Category: Live review

Live: Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5, others at KIIS-FM's Wango Tango

Nicki Minaj at Wango Tango

If there was a single message to take home from Saturday’s all-day KIIS-FM concert at the Home Depot Center in Carson, it was: Wango Tango.

The two-word name of the daylong pop music event, now in its 15th year, was repeated so many times during the eight hours of performances, both onstage by artists and during commercial breaks between each 20-minute set, that it felt as if the powerful radio station were still trying to persuade us to attend.

It was as if a roster that included, among others, heavy hitters Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B. and Maroon 5 teamed with a crop of young risers such as J. Cole, Big Sean, the Wanted, Wallpaper and K’Naan — to say nothing of quickie “guest-host” appearances by Justin Bieber and Ryan Seacrest — weren’t enough. The music certainly was bountiful, even if, as is the case with most radio concerts, the presentation felt like an extended commercial for its own relevance.

PHOTOS: Wango Tango

Aside from originally being the name of a Ted Nugent song about a sexy dance, Wango Tango is KIIS-FM’s annual fan-day party, and each installment since the first in 1998 has featured dozens of America’s hottest and/or most buzzing pop music artists getting their 15 minutes onstage (in many cases, quite literally) for thousands of screaming teens and their parents, twentysomethings and ageless pop music and pop culture fanatics looking for musical bliss.

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Live: Lambchop at McCabe's Guitar Shop

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On a night in which the moon was 14% bigger than usual, in a room the size of a church basement at McCabe's guitar shop in Santa Monica, Kurt Wagner, singer, songwriter, guitarist, visual artist and longtime leader of Nashville country band Lambchop, sang a song called “Nice Without Mercy.”

“We have crawled among the elements taking pictures with our phones,” he crooned, laying bare a curious reality of the modern world in a half-whispered baritone. The rest of his band offered delicate punctuation via piano, guitar, bass, drums and the occasional warm hum of a Nord Electro synthesizer, with a little bit of twang, a touch of pokey blues and a dollop of grace.

The song was taken from Lambchop's exquisite new album, “Mr. M,” and in it, Wagner addressed the natural world, capturing the kind of wonder that could make a believer of most skeptics. After the crawl with his phone, he sang of carrying buckets over mountains, “catching fish with just our hands,” of a sky that “opens up like candy and the wind don't know my name.”

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Live review: KROQ's Weenie Roast y Fiesta

Coldplay, Incubus, Soundgarden and more define a rock aesthetic.

Coldplay-singer-buckland

What exactly does a rock band need -- and in what quantity -- to distinguish itself in today's exuberantly eclectic pop landscape?

Along with branded beach balls and remembrances of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, that question seemed to fill the air Saturday at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, where KROQ-FM (106.7) presented its annual Weenie Roast y Fiesta. The daylong concert -- headlined by Coldplay, with performances by Incubus, the Offspring and an unannounced Soundgarden, among others -- offered several successful takes on defining a pop aesthetic, but little consensus on the matter.

Still, the Weenie Roast's variety suggested something more promising: that in "a Black Eyed Peas world," as one KROQ DJ put it, rockers are thinking hard about how to specialize their music. A big crowd response, when it occurred, seemed almost secondary to the effort involved.

PHOTOS: KROQ's Weenie Roast y Fiesta 2012

The sole international act on a main stage dominated by Southern Californians, Coldplay matched that geographical distinction with a show far more elaborate than any other band's. Last week, the English group played a sold-out three-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl, and to Irvine it brought a slightly pared version of that high-tech production, complete with lasers, pyrotechnics and heart-shaped confetti. And that was all during the first two songs.

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Live: Meshuggah, Baroness, Decapitated at the House of Blues

Meshuggah
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
 
A looming "super moon" glowered down on West Hollywood's House of Blues on Saturday as Sweden's Meshuggah shone a dark light on alternate headbanging methodology.
 
Far from the act's goofy Yiddish name (Jewish and crazy the band is not), Meshuggah has been reinventing metal as insurrection for a quarter of a century. Barfing oppression-themed lyrics and pitting thunderous thud against insidious riffs, the bearded five have waged uncivil war against political and musical convention. 
 
And the L.A. mob grabbed the flag. What could seem like distant intellectuality on record became prole electricity when the volume cranked to cannonade level and the front four hunched shoulder to shoulder like a team of oxen. Vocalist Jens Kidman, in fighting trim form these days, leaned over and spewed a disgusted rage that connected hard with the fist-pumping crowd.
 
The inflammatory wordage and the deadly impetus sprang largely from drummer Thomas Haake, whose off-center accents, mutant tangos and sarcastic waltzes regrooved preconceptions. The reverberative low frequencies were felt almost subliminally, with Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström employing downtuned eight-string axes, their fret hands flicking mainly over the thickest wires in cycles foreign to standard logic. 
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Review: Coldplay goes big at the Hollywood Bowl

Coldplay

At the start of “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” the last song Coldplay performed at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night, the band flicked on halos of lasers, cued a four-on-the-floor drum beat and sang about how it wanted to “turn the music up, I got my records on / I shut the world outside until the lights come on.”

For an act that crankier critics accuse of playing middlebrow post-indie-rock for Apple adverts, this was awfully ravey. The London quartet, one of the biggest bands to emerge in the 2000s, is certainly grounded in earnest guitar-and-piano emoting (with the good taste and huge budgets that afford Brian Eno as a producer).

But that move implies that it sees the rise of dance-music culture as a stakes-raising challenge (or maybe a threat to its livelihood). Tuesday’s show, the first of a three-night Bowl stand this week, proved why Coldplay is the last stadium-sized rock band left standing in contemporary pop -- a feat perhaps unrepeatable for future rockers in a laptop era.

Perhaps the one thing that sticks in craws about Coldplay is that its four sweet-tempered goofballs, who simultaneously want to play the most flagrantly moving rock music conceivable. Gawky dudes like singer Chris Martin, a “Colbert Report” fan who rolls around on stage floors mocking his own falsetto, can't possibly be serious when he calls a song “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” right?

Well, the music had better make us believe it. And that, more than celebrity marriages (Martin’s other half is Gwyneth Paltrow) or bucktoothed love ballads, is why the band is so enormous.

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Review: Jack White magnetic at the Mayan

 

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This post has been updated. See below for details.

By the end of Jack White’s concert at the Mayan on Monday, the Detroit-born, Nashville-based singer and guitarist had the sold-out crowd doing something that jaded baby boomers and skeptical folkie grandpas might never have imagined: Their kids and grandkids were giddily singing along to Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter’s version of “Goodnight, Irene,” a song at least a century old about basic human desire -- and certainly not trending on Twitter.

Touring in support of his new killer record, “Blunderbuss,” the lanky, pale singer and guitarist, wearing black and surrounded by his all-female band the Peacocks (who were all dressed in white), tossed out riffs suggestive of everyone from Chuck Berry, Hubert Sumlin and Keith Richards to Jimmy Page, Johnny Thunders and Joe Strummer, rolled out yarns worthy of Bob Dylan, and conjured the spirit of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys by giving each of his six-member band a solo. 

It was as if he’d gathered inside his head many different strains, accents and ideas of pre-digital American music -- country, folk, blues, soul, rock 'n' roll and every combination thereof -- and was pouring them out through his fretboard-busy fingers and wailing voice.

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Live: Colin Stetson, Sarah Neufeld, Gregory Rogove at Dilettante

Colin Stetson at Dilettante

Over two hours Saturday night on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles, a trio of solo musicians offered three wildly distinctive sets, played four instruments using six precision-made hands to create an infinite range of wordless sounds, structures and ideas.

The three — Sarah Neufeld, Gregory Rogove and Colin Stetson — are better known for their work with prominent artists including Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Devendra Banhart, Feist and Tom Waits, but what they offered during their weekend performances was something much more expansive and experimental.

The three landed at Dilettante, a production house and performance space with an acoustically exquisite sound room, as part of a six-date West Coast tour. Neufeld, the charismatic violinist for Grammy-winning Montreal band Arcade Fire, offered five new, as-yet-unnamed solo pieces; Rogove, a multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer whose credits include working with Banhart, Megapuss, Liars and Medeski, Martin & Wood, sat before a grand piano to perform work from “Piana,” a John Medeski album devoted to Rogove’s compositions.

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Live: The Beach Boys kick off 50th anniversary tour in Tucson

Beach Boys Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, with impressive backing musicians, bring a SoCal sound to Casino del Sol.

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TUCSON -- Let's not make too much of the fact that the Beach Boys kicked off their 50th anniversary tour on casino grounds, nowhere near the beach, on a day that hit 105, with gusts of dry wind blowing in from the surrounding Arizona desert -- not a wave, T-bird or little surfer girl in sight.

After all, the band, touring for the first time in decades with co-founders Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine, as well as longtime voice Bruce Johnston and early member David Marks, transcended the literal summer ages ago in service of the metaphorical kind, one that celebrated Southern California life and put sound to a cultural vibe.

This is one reason why at Casino del Sol on the Yaqui reservation, the band, augmented by a dozen instrumentalists and vocalists, was able to convincingly sing about summertime joys, fears and frustrations even though most of the remaining Boys have been doing this for four decades and are themselves approaching proverbial wintertime.

The first of a five-month, 56-show tour that would challenge a band half its age, the Beach Boys will travel the arenas, festivals and outdoor amphitheaters of America (and, later in the year, Europe and Asia) offering a version of this concert.

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Live review: The-Dream at the El Rey

In a show that featured thrilling renditions of some of his most durable songs, the R&B star also demonstrated the deep fertility of his signature sound.

The-dream

When the-Dream removed one of his chunky gold necklaces Saturday night at the El Rey Theatre, he probably didn't mind that his action brought notice to the jewelry's heft and sheen. But that wasn't why this fashion-conscious R&B star did it: Halfway through a concert that had emphasized his breezy jocularity, the-Dream was unloading ballast before getting down to business.

"I figured out a very profound thing," he told the audience. Then he delivered an unprintable homily that more or less boiled down to the idea that professional misfortune could be attributed to having sex with the wrong woman. ("It works both ways," he added, warning women away from Mr. Wrong.) The-Dream was describing what he'd learned after a tumultuous two-year period during which he split from his wife, singer Christina Milian, and reportedly ran afoul of his record label, Def Jam.

Last summer, the-Dream issued an album under his real name, Terius Nash, for free through his website. Titled "1977," presumably after the year of his birth, the record stripped away much of the pop-soul gloss that defines the-Dream hits such as "My Love" and "Walkin' on the Moon" as well as songs he's written for other artists, including "Umbrella" by Rihanna and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyoncé. It's a jagged, recriminatory document suffused with frustration and self-pity, and at the El Rey, he funneled its bitter intensity into a performance of "Used to Be" that felt more like a monologue than a song.

"You used to sex me crazy / You used to call me 'baby,'" the-Dream growled as his three-piece band worried an eerie minor-key groove, "Now all you do is nag me / Like a 5-year-old from the back seat."

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Live: Carolina Chocolate Drops at Royce Hall

Carolina Chocolate Drops
About halfway through the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ gig at Royce Hall on Friday night, singer, stringed-instrument player, dancer and all-around show-stopper Rhiannon Giddens picked up a big, old banjo with a body the size of a hubcap and covered in goatskin. Called a minstrel-style banjo, it’s a replica of an instrument from the mid-1800s, and when played reproduced the same deep, echoed plonk that traveled over from Africa with the slave trade.

Giddens and co-founder Dom Flemons had already swapped out instruments a few times, juggling guitars, banjos, harmonicas, jugs, bones and fiddles among themselves and the phenomenal New York instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins while cellist Leyla McCalla bowed and plucked roaming bass lines. But this minstrel-style banjo was so filled with symbolic importance that it deserved its own introduction, and as Giddens and her kindred spirits plucked out “Brigg’s Corn Shucking Jig,” from the group’s new album, “Leaving Eden,” the sound of early American folk music poured forth.

Throughout the show, the Durham, N.C.-birthed Chocolate Drops schooled a packed hall with such context, offered the ins and outs of pre-World War II country blues, old-time fiddle music, waltzes and minstrel songs via the music of, among others, Hobart Smith, Charlie Poole and “Bogus Ben” Covington. Along the way, the group illustrated the complicated, remarkable history that ultimately gave birth to the blues, country, rock ’n’ roll and virtually every variation that followed, from hip-hop to black metal.

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