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 at the Fonda Theatre Tuesday, the first headline presentation of his beat-based side 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.
It didn’t take long before spotting a Willie Nelson T-shirt—out on the street walking up to the Fonda–middle aged lady, tanned, a bit of an ex-hippie vibe to her. (Later on, having made her way toward to the front of the crowd, she’ll get a little tap from security to ease up on her dance moves that are clearing out people around her– a kind of hunched over bobbing thing with a lot of arms. There’s a lot of dancing on the floor tonight, various styles, various levels of ability and sobriety.)
You might (or I might at least) have feared more of this sort of thing–Willie Nelson fans coming out in droves for his kid’s band, Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real, out of allegiance to the elder. Or perhaps Neil Young fans just turning out given the Promise of the Real’s gig as his backing band. Turns out this all this is just in my head. There’s no need for worry about the whole escaping the shadow of legends tonight, it’s Lukas Nelson and POTR’s night through and through.
The crowd, perhaps a little older skewing, is more Stagecoach than Coachella–or split the difference and call it an Arroyo Seco crowd—the festival which they played this past June. There’s a festive, upbeat energy in the room all night. Lots of denim and boots and the odd cowboy hat; being LA, a little dress up isn’t unexpected. There are promising pockets of youngins and alt FYF types here and there for a taste of the real, which is heartening.
Photos by Sung
Along U2’s The Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour, with twenty-one North American dates, including a headlining of Bonnaroo, it figures that the Rose Bowl shows in particular would promise to be special. Besides newer tackily branded barns like Levi’s or AT&T or Papa John’s (ugh…) Stadiums simply lacking the soul of the near-100-year-old local venue, the Rose Bowl is essentially the home venue to the iconic imagery of the album. The desert soul that permeates the album native to the area; the actual Joshua Tree park and Zabriskie Point of the cover shot are about a two hour drive east (some enterprising fan has mapped the spots, including the actual tree from the album art location here). You might say these two shows are a sort of homecoming for the album.
Only if you’re U2 in 2017 can an over two-hour show how featuring a 200-foot 8K resolution display seem to be a somewhat scaled down production. But following the likes of past massive tour productions such as Zoo TV or the 360° tour, with it’s in-the-round stage, or the arena-length stage and screen of the Songs of Innocence tour, the current set up is about as simple a set up as U2 can deliver–the aforementioned screen, complete with that Joshua tree yucca silhouette peaking out of the top frame, anchoring the end-zone stage and their usual smaller secondary stage out in the people.
Ending their pre-show tape (a fun blend–the expected Bowie and Clash, some less expected more recent indie cuts–“Summertime Sadness,” “Nikes,” “Kids”) with a cranked-up airing of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” in tribute to the recent passing of Chris Cornell, set off cellphone torches and reflective moods in the crowd. Cornell also later received a dedication to “Running to Stand Still,” a slight catch in Bono’s voice as he referred to him as a lion.
The band, four international icons, long since the most familiar quartet in rock since Led Zeppelin–though Bono insists on introducing Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton and The Edge every night–are rounding into live performance shape here on the fourth show of the tour, warming up into fighting live show shape after a few years off the tour circuit. Tonight we get a thoroughly satisfying stadium rock show that still leaves one selfishly wanting more.