Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gang's All Here: Broken Social Scene live


Fresh off the heels of their Coachella performance, and a special fan club show at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Broken Social Scene found the time to drift north and grace the Ventura Theater.

Australia's 'Black Rider did the opening honors, acquitting the selves well, and setting the stage for what was to come. Sales must have been soft, for the balcony was closed, and the downstairs was curtained off. Sad to see, but the faithful that were there more than made up for numbers with their enthusiasm.

Like Bright Eyes, Broken Social Scene to me is as much a personal vice as a band. I don't interact with a lot of fans of either, and it's always fascinating to see the makeup of the audience at the shows...

Brendan Canning was back to being his usual unflappable self, recovered from the bug that he fought gamely in last years May appearance at the Wiltern in LA.

Kevin Drew settled into his role as MC for the evening, likening, (and not wrongly), the old theater to a high school gym, and keeping the proceedings in order.

They led off with a spirited charge through tunes from last year's Forgiveness Rock Record, and kept the spotlight on that stellar effort for the most part, but leavened the set with cuts from 2005's self titled record, and the highlight of the evening: a charged and dynamic reading of "Cause/Time" from You Forgot It In People.

Altogether an excellent night among old friends that felt like your favorite worn but welcome hoodie...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Putting the War in Warfield: PJ Harvey live in S.F.

She came, She saw, She conquered...
PJ Harvey, backed by longtime cohorts Mick Harvey & John Parish, laid the ground for their Coachella appearance with a warmup date at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco.

True to her lightly touring form, this was one of only four US dates supporting this record. (White Chalk from 2007 was honored with only NY & LA dates.) The crowd seemed to savor the rarity of the occasion, and were primed and ready to go. As the time approached, the intensity at the edge of the stage was near unbearable.
(Sacrificing cigarettes and restroom for pole position had no impact on this, of course...)
It's always interesting to see what tweaks Harvey has made in her sets, always striving to move in a different direction, setting up new challenges and fearlessly staring them down. This time, like her current LP Let England Shake, she primarily wielded an autoharp, ditching it occasionally for a guitar. Vocally, she remained mostly in the higher register, making the impact of her guttural vocals on the older material all the more jarring.

She managed to perform the new album, not in order, but in it's entirety, dipping into her back catalogue to break it up, including songs from Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and To Bring You My Love, among others.

Final observation: perhaps the most enjoyable part of the show was the transformation of the new songs to a live setting and the integration of the band, (Parish in particular), giving an added measure of power, and highlighting the strengths of their lasting collaboration.

Let England Shake, for the uninitiated, is a sutite of sometimes seething, sometimes claustrophobic lullabies on the horrors of war, set to simple tunes, kept off kilter by thoughtfully chosen samples or lyrical references, ranging from Niney The Observer to Eddie Cochran. The force of her personality stamps it all unmistakably as her own.

One of the more prescient reviews on the LP by Ann Powers (for the LA Times...she's now with NPR), noted the singalong qualities of the songs as a strength, and the stage brought those words to life.

NPR has kindly made the show available as "Let San Francisco Shake: PJ Harvey In Concert"