Friday, May 29, 2009

Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction at the Santa Barbara Bowl

The NINJA tour continues to destroy each city it visits. I was fortunate enough to catch their shows in Las Vegas and Irvine before settling in for my last show of the tour at the beautiful Santa Barbara Bowl.

The subtitle of the tour is "Wave Goodbye" as Trent Reznor claims that this will be the last widespread touring for Nine Inch Nails. A warning for those attending the shows is that Jane's Addiction closes out the show so make sure you get there early.

Street Sweeper Social Club

Decked out in matching military coats, Street Sweeper Social Club attacked the stage with their hard driving resistance rock. The engine driving this wrecking machine is the jaw dropping guitar gymnastics of Tom Morello. Tom has one of the more characteristic guitar tones in the business.

While I must admit Boots Riley (Vocals) does a great job of bouncing across the stage, it is hard not to stare at Tom Morello when he unplugs his guitar and pushes the input plug against his hand for a bizarre guitar solo.

Tom didn't stop there as he also used his teeth for another ripping sonic assault. I immediately purchased a Digitech Whammy pedal back in the day when I found out that Tom frequently used it on the debut Rage Against the Machine album.

Street Sweeper Social Club will release their self-titled debut album on June 16th. While it's difficult to recreate the intense dynamic of Rage Against the Machine, Street Sweeper Social Club is light years beyond Tom's endeavors in Audioslave.

"100 Little Curses" and "Fight!Smash!Win!" are dynamic call to arms songs that fuse the fiery raps of Boots with the guitar noise bombs of Tom. Show up early so you don't miss Street Sweeper Social Club.

Nine Inch Nails

I unfortunately missed Nine Inch Nails back in 1991 when they played Lollapalooza. At least, I can say I saw Nine Inch Nails play during sunlight as they started their set at 6:35.

Seeing a slew of dates during their technologically advaced "Lights In The Sky" tour, the only minor complaint was that the setlist was very similar night to night. The new stripped down line up and setup adds the new dynamic of surprise to each night.

I often asked the same question of "Why do you see bands multiple times?" This can easily be answered when I point out that Nine Inch Nails are playing a different set every night often unfurling gems from the past. The gems of the night were "I'm Afraid of Americans", "Burn", "Suck", "Home" and "Non-Entity".

One of the many highlights of the show was "Piggy" as Trent jeopardized his life by jumping down to the rail in front of the crowd and screaming the lyrics in front of the faithful fans. I can't specifically put my finger on why the show was amazing but there was a distinct energy from the band, the crowd and the venue. It was a magical combination that made the concert special.I also took one of my members of Team Chemist who had never seen Nine Inch Nails before and even she commented it was one of the top shows she has witnessed.

Trent hit up all the instruments at this particular show by playing guitar, synthesizers, tambourine and xylophone (during "The Good Soldier"). It is difficult to think that this will be the last Nine Inch Nails show I will attend but there are rumblings of a potential final show on September 2nd at the Hollywood Palladium. One can only hope this rumor is true.

Nine Inch Nails setlist at the Santa Barbara Bowl (5/21/09)
"Somewhat Damaged"
"March of the Pigs"
"The Beginning of the end"
"I'm Afraid of Americans"
"I Do Not Want This"
"Gave Up"
"La mer"
"The Downward Spiral"
"The Good Soldier"
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like a Hole"

Jane's Addiction

Jane's Addiction is back. I am sure you already know this from when I reviewed their show at the Echoplex. With a few shows under their belt, Jane's has really hit their stride, turning out compelling performances every night.

As much as I loved this particular set by Jane's at the Santa Barbara Bowl, it would have been to difficult to eclipse the energy that I witnessed the night before in Irvine. The difference would be this show was an A- compared to the A+ of Irvine. Perry Farrell wasn't nearly as talkative compared to the night before, but got in the spirit of the tour by donning black ninja garb. Instead of carrying swords or throwing stars, Perry was armed with a bottle of wine and a microphone as he pranced around the stage.

I am still in awe of the chemistry among Dave Navarro (Guitars), Stephen Perkins (Drums) and Eric Avery (Bass). It almost supports the belief in a metaphysical connection between people, the way they are interlocked on the various grooves of their songs.

Eric Avery kills it every night with his foot stomping, stomach rumbling bass lines that carry the songs. Stephen Perkins is hidden behind his massive double bass drum kit pounding away while Dave Navarro doesn't even break a sweat shredding on his white Ibanez guitar.

Their setlist doesn't change much, but it is filled with hits and deep cuts. Ending the evening with "Jane Says" brings it all together as Eric and Dave delicately strum the "G-A-G-A" simple melody knitted together by the steel drum playing by Stephen. There is a reason why no one has attempted to copy the sound of Jane's Addiction. It can't be done.

Jane's Addiction setlist at the Santa Barbara Bowl (5/21/09)
"Three Days"
"Ain't No Right"
"Pigs in Zen"
"Then She Did..."
"Mountain Song"
"Been Caught Stealing"
"Ted, Just Admit it..."
"Ocean Size"
"Summertime Rolls"
"Jane Says"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium

The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
Mother's Day does not prevent a good show from coming into town. Last year, I celebrated Mother's Day with Rush at Verizon Wireless in Irvine. As tempting as it was to see The Vaselines at El Rey, I could not pass up the opportunity to see The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium.

Delta Spirit
Delta Spirit at the Hollywood Palladium
Delta Spirit at the Hollywood Palladium
Delta Spirit at the Hollywood Palladium
Delta Spirit at the Hollywood Palladium
Delta Spirit at the Hollywood Palladium
Delta Spirit have come a long way since the first time I saw them at the Detroit Bar in January 2007 when they shared a Monday night residency with The Colour. Having found a home at Rounder records for their album Ode To Sunshine, Delta Spirit have made the road their second home.

I recently caught Delta Spirit at the Henry Fonda Theater when they opened for M. Ward and distinctly remember them winning over the audience. This particular night was no exception with another victory for Delta Spirit.

Adding a trumpet to fill out their already robust sound, Matt Vazquez (Vocals/Guitars) filled the Palladium via his Guild hollowbody and soulful vocals. Delta Spirit expertly knocked out "Strange Vine", "People, Turn Around", "People C'mon" "Children" might be my favorite song with Jon Jameson (Bass) kicking his bass into overdrive to carry the song. It felt good to watch a band go from the Detroit Bar to the Hollywood Palladium.

The Shins
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium
The Shins at the Hollywood Palladium

The Shins looked a little different, but sounded just as good as I remembered at the Hollywood Palladium. I considered Wincing The Night Away one of the top releases of 2007. I caught them a number of times on that touring cycle at The Joint at the Hard Rock and at the Orpheum Theatre.

In the line-up department, Marty Crandall and Jesse Sandoval have departed. Joe Plummer (Drums) and Ron Lewis (Bass) filled out the band with Eric Johnson (Keyboards) solely taking over the keyboard duties. I immediately noticed that the Shins didn't have to make a lot of instrument changes during the set that allowed the concert to flow nicely. In the gear department, James Mercer (Vocals/Guitars) primarily relied on a green Guild electric guitar instead of his yellow Gibson double cutaway.

The Shins are making a short jaunt around the States trying out some new material that will be released on James's new label Aural Apothecary. The cozy strum of "Australia" kicked things off with a bang. James would rapidly tremolo pick the short but sweet "Pam Berry" before having it melt into the jangle gem of "Phantom Limb".

"Girl Inform Me" kept things familiar before they ripped into the rapid toe tapping new jam "Fool of A Martyr". It was definitely one of the more rocking moments of the evening. "Sea Legs" had some minor tweaks with Ron making the song extra thumpy with his Epiphone goldtop bass. The overall volume of the concert wasn't especially loud and it was a rare non-earplug required show.

It would be hard not to describe their other new song "Double Bubble" as bubbly with its quick slashing guitar upstrokes and creepy crawling organ. If the new songs are any indication, the new Shins album will be rocky and I mean that in a good way. "Sleeping Lessons" was a perfect nightcap to their main set.

For an encore, The Shins covered "Helpless" by Neil Young before dipping into their back catalog with "Know Your Onion!" It only made sense on the setlist to end the evening with the super popular "New Slang" but the crowd refused to leave. The Shins luckily rewarded us with "The Past And Pending" which was stacked with backing vocals that made me forget I owe my mother dinner.

The Shins setlist at the Hollywood Palladium (5/10/09)
"Pam Berry"
"Phantom Limb"
"Saint Simon"
"Red Rabbits"
"Girl Inform Me"
"Fool Of A Martyr"
"Sea Legs"
"Sphagnum Esplanade"
"High Horse"
"Girl Don't Tell Me" (The Beach Boys)
"One By One All Day"
"Double Bubble"
"Caring Is Creepy"
"Girl On The Wing" (Thanks Emily!)
"Those To Come"
"Sleeping Lessons"
"Helpless" (Neil Young)
"Know Your Onion!"
"New Slang"
"Past And Pending"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Keane at the Hollywood Palladium

Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane rocked. You did not misread that statement. Just ask any of the rabid fans in attendance at the Hollywood Palladium on Saturday night. With the exception of a few warm up shows last year, Keane hasn't played a proper Southern California show in a number of years. The fans were amped and ready, as they showed their appreciation all night.

The Helio Sequence
The Helio Sequence at the Hollywood Palladium
The Helio Sequence at the Hollywood Palladium
The Helio Sequence at the Hollywood Palladium
The Helio Sequence at the Hollywood Palladium
The Helio Sequence at the Hollywood Palladium
I can't say enough about The Helio Sequence. Keep Your Eyes Ahead was one of my favorite releases of 2008. The combination of the frantic drumming of Benjamin Weikel (Drums) and the harmonious vocals of Brandon Summers (Vocals/Guitars) blend together for pure pop bliss.

I made sure to be at the Palladium on time in order to catch their full set. The backing synthesizer squalls started to echo loudly as The Helio Sequence endeared the audience with "Can't Say No". I couldn't hear Brandon's microphone for the first couple of songs but things were fixed by the time they tackled "Shed Your Love".

Brandon had eschewed his normal Telecaster shaped guitar for a Gibson hollowbody that added a different twist to their overall sound. I mainly noticed the increase in sustain as Brandon held onto the notes.

"Lately" is another track that rivals "Can't Say No" as one of the best tunes from the album. Sticking primarily to their latest album, it was unfortunate that the Helio Sequence had to end their set after seven songs. I was questioned a few times from fans asking, "Who was that band?...They were good!"

The Helio Sequence setlist at the Hollywood Palladium (5/09/09)
"Can't Say No"
"Captive Mind"
"You Can Come To Me"
"Shed Your Love"
"Keep Your Eyes Ahead"

Matt Kearney
Matt Kearney at the Hollywood Palladium
Matt Kearney at the Hollywood Palladium
Matt Kearney at the Hollywood Palladium
Matt Kearney at the Hollywood Palladium

I was not too familiar with Matt Kearney, so I had to do a little research. Matt recently released his album City of Black & White on Columbia records. The women in the audience seemed to really soak up his Martin acoustic guitar based songs.

Matt Kearney setlist at the Hollywood Palladium (5/09/09)
"All I Have"
"Crashing Down"
"Fire And Rain"
"Breathe In Breathe Out"
"Here We Go"
"Closer To Love"
"All I Need"
"Nothing Left To Lose"

Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane at the Hollywood Palladium
Keane at the Hollywood Palladium

I knew Keane meant business when I saw the flooring of their stage was adorned with the colorful patterns on their latest album Perfect Symmetry. A small army of cameramen flanked me in the photo pit. It turns out that they were filming portions of the show for Last Call with Carson Daly.

The energy from the crowd was palpable from the moment Keane took the stage. In all honesty, Keane looked stunned by the highly charged audience. Keane honed the crowd's energy to turn in a stellar performance that kept the crowd buzzing all night.

Tom Chaplin (Vocals/Guitar) bounded across the stage as he sang "The Lovers Are Losing" while strumming his Fender Telecaster. After tearing through "Everybody's Changing", Tom was already drenched in sweat and couldn't stop smiling. Tom commented very early that he could tell it was going to be a special night.

"Bend And Break" from Keane's first album Hopes And Fears had Tim Rice-Oxley (Keyboards/Piano) stomping and banging away on his Yamaha CP-70 Piano. Tom was tirelessly pacing the stage back and forth putting his heart and soul in every note.

"This Is The Last Time" was another old favorite that had the crowd singing along word for word. Keane was strategically interchanging old and new songs alike to keep the energy of the show consistently elevated. Jesse Quin (Bass) added some extra low end thump to the pulsating "Spiralling".

Tom would take the spotlight when he performed "Your Eyes Open" with just an acoustic guitar. I was surprised by their inclusion of "Early Winter" into the setlist, as this was the song that Tim had co-wrote on Gwen Stefani's album The Sweet Escape.

The political moment of the night came when Tom had explained that "Perfect Symmetry" was written when a lot of bombs were going off around the world. He would elaborate that there was an underlying hope in the lyrics and thanked the crowd for electing Barack Obama.

Keane kept the hits coming as they played "Crystal Ball" which is one of the stronger tracks from their second album Under The Iron Sea. The sing along moment of the evening was during "Bedshaped" as Tom stuck the microphone out into the crowd during the verses as the lights shone bright yellow during the song lyrics "Sun In Your Eyes" and would change to bright white lights when Tom sang "White light".

It was these little nuances that make me tip my hat to Keane as their attention to detail from the colored flooring, arrangement of their setlist, and coordination of the stage lighting showed that Keane strives to give their fans the best. On this particular night, Keane gave everything they had and more.

Keane setlist at the Hollywood Palladium (5/09/09)
"The Lovers Are Losing"
"Everybody's Changing"
"Bend And Break"
"Nothing In My Way"
"Again And Again"
"This Is The Last Time"
"Your Eyes Open"
"Try Again"
"Early Winter"
"You Haven't Told Me Anything"
"Leaving So Soon?"
"You Don't See Me"
"Perfect Symmetry"
"Somewhere Only We Know"
"Crystal Ball"
"Is It Any Wonder?"