Monday, November 29, 2010

Upcoming: Passion Pit at the Hollywood Palladium


After successfully opening a slew of dates for Muse, Passion Pit come back to Southern California for their own show bringing their set of synthesizer drenched tunes to the Hollywood Palladium on 12/7. Get your tickets here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blonde Redhead at the Music Box

Blonde Redhead at the Music Box 11/17/10
It should be no surprise after seeing Blonde Redhead at the Glass House and the first night at the Music Box that I would return for one more helping. Penny Sparkle is a compelling synthesizer soaked new direction for Blonde Redhead that in the live format translated into aural enchantment.

A slow pulsating electronic beat kicked off "Black Guitar" as Amedeo Pace softly spoke the opening lyrics. Kazu Makino would take over vocal duties in the middle of the song as she swayed back and forth in a white mask with hair blonde extensions protruding from each side. Amedeo turned his attention to his Virus TI synthesizer for the swirling lushness of "Here Sometimes".

Interweaving "Dr. Strangeluv" into the set got the crowd moving as Makino grabbed her white Gibson SG to add sonic layers to Amedeo's refined guitar playing. Makino soon switched to bass for the ethereal "Love or Prison" that ended in a jazzy drum flurry by Simone Pace. Amedeo would return to the vocals and synthesizers for "Will There Be Stars" with Makino also behind a synthesizer.

Amedeo displayed more of his guitar talents for "In Particular" closing out the song by summoning a scratchy feedback storm to end the song. Urgent piano notes played by Makino wrapped themselves around Amedeo's vocals for "SW". Makino extended her vocal range for the dreamy "Spain" which slithered in the smoke coming from stage.

"My Plants Are Dead" maybe the most minimalist track on the new album but somehow manages to be my favorite song with small musical hooks appearing at the precise moments. Makino would don her mask again for "Penny Sparkle" to close their main set. "23" was a perfect selection for during their encore with its propulsive beat. Covering three nights of Blonde Redhead was definitely worth it and I'm guessing they will come back for a Coachella appearance.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Helmet at the Key Club


How many times have I reviewed Helmet? This would be my thirteenth. As long as Page Hamilton continues to devastate with his trademark ESP guitar, I will be there. While the idea of fighting Sunset Strip traffic on a Friday night was daunting, I had to see Helmet's last show prior to their departure for a European tour.


Seeing Eye Dog is Helmet's latest release and falls in line sonically somewhere between Aftertaste and Meantime. Helmet did an excellent job of mixing in new songs with older classics. "Swallowing Everything" kicked off their set that didn't relent. "Birth Defect" continued to stir the mosh pit with its blaring guitars and rock steady drumming by Kyle Stevenson.


Helmet was energized playing their new songs like "So Long" and "Algiers" that doesn't stray from the classic Helmet formula of crushing your skull. A double blast of "See You Dead" and "Ironhead" had me watching my back as the circle pit had expanded to the front of the stage. Their new bass player Dave Case was dialed in to the band using his G&L bass to replicate Henry Bogdan's trademark bass sound.


The inclusion of "Black Top" from Strap It On definitely appeased older fans with its sheer viciousness. Jagged knife sharp guitars continued with "Repetition", "Tic" and the set closing "Milquetoast" that had Hamilton adding some extra noise variations. "Crisis King" is one of my favorite songs from Aftertaste and sounded flawless for the opening of the encore. "Wilma's Rainbow" and "In The Meantime" perfectly closed the evening as the band will continue to tour in Europe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brandon Flowers at the Fox Theater in Pomona

Check out my review of Brandon Flowers at the Fox Theater in Pomona over at OC Weekly.

Gary Numan at the El Rey Theater


After seeing Gary Numan join the final Nine Inch Nails shows at the Henry Fonda, the Wiltern, the Echoplex and the Palladium, I knew I had to see a full show by Gary Numan. His addition to the Coachella line-up was one of the high priority targets on my list but ultimately erased due to the Icelandic volcano ash. When it was announced that Numan would return to perform his highly influential album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety, my calendar was immediately cleared.


Seeing two Virus Access TI keyboards placed at the front of the stage along with two synthesizer stations in the back, it was difficult to contain my excitement. The swirling sounds of "Airlane" were hypnotic and still sounded fresh even though the song was recorded thirty years ago. Flashbacks from some of the Nine Inch Nails occurred during "Metal" with its sawtooth synthesizers and metallic overtones. Numan's voice sounds just as good if not better than the recorded version with him belting out the lyrics.


Switching the order of the album, the pulsating tones of "Engineers" were augmented by the propelling live drumming beats that gave the song a greater sense of urgency. "Films" continued the barrage of synthesizers as the crowd at the front of the barricade enthusiastically sang along. I wasn't surprised to hear a security guard scream out "Basement Jaxx!" when the characteristic bass synth line of "M.E." pumped out of the speakers since the song was sampled by the band.


The instrumental "Observer" sounds extremely close synthesizer patch wise to "Cars" but was tweaked nicely in the live format. A dynamic shift of energy in the room occurred when the undulating waves of synthesizers for "Cars" blared throughout the El Rey Theater. It was interesting to see that the tambourine made an appearance during the song as this could possibly be influenced by his live appearances with Nine Inch Nails.


After the astounding completion of The Pleasure Principle, Numan still had plenty of firepower left in the arsenal as the "Rock" portion of the show started with a fiery version of "The Fall". A brooding intro for "Down In The Park" became an electronic dirge with Numan occasionally waving his arms back and forth. Crunchy guitars roared for "Jagged" before transitioning to menacing synthesizer pads. Possibly the pinnacle and highlight of the evening was an anthemic spine tingling version of "Are Friends Electric?" with a majority of the crowd chanting along.


A three song encore of "I Die:You Die", "Zulu" and "Prayer for The Unborn" had me wishing I bought a ticket to the next night to take it all in again. Numan easily proved why he is considered a synthesizer pioneer. I have no reservations saying that this was the best synthesizer show of the year.