Saturday, August 20, 2011
Summer Concert Catch-Up
Titus Andronicus and Okkervil River at the Wiltern, 6/23/11
Both of these bands came in riding the respective records that had made me a fan, but I was curious how they would translate live and if they would be a compatible pair. Titus Andronicus came out blazing, opening with the epic "A More Perfect Union," which they somehow played faster than the studio version. Lead singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles raged and rocked in all his bearded glory, but the sound people apparently didn't know he was playing the solos for at least a song or two, and some of the greatness was lost in the mix. Still, the band was tight and explosive, and when they closed with "Four Score and Seven," their best, most anthemic song, I sweated and smiled and almost lost the glasses off my face, a problem I was happy to see I wasn't too old to experience.
blow up the Fonda last summer as Roky Erickson's backing band? I don't know if it was another sound issue or just fewer musicians than they had in studio, but right off the bat I was denied the ferocity I was hoping to hear. "White Shadow Waltz," a standout and suitably epic choice for opener, somehow lost its grandiosity. A couple songs later they played the best new song, "Rider," but the acoustic guitar strumming that gives it so much of its depth couldn't rise above Will Sheff's voice, which was entirely too loud in relation to the music. The lack of a second drummer hurt as well, but I had thought they would have found a way around it. (To be fair, that song's Ramones reference, 'down on Rock-, Rockaway Beach' had an extra 'rock' thrown in to match the cadence of the original song, a nice touch.)
Despite my affinity for the band being a byproduct of the new album, the songs that worked the best for me were the older ones, and I couldn't have named a single one of them if you'd paid me. Ultimately that was ok, despite my slight disappointment with the execution of my favorites, but I kept thinking about Titus Andronicus throughout. Whether that's a criticism of Okkervil River or just a serious compliment for their openers, I'm not sure. Probably both.
Titus Andronicus Set List: A More Perfect Union / Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem) / No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future / The Battle of Hampton Roads / Titus Andronicus Forever...and Ever / Four Score and Seven
Okkervil River Set List: White Shadow Waltz / Pop Lie / Black / Rider / Starry Stairs / Wake and Be Fine / Piratess / The Valley / John Allyn Smith Sails / A Stone / So Come Back, I Am Waiting / Your Past Life as a Blast / For Real / Our Life is not a Movie, or Maybe / Lost Coastlines
Encore: Unless It's Kicks
Soundgarden at the Great Western Forum, 7/22/11
Fast forward to 2011, I've just recently turned thirty, and now I'm the one shelling out silly amounts of money to see a band that I came of age musically with, and hold in much higher regard than most current groups. Soundgarden's Superunknown is the first CD I ever went out and purchased for myself (probably at The Wherehouse, but possibly Blockbuster Music), and one of the few I never sold back in a fit of adolescent impatience and poverty. I've never sat down to actually rank my entire musical library--do I smell a future blog post?--but I imagine it would rank in my all-time Top 20, easily. Sadly, the one time I saw Soundgarden before they broke up was at Lollapalooza 1996, along with Metallica and the Ramones, and I barely remember it. Too much pot smoke floating around Irvine Meadows that day for my fifteen year old self to hang.
Now they were back, and though I was a bit younger than the fogies talkin' shit at that Who show, I finally understood where they were coming from. (And wasn't any less wrong. It happens.) Even more than Daltrey, Chris Cornell's voice still sounded amazing, and the band sounded like they'd never been away. If anything, Cornell flexed his pipes a little too much, going high in spots on songs like "Spoonman" that sound better with his low end. And this was no greatest hits spotlight; right off the bat they started playing songs from the very beginning of their career. Normally I'd be all about the deep cuts, but when it started to look like every album but the last two was going to get that treatment, I got a little disgruntled. After they did "Black Rain," a song that they surely love a lot more than anyone in the audience did, I turned to my girlfriend and said "You know, it'd be nice if they pulled a little from Superunknown!" Almost like they heard me, six of the final seven selections from the main set were from that album, including a killer rendition of the title track with Pearl Jam's Mike McCready on dual lead, and hidden gem "Head Down."
The encore was more choices for the hardcore fan, closing with Badmotorfinger epic "Slaves & Bulldozers," but I think my favorite moment was when they did the hit single from that record, "Outshined." As thousands of people sang out, in unison, "Show me the power, child, I'd like to say that I'm down on my knees today," it gave me the butterflies, making me feel like I was thirteen again in all the best ways.
Set List: Searching with My Good Eye Open / Spoonman / Gun / Jesus Christ Pose / Room a Thousand Years Wide / Blow Up the Outside World / Loud Love / Big Dumb Sex / Ugly Truth / Fell on Black Days / Flower / Outshined / Black Rain / Rusty Cage / The Day I Tried to Live / My Wave / Burden in My Hand / Black Hole Sun / Head Down / Superunknown (with Mike McCready) / 4th of July
Encore: Beyond the Wheel / Hunted Down / Mailman / Slaves & Bulldozers
Fucked Up at the El Rey, 7/26/11
I was not-so-secretly hoping they would play the whole fuckin' album, and when they opened with the musical intro "Let Her Rest" I felt something coiling inside me, ready to explode at the opening riffs of "Queen of Hearts." The rest of the crowd appeared to be feeling the same thing, as the whole place started moving and Abraham jumped right into the sea of people in front of the stage after only a few fuckin' words. This took me out of it for a moment because while I love that level of energy and intensity, I'm a real stickler for hearing the songs as close to how I know them as possible, so when lines were being dropped because he was bouncing around the pit I got annoyed. Then I decided to stop being such an uptight fuck and rolled with it.
After it became clear that they weren't playing the entire album, the motherfuckers came back to it with one of my favorites, "Turn the Season." With killer backup vocals and lead guitar that sounds like a fuckin' boomerang, it's the catchiest track and got the house worked up even more. As it turned out, they only played six songs from David, but it didn't matter at all. It was just an hour and a half of crazy, pissed off punk rock done right. You're fuckin' A.
Set List: Let Her Rest---->Queen of Hearts / David Comes to Life / Turn the Season / Black Albino Bones / Running on Nothing / Crooked Head / I Hate Summer / The Other Shoe / Twice Born / A Little Death / Magic Word / Police / Son the Father
Encore: Baiting the Public / Generation
Titus Andronicus and Okkervil River photos by Andrew Youssef, Stereogum. Soundgarden photo by David Hall, OC Register. Fucked Up photo by Wally Skalij, LA Times.