Bananarama, the iconic British female pop trio formed in the 80’s, performed at The Novo downtown this past Tuesday, their first show in Los Angeles since 1989, impossibly. (A comically curmudgeonly LA Times review of that gig at the Universal Amphitheater survives online; a live bootleg recording of that show, a nice curio artifact, recently turned up online.)
The occasion of the tour is the reunion of all three original band members–Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey, who left the group in ‘88, four albums in, on the cusp of their first tour. Fahey later went on to release music as Shakespeare’s Sister, while Dallin and Woodward have kept Bananarama continuously active as a duo over the years. Fahey came back into the fold for well-received U.K. shows last year and they look poised to repeat that with a quick jaunt of four U.S. dates. (A nice Guardian piece talking to the ladies on the occasion of their reunion last year is here.)
The house was packed with a fun, motley audience–middle aged suburban couples, old school KROQ heads (whose ex-DJ Richard Blade, a local legend, served as opening act, his recent autobiography conveniently available at the merch table), sprinklings of younger hipsters, and the expected strong gay contingent.
The three ladies, backed by an able four-piece band serving the songs well, worked through a winning, high energy greatest hits set…
Bananarama | bananarama.co.uk
The second of back-to-back nights at Moroccan Lounge, Luna, the longtime literate guitar pop outfit, once identified with New York cool in the 90’s, now mostly LA-based, delivered a treat of a live show at the intimate venue, kicking off a quick eight date West Coast jaunt (they pick it up again January 23 in Seattle).
The sold-out smaller room, intentionally or not, gave the band–Dean Wareham, of course, vocals/guitar, alongside the current lineup, steady since the turn of the millennium–Sean Eden, lead guitar; Britta Phillips, bass/vocals; Lee Wall, drums–a bit of a garage-y feel, coming across at times louder and rawer than usual for them. It worked, particularly on longer, louder jams like “Friendly Advice” and “Freakin’ and Peakin’” (from Penthouse, probably most widely considered their classic LP, is well represented with five cuts tonight).
After a decade long hiatus, Luna reactivated in 2015 for a well received live tour and have been active since. Last summer they delivered their first new recordings in thirteen years: an eclectic collection of cover versions, A Sentimental Education (smart covers long being a key component of the Luna catalog) and an e.p. of new original instrumentals, A Place Of Greater Safety.
Luna | lunamusic.com
Photo by Sung. Full set here.
The first of a pair of intimate warm up gigs (the second tonight in Oakland) in advance of his Day For Night festival headlining set this weekend, Thom Yorke treated the Fonda Theatre with his solo electronic live show, the first headline presentation of his beat-based music in the U.S.
A minimalist stage setup of three podiums of gear, backed by three projection screens, Yorke was flanked by the familiar Nigel Godrich, producer extraordinaire, seemingly managing the bulk of the electronic foundation from his station (occasionally handling some groovy bass), and the less familiar Tarik Barri, a Dutch audiovisual composer, creating live, generative visuals. The all-black-clad three-piece ran through a 90-minute set of Yorke’s dark, punchy electronica, backed by Barri’s engrossing colors and shapes projections. The combination of bass heavy, groove-based tunes, constantly evolving imagery, and, of course, Yorke’s stage presence made for a compelling performance.
Scottish indie post-rock stalwarts Mogwai brought their always powerful, mostly instrumental live show to a sold out Belasco Theater downtown last Tuesday. Touring in support of their latest full length release, the excellent Every Country’s Sun, their first for U.S. label Temporary Residence, the career spanning set drew heavily from that release while weaving in one track from each of their other 8 albums.
A honed live act, few bands match their sheer power or range of dynamics and can deliver as cathartic and visceral an experience. This night finds them in fine form, perhaps as tight and expressive as ever. It’s energy all the way through, no drag, with a wide variety of volume, tempos and electric and synth textures.
Mellow early track “Cody” finds Stuart Braithwaite confidently delivering a naked live vocal (he’s the only one to address the audience between songs, warmly thanking us). New LP opener “Coolverine” is lean and mean live, driven by Dominic Aitchison’s driving bass. “Party in the Dark” is as pure a melodic pop moment in their catalog. A near ten-minute “Two Rights Make One Wrong” builds to a pleasing electronics and noise freakout. It all ends with two classics in the encore–the midtempo meditation “Hunted by a Freak” featuring Barry Burns on flanged vocals, into the mandatory closer, the eponymous “Mogwai Fear Satan,” the quiet-loud-really quiet-REALLY LOUD three-guitar attack from their debut LP. Thoroughly satisfying. . .
Mogwai | mogwai.co.uk
On a preposterously warm late October evening, inside a hot sweaty Roxy, Alvvays played a winning set of their refined pop to a diverse sold-out crowd (Who knew so many bro types were into Alvvays?) The uniquely spelled Toronto band–now a 5-piece: Molly Rankin (lead vocals/guitar), Kerri MacLellan (keyboard/backing vocals), Alec O’Hanley (lead guitar), Brian Murphy (bass guitar) and newest addition Sheridan Riley (drums)–was seemingly taken aback by a boisterous audience, demonstrative in their love, raced through an hour-long set of their well-crafted tunes set to insightful lyrics.
The headline L.A. show, a late addition to their ongoing tour in support of their excellent second album, Antisocialites, follows their local appearance at Music Tastes Good festival in August. The near instant sell out at the ticket on-sale took is a testament to their particularly fervent fan base.