Monday, September 28, 2009

Bon Iver at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Check out my photos of Bon Iver at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery over at Stereogum.

Extra special thanks to Rosey at sd:dialedin and Natalie at It's Too Sunny Out Here for helping me out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nine Inch Nails at the Henry Fonda Theater

It was during Danny Lohner's guest appearance on the stage during "Heresy" that I mentioned via Twitter that this performance would go down in Nine Inch Nails history. My intentions were to review this show prior to the "final" show at the Wiltern to avoid entering debate amongst NIN fans which show was better. Now, I must wrestle with making the judgment call.


HEALTH's new album Get Color will make your ears bleed. Metallic shards of noise with kinetic waves of madness are funneled into an album that makes having a nervous breakdown sound like a good time. I finally purchased Get Color when I caught them at the Troubadour and can safely say that all the pieces are coming together for HEALTH.

While "Die Slow" has a catchy tribal thump, "We Are Water" is my favorite track from the album, as I could instantly recall the panic stricken guitars when they also played it at the Echoplex. "In Heat" is a torturous vortex of post industrial noise that ends as soon as it begins. The Nine Inch Nails fans were receptive to their noisy offerings but I must say HEALTH needs to be experienced at their own headlining show.

Nine Inch Nails

Is this really the last Nine Inch Nails live review that I will ever type? Probably. There are many reasons why this show will go down in NIN folklore, but I knew I was in for a treat when the infamous sampled electronic drums of "Head Like A Hole" blared over the speakers to start the show. Was this the Pretty Hate Machine show? I couldn't believe it. "Terrible Lie" quickly followed suit and the Henry Fonda was buzzing.

The buzz subsided slightly with "Sin" realizing that we would not hear Pretty Hate Machine in its entirety but the intensity of the band was unparalleled. The Henry Fonda also sounded pristine. "March Of The Pigs" and "Piggy" were furiously dispensed and I could tell the band was in top form. "Echoplex" ironically made the setlist which wasn't played the Echoplex.

The five song set of "Head Down", "1,000,000", "Letting You", "Burn" and "Gave Up" was the biggest punch in the face to the crowd that anyone could willingly request. It was simply amazing to hear some of Nine Inch Nails's hardest and heaviest songs consecutively. I was ecstatic. "Burn" still ranks as one of my top five favorite Nine Inch Nails songs.

The appearance of an acoustic piano on stage was noted early on by my friend up front which was unusual for a Nine Inch Nails show. Was Trent going to do some solo stuff? It turned out that Mike Garson joined the band for a handful of songs adding his avant-garde piano flourishes. "The Becoming" was the standout track of this mini-set as I forgot how bizarrely appropriate the cluttered piano notes make song more demented.

Gary Numan was a fixture at the last batch of Nine Inch Nails shows and contributed with a stellar version of "Cars" featuring Eric Avery of Jane's Addiction on additional bass support. The cover of "Anthrax" by Gang of Four was a pleasant surprise with members of HEALTH appearing on stage.

My mind was fully blown when Danny Lohner appeared on stage during "Heresy". I instantly was transported back to the early '90s watching Nine Inch Nails destroy the stage at the Warfield in San Francisco. I literally got the chills hearing "Get Down Make Love" as this is a not often played b-side from the "Sin" single. Dillinger Escape Plan brought the stage chaos and destruction by throwing around their gear, lights and bodies for "Mr. Self Destruct" and "Wish".

I was saddened that Trent had abandoned "Atmosphere" at the Echoplex show but was overjoyed when the old analog synth string intro. The Joy Division covers kept coming when they shredded through "Dead Souls". When Trent reached for a black Fender Stratocaster I knew "The Day The World Went Away" was next.

The only logical closer of the evening was "Hurt" which had a few people blurt out during the song but it couldn't put a damper on the amazing setlist and performance from one of my favorite bands. I hate to think this is the last ever Nine Inch Nails review but I can take comfort knowing that this was one of best out of the numerous Nine Inch Nails shows that I have witnessed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mew at the Detroit Bar

Detroit Bar is having one heck of a year. Autolux, Dinosaur Jr., School of Seven Bells, Ra Ra Riot, Foreign Born, Chairlift, Grand Duchy, We Are Scientists and Los Campesinos! have all rocked the Detroit Bar this year. If I were forced to crown the show of the year at the Detroit Bar, it would hands down have to be Mew.

Free Lions

It has been a year since I last caught up with Free Lions at Spaceland. Things have apparently changed as they have reconfigured their band and added some extra members. Free Lions had some family members in the audience cheering them on and they performed a variety of different songs touching elements of pop, progressive, ballads and moments of space rock. In a year, they have garnered 8291 hits to their myspace page. They should be extremely pleased that they opened for Mew.


Mew captivates live. It may take a few listens to fully appreciate their recorded material, but seeing them live is another experience. I first caught them at Street Scene in 2006 and was reeled in by the astonishing vocal range of Jonas Bjerre (Vocals/Guitars).

I was excited to see them open for Nine Inch Nails at the Hollywood Palladium and was hoping that the Nine Inch Nails fan could appreciate their ethereal space dream rock. The jangly knife sharp guitars of "Circuitry of The Wolf" bled into the swirling "Chinaberry Tree" from their album And The Glass Handed Kites to open the set.

Bo Madsen (Guitars) soon reached for his Danelectro baritone guitar for a chunky version of "Special" that trailed into "The Zookeeper's Boy". I was up at the front of the stage and water started to drip from the ceiling as the temperature was rapidly increasing. It wasn't like the oven of Nine Inch Nails at the Echoplex but comes in a solid second place.

Accompanying the members of Mew on the stage was the tour manager, a guitar tech and a sound mixer to make the stage quite crowded. The number of people on stage had a purpose though since the sound was perfectly mixed. Mew finally dipped into their new material with the tropical sounding "Hawaii Dream" and "Hawaii" from their latest album No More Stories.

"Beach" is my favorite track off their new album with its disjointed time signature changes and wobbly bass line. Mew returned to some older favorites with "Am I Wry" and "156" with a barrage of their unique visuals being projected along the back wall of the Detroit Bar. Bo Madsen would again display his guitar skills with the wrinkly riff of "Repeaterbeater".

As tired as I was from going to concerts four nights in a row, I felt a surge of energy during "Introducing Palace Players" that helped me make the drive home. By no seeming coincidence, Mew closed the evening with "Comforting Sounds" which couldn't have been anymore fitting for a banner night at the Detroit Bar.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Nine Inch Nails at the Echoplex

Do you remember when they allowed smoking inside shows? I would have a few pairs of designated concert clothes that were subjected to insane amounts of smoke and sweat. The heat levels at some of these shows were suffocating.

My brain was heat stroked enough during this show to trigger warm memories of going to Nine Inch Nails at the Warfield in San Francisco in 1994. The heat at the Echoplex for Nine Inch Nails eclipsed those smoking days to become the hottest show of the year.

HEALTH was sold out of their new album Get Color by the time I made it to merchandise booth. In a legion of extremely dedicated Nine Inch Nails fans, this speaks volumes. HEALTH is not for the weak .

HEALTH captured my attention when I saw them open for Autolux in April of 2007. They sonically sculpt tattered sheets of noise and screams into crushing tribal rhythms. The untrained listener might think its all noise but I appreciate the art in creating their alien sounds let alone weaving it into the form of a song.

My interest in purchasing their new album was twofold. First, I wanted to be able to identify some of the new songs that were played. Second, I was interested in the Golden ticket sweepstakes that potentially involved going to Magic Mountain for a day with the band. I have another chance as I will be seeing them again at the Henry Fonda and the Troubadour.

Nine Inch Nails
I felt extremely fortunate to attend this show. I was watching one of my favorite bands in a small venue in the midst of their final performances. What more could you really ask for... besides air conditioning?

Questions of Trent Reznor's health were immediately squashed as he came storming out of the gates with a vicious version of "Somewhat Damaged". I originally thought it would be so packed that people couldn't move, but I saw a mass of humanity swirl right in front of my eyes as I took shots safely behind the soundboard.

"March of The Pigs" still sounds just a fresh and as fierce compared to the first time I heard it in 1994. The crowd went absolutely bonkers as the strobe lights blinded me in combination with the mercury rising.

The setlist is deliberately drafted and Trent took it down a notch during "Something I Can Never Have". I have to give credit to the audience for remaining respectively silent during the quiet interludes.

"Terrible Lie", "Ruiner", "Head Down", "Burn" and "Gave Up" was the favorite snapshot of the set with Robin Finck churning out the metallic power chords. The number of people being pulled out from the pit during those songs was extremely high.

Nine Inch Nails took another short breather with "La Mer", "Non-Entity" and "Gone, Still" but would roar back with devastating versions of "The Big Come Down" and "The Way Out Is Through". "Wish" was Ilan Rubin's highlight of the night as he fiercely pounded away at his bass drum in the finale that would easily be on par with Josh Freese.

"Down In It" was a nice treat from the classic album Pretty Hate Machine but I was excited when Gary Numan took the stage for their muscular take on "Metal". Just when you thought they were going to do "Cars", they switched it up for "I Die, You Die". Gary Numan sounds flawless live and I will see him if he comes back for a tour of the States without a doubt.

The tease of the night came when Trent tried the opening chords of Joy Division's "Atmosphere" which would have been amazing to hear but was quickly scraped for "Dead Souls". One could hear a pin drop during "Hurt" which made the performance ten times more powerful. It was a bummer that someone bought 20 of the special "Echoplex" designated t-shirts but no one put on ebay the memory of attending this show. It was that special.


Nine Inch Nails setlist at the Echoplex (9/7/09)
"Somewhat Damaged"
"The Beginning Of The End"
"The Collector"
"March Of The Pigs"
"Something I Can Never Have"
"The Frail"
"The Wretched"
"Terrible Lie"
"Head Down"
"Gave Up"
"La Mer"
"Gone, Still"
"The Big Come Down"
"The Way Out Is Through"
"Down In It"
"Metal" (W/Gary Numan)
"I Die, You Die" (W/Gary Numan)
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like A Hole"
"Dead Souls"

Monday, September 07, 2009

Depeche Mode at the Pearl Theater in Las Vegas

Four shows in four different cities. Crazy? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely. I have no reservations saying that Depeche Mode is the biggest synthesizer based band in the world. They currently are embarking on the "Tour of the Universe" in support of their latest album Sounds Of The Universe.

Peter, Bjorn & John

Peter, Bjorn & John have a very special place here at Amateur Chemist. My very first photopass with my then brand new Nikon D200 was back in August 2007 covering them at the House of Blues San Diego. It is nice to seem them ascend the ranks going from playing Fingerprints Records to opening for Depeche Mode.

Living Thing will unfairly get buried in the vast number of albums released this year. I was puzzled during the first couple of listens but it quickly sunk in. The electronic sparseness of "It Don't Move Me" to the catchy explicit chorus of "Lay It Down" will infect your eardrums with repeated spins. In the live department, Peter's voice translates very well and has a number of dance moves to accompany their catchy songs. Bjorn switches between the bass and keyboards with John standing behind the drum kit with his snazzy Michael Jackson Thriller button.

It is no easy task opening for Depeche Mode, but Peter, Bjorn & John give it their all. Peter made a mad dash out into the crowd during "Young Folks" to get the crowd more involved in the show. While I was hoping they would repeat "Up Against The Wall" which was played in Santa Barbara, they opted for the noisy closer of "Object of My Affection" I can't wait to see them at their own show on November 21st at Club Nokia.

Peter, Bjorn & John setlist at the Pearl Theater in Las Vegas (8/22/09)
"Nothing To Worry About"
"Living Thing"
"Don't Move Me"
"Lay It Down"
"Young Folks"
"Object of My Affection"

Depeche Mode

I don't think I have read a bad review about Depeche Mode throughout their whole "Tour of The Universe". The only people angry are those who had their shows canceled (San Francisco and San Diego). Having witnessed 4 shows, I would have to say Las Vegas was the best. I was originally scheduled to photograph this show and encountered a mix-up but luckily my good friend Capital M came through with the pictures.

I was bummed that I couldn't be up front with my friends but it was nice knowing I didn't have to worry about getting pictures and that I could grab a drink and enjoy the show from the floor. The Pearl theater at the Palms was absolutely dialed in for a phenomenal sounding show.

"Wrong" sounded right as Dave Gahan showed no ill effects of the vocal problems that forced the cancellation of a few shows. Martin Gore (Vocals/Guitars/Synthesizers) was switching between his Gretsch and Fender guitars to hammer out the sparkling guitar notes that matched his outfit. Andrew Fletcher (Synthesizers) was stationed behind a three keyboard setup and was playing a few bars in between with clapping along.

The visuals on this tour have Anton Corbijn's trademark stamp all over it. Unfortunately, the gigantic LCD round projector ball could not fit in the Pearl. Luckily, I was close enough that I could take in performance and watch Depeche Mode in action. If you haven't attended a live Depeche Mode show, then you haven't experienced one of the top live performing bands. The magical combination of the band, songs, and performances leave little doubt why Depeche Mode still sells out numerous shows across the world.

Having a voluminous discography, Depeche Mode must struggle to please fans with "perfect" setlist. As much as I would love for them to play "Happiest Girl" from the "World In My Eyes" single, I know it will never happen. My favorite part of their setlist is the barrage of songs starting with "It's No Good" all the way to "Fly On The Windscreen". I was in synthesizer heaven.

Martin Gore has a two song break in the middle of the show that helps illustrate why Martin could very well carry on his own band with gorgeous renditions of "Jezebel" and emotionally revealing "Question of Lust". I especially admire the fact that Dave always comes back on stage to re-introduce "MR. MARTIN GORE!" as a tip of the cap to remind the audience how vital Martin is to Depeche Mode.

It seemed like they have been only playing for a few minutes when they leave the stage after a rousing version of "Never Let Me Down Again" . I was ecstatic that they played "Strangelove" to close out their first encore as they did not play this song during the other three nights. Depeche Mode closed the evening with a rambling bluesy "Personal Jesus" that left the crowd buzzing as we emptied into the Palms Casino. This show will make it into the top 5 shows of 2009.

Depeche Mode setlist at the Pearl Theater in Las Vegas (8/22/09)
"In Chains"
"Hole To Feed"
"Walking In My Shoes"
"It's No Good"
"A Question Of Time"
"Fly On The Windscreen"
"A Question Of Lust"
"Miles Away / The Truth Is"
"Policy Of Truth"
"In Your Room"
"I Feel You"
"Enjoy The Silence"
"Never Let Me Down Again"

Encore #1
"Shake The Disease"

Encore #2
"Personal Jesus"

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Nine Inch Nails at the Hollywood Palladium

Check out my photos of Nine Inch Nails at the Hollywood Palladium over at Stereogum. The Downward Spiral was played in its entirety. I hope the Wiltern and the Echoplex show still happen.