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A mother's perspective: Jay-Z, Pitbull and the rest of Powerhouse '09

August 9, 2009 |  8:16 pm

JAY_Z_POWER_LAT A note from Pop & Hiss `blogger August Brown: My assignment to review Saturday's Powerhouse '09 show coincidentally overlapped with a visit from my mom, Helen, who had made her first trip to see me in L.A. in three years. I wouldn't have dreamed of forsaking either obligation, so I took her with me to Powerhouse '09. Her favorite bands are Cat Stevens, Sugarland, the Allman Brothers and the Beatles, and she's but a final thesis project away from a master's in journalism from the University of South Carolina. It was due in 1974. 

Her review of Powerhouse, as commissioned by Times music editor Gina McIntyre, follows below.

Powerhouse took me back. Way back to '75 and the Rolling Stones concert at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. That was the last time my personal frame of reference included really loud music and a cloud of strangely sweet-smelling wafts of smoke.

Who knew that a show that featured a group called “New Boyz” -- emphasis on the “boyz” -- would end with me wondering whether secondhand smoke could be a road hazard on the 5. For a mom who found her high schooler’s Rage Against the Machine albums a bit unsettling, this was a lesson. Maybe I was a bit strict after all.

Kid Cudi was so loud he made my seat vibrate like the special effects at Universal Studios, and I figured I better get over the profanity right away or it was going to be a long night. The couple two rows in front of us strangely managed to find this set romantic enough to cuddle like it was James Taylor and Carole King up there. That’s another show I saw, in 1971.

I need someone to explain the whole bikini thing and LMFAO. I mistakenly assumed the song’s intended target was the “Bikini Girl” who kept turning up after being eliminated from "American Idol." The ‘fro do’s and psychedelic pants worn by the members  may not actually have been recycled from the Stones of '75, but they looked strangely familiar. Or maybe it was all that smoke from the row in front of me.

Flo Rida, I was ready for. And I am from Florida, so we already had that in common. On the drive to Anaheim, we put the windows down in the Honda and turned up “Be on You” as my introductory lesson for the show. When Flo (or is that Mr. Rida to you, lady) selected girls from the audience to dance on stage and told them to “get low,” they did exactly that. I thought my generation had paved the way for women who wouldn’t think it was a good career move to be doing that kind of ridiculous stuff anymore. Or maybe I’ve got a big bunch of sour grapes because they could boogie in five-inch heels and minis and I can’t?

Then some Lakers showed up and got a few additional moments of fame. I had no idea who they were and still don’t. No pro teams in St. Augustine, Fla. Time for a stage change, and when the intermission music kicked in with Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” the girls in the seats were up and dancing. Somehow, Michael Jackson’s music seemed downright precious after the shock of tattoos and the anxiety of wondering when Flo Rida’s pants might actually fall south. Even Jay-Z admonished the crowd to remember Jackson. “Don’t wait for death to celebrate life” may have been the only complete sentence I was able to decipher the entire evening. I suspect I’m probably better off not having been able to understand most of the lyrics anyway.

Mompic150 This brings us to the subject of Pitbull. I knew something was different when he swaggered out in a really attractive three-piece suit, looking a lot like my accountant. But my accountant has never figured my taxes with Lil Jon as a sidekick on the calculator. This was definitely the act where the show started getting interesting. I decided that the way to guess which performer would outshine the others was by the amount of gear they had and the amount of time it took for their stage change. Up to this point, each band consisted solely of a laptop. Pitbull was where the drums and keyboard appeared. And darn it, he was pretty good too. But no word on Lil Jon’s accounting skills.

And then lo and behold, a surprise guest: Those wascally wabbits at 106 didn’t tell us to expect the Black Eyed Peas! And I know who they are! I once heard will.i.am on "Oprah," and I think I saw them on the Oscars show or something, but I sure didn’t know that the song “I Gotta Feeling” had more verses than the ditty CBS used to promote their lineup. Sort of like the first time I heard the other verses of “America the Beautiful.” Who knew there were more?

I knew the next act had to be someone important as it took a very long time and lots of roadies to assemble the equipment and tune the instruments. My kids should have tried harder in school band. Here were a trumpet, saxophone and trombone; all those players on a paid gig! Those guys are living proof their mothers spent that music-lesson money wisely. The crowd went wild when the final performer projected a countdown clock. Who could be so special as to merit a NASA-style countdown? I’m just kidding. I know who Jay-Z is. He’s married to Beyonce, right? Maybe he came up with the name Jay-Z so nobody would ever call him Mr. Beyonce.

His performance was as polished as the giant black sunglasses that he never took off. But no, I hardly understood a single word he said either, and could he have kept his hands above the belt maybe? But I may have been one of the few people there who not only recognized his photos of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and a 1963 photo of Vietnam  but also remembers where she was the day it all happened.

-- Helen Brown

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times. Author photo by August Brown.