« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Live: Beck and Jenny Lewis at Club Nokia

Beck_nokia_300 Many music fans get serious about pop through a love affair with a club. Whether it was a legendary spot or just the dive down the street from the dorm, such a place provides more than just loud sound and overpriced beer.

People get attached to the strangest things in clubs -- memorably awful bathrooms, decorously peeling wallpaper, a particular corner where the guitar feedback hits just right. And because these spaces are usually somewhat makeshift, converted from some other identity, like a movie theater, church or old man's bar, their shortcomings become part of their charm.

Club Nokia is the latest venue to open in AEG's "entertainment campus" L.A. Live; it opened Sunday with a double bill of Beck and Jenny Lewis. It might be the dream club for a new generation, but it doesn't exactly adhere to the old rules. This high-end destination is gleamingly new, with none of the endearing seediness of a historic venue. As part of a conglomerate, it can't have the underdog allure of a hole in the wall. It's also huge in clubland terms, with a capacity of 2,300 people -- more than quadruple what the Troubadour can hold.

The positives at this club don't have to do with aura. They're more basic: The sound is very good (though some patrons later expressed the opinion that it was too loud), the sight-lines superb, the bathrooms and bar space plentiful. Then there's the floor plan, which operates on a kind of optical illusion: The main floor is tiered, allowing for folks in the back to feel closer, and a large, extremely steep balcony puts others in a helicopter position above the stage.

The back of the club doesn't feel so bad when it's floating in the air. And the overhang the balcony creates above the dance floor is less oppressive and sound-muffling than some.

Sunday was a guest list-dominated night, and some of the giddy mood was probably due to the drinks in the lavish VIP room. But even the plebes on the main floor seemed relaxed; there was no pushing for the best spot, because every one is pretty good.

The performers also communicated contentment. "We're the first people to play in this spot -- I'm liking it so far," announced Lewis during her spirited, too-short set.

Focusing on material from this year's "Acid Tongue," Lewis reveled in the band interplay that album celebrates. With old friends on board, including her producer "Farmer" Dave Scher and her boyfriend Johnathan Rice, Lewis could thoroughly get into her music's organic, eclectic groove.

Multifaceted showstoppers like "The Next Messiah" were almost big enough for an arena, though her fans obviously relished the show's intimate moments, including a tender rendition of "Acid Tongue's" title track with Lewis on solo acoustic guitar and her band serving as backup choir.

Beck also had his band put down instruments midway through his set, but his move was hardly acoustic. "We got some 808 buttons that might make the Staples Center explode," he declared as his fellow players twiddled the knobs on their portable drum machines. The ensuing racket was one high point in a strong set that showed the dauphin of Silver Lake in better spirits than he's reportedly been at other recent shows.

Perhaps he was feeding off the crowd as it offered raucous feedback during chestnuts such as "Devil's Haircut" and new songs including "Chemtrails" and "Gamma Ray." It's unclear whether Club Nokia itself inspired him; in his only comment about the opening night, he noted that the new downtown of which the venue is a part is unrecognizable to anyone, like him, who grew up here.

That dry comment didn't affect the set's mood as Beck moved through his substantial body of work. Whether finger-picking on "Hollow Log" or throwing down rhymes on "E-Pro," he was fully engaged and entertaining. His cover version of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" had great crunch; his own "Timebomb" was like a lost garage-rock nugget.

In sync with his band and seemingly pleased with his own performance, Beck gave enough to fulfill the night's special mandate.

Now it's up to the music lovers of Los Angeles to decide if Club Nokia is just another solid venue, or a club to love. Either way, it should succeed in the moment; the test will be how it survives in people's memories in years to come.


Related: Follow the blue beacon to Club Nokia

Photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

Every venue we love (Troubadour) was new once. I think Club Nokia has a future and will end up on the our list of favorite venues. The key is the intimacy. We like to feel like we are apart of the show. I went to the concert with three friends and we all agreed that we will go back.

We talked about getting to the show early (that never happens) to get that perfect spot and thankfully we didn't need too. We could see perfectly from the back of the house, the sound was great and we had room to dance.

Jenny Lewis was new to me and now I own her cd. She was great! Beck had us jumping up and down with great songs and high energy.

The only dilemma about the night was how to see both The Who (playing at Nokia Theater) and Beck in the same night. If the shows were staggered we would have gone to both. LA LIVE maybe that is something to think about...

Looking forward to making more memories at Club Nokia.

Great review. Club Nokia is LA's best venue right now. Acoustics and view of stage were awesome at every angle (as mentioned). The long bar also helped the process to get a drink go smoothly.
Forget the renovated Palladium. Club Nokia is where it's at.

Does anyone know of the name of the opening act for Beck @ Club Nokia on Monday November 10th? They were a 3-piece band and I believe they were from Tennessee. The base player had some wild hair and the lead singer had some good guitar riffs. Wasn't too thrilled about the base player spitting on stage and on people and glad I wasn't too close to absorb his fluids.

BTW, do you know the song that Beck played immediately after his comment about not recognizing downtown LA? It played at about 10:20 pm on Sunday night.

I don't know about that "opening act" you describe, JT. I arrived in time to see Jenny Lewis and her band, and they're nothing like what you describe. As far as I know, there was no other opening act. Readers, anybody know what JT might be talking about?

As for the song Beck played after his comment, I have to admit to a gap in my notes. I have the words "two songs' and then "Guero." Can anybody else help Anu?
-- ann powers


The opening act for Monday's show was Jay Reatard. Jenny was not on Monday's bill.


The grand opening of Club nokia was truely outstanding. Beck rolled through the set with his usual non-self absorbed style. My first time, but not the last, seeing him. The club did seem a little loud, but I didn't mind. The VIP lounge resembled something out of "Blade Runner". Drinks flowed and the party went on through the night. So I hear, I had to work the next day. I wish "Profanity Prayers" was played. "Loser" was a great oper song!

I wonder how many of these comments are from AEG emploees. Can this corporate rock club be THAT great? Something smells fishy.

uhhhhhhh i thought this was supposed to be a Beck review not a Club Nokia Review??

Hey did anyone see the fight at Club Nokia on opening night?


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: