shoes' is punk-a-billy to the nth degree, and really pretty fun. I can imagine the old days slamdancing at local punk shows with some rowdy and shady characters. Ah, the good old days! 'Viva Las Vegas' was already done years back by Jello and his Dead Kennedys, but here it's even harder and heavier. 'My Way' is in the drunken sloppy spirit of Sid's infamous rendition, whereas 'Devil In Disguise' is mean and peppy, with Bad Samaritans' Eric Lara (aka GG Elvis) performing gruffy vox. The rest of the band, consisting of members of Ill Repute, Stalag 13, NOFX, and Jughead's Revenge, takes it up a notch with some great classic-style 3-chord punk, with little inner-song tribs to the Ramones, Black Flag, and Sex Pistols, which is nice. Overall, a fun if inessential album, though their live shows would own, I'd bet. The accompanying bonus DVD is full of some indulgent clips and assorted silliness, really pretty insubstantial. (Mental Records)
First, getting TO the venue proved to be a bit problematic, as many of downtown Louisville's streets were closed due to a Barack Obama rally/visit, which attracted mobs of supporters (and a tiny handful of anti-abortion protesters, oddly). Nonetheless, we made it successfully to the parking garage and arrived with time to spare. Upon entering the charming and historic Brown Theatre (where we had recently seen Andrew Bird), we were greeted to throngs of fans, but a well-organized seating arrangement made it an easy and comfortable entrance.
Opening the show was local Louisville indie favorite Rachel Grimes, who used to play in the influential chamber-indie group Rachel's, and her reception was more than warm. She played maybe a half-hour, unaccompanied on piano. Her music, from her upcoming album 'Book Of Leaves', was classy, instrumental, and lovely, if unassuming. She was genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to open for her friends (she was asked to contribute to an older Frames album years ago, so her connection is valid).
After a fairly brief intermission, the crowd swelled with applause as Glen Hansard appeared to sing, with only an acoustic guitar (and bypassing the microphones). He belted out 'Say It To Me Now', and the audience was enraptured by the Irishman's intensity and charisma. Quite an opening. Shortly thereafter, the full band walked out, including fan favorite Marketa Irglova, who co-starred with Hansard in the critically-acclaimed film 'Once'. She was overtaken with screams and cheer, and her shy smile was characteristic of her quiet and low-key demeanor. Combined, the chemistry and intimacy of the band and audience made for an amazing and beautiful show.
The band touched upon several new songs, all of which seemed quite comparable to their work on the 'Once' soundtrack and their 'Swell Season' CD, and their forthcoming album is sure to be as wonderfully emotional and classy. Irglova, who I think has been a little wobbly and restrained in the past, seemed much more comfortable onstage, and her new songs were definitely stronger than her contributions to past works. The unexpected success of the film and music has undoubtably been a challenge for her, whereas Hansard has been performing for over 20 years, so he knows how to work with and capture an audience's attention. He was quite the character, telling scores of stories and generally hamming it up onstage, and engaging in some nicely-done feedback discussions with the crowd. Hansard is a natural entertainer and a really likeable guy, maintaining humility and self-deprecating humor, despite his fans being borderline worshipful.
The onstage interaction between the band (including some members of Hansard's longtime mates, The Frames), Irglova, and Hansard was comfortable and loose, and they seemed to really enjoy performing together. A nice touch was a solo song by the bassist (Joe Doyle?), as well as a solo piece by master fiddler Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Marketa performed solo, acoustically, as well, and she provided a lovely voice that's still maturing and developing into a gentle, wispy, ethereal counterpoint to Hansard's soulful and gritty but smooth voice and more outgoing personality. Combined the two are a glorious and ideal collision of sound and texture (and heartbreaking emotion). The duo performed a solo Pixies cover, and Glen handled Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks' adeptly and with unbridled intensity, even gaining a standing ovation when his guitarwork became frenzied and his soul-searing shouts were hair-standing-on-end powerful. Wow. The diverse audience (teens to silverheads, with everything in-between) was enthralled, as were we. A gorgeous show, gorgeous music, and a wonderful venue. Perhaps one of the better shows I've ever seen, and that's in 20 years of concert-going!
The Swell Season site