By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Tonight all of 30 people witnessed this chills-inducing declaration of independence, while any number of East Coast Stooges clones can pack the house. Your loss, suckers. (Paul Rogers)
RUSH at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, September 28
Given that some Rush songs themselves contain up to 400 words, it's tough to sit down at a blank screen with only that amount of space to accurately relate what it's like to see the band perform live -- especially when it was the 10th time seeing them in the last 20 years, especially when the show was in Irvine, where after you get to the venue you still have to hike all over hell's half acre to make it into the vaunted amphitheater itself, and especially if, like I did Saturday night, you make the mistake of mouthing off during the course of the 52-mile drive down to Orange County that there's no way, dude, that they'll go on right at 7:30 p.m. (let alone start the show with "Tom Sawyer") -- only Ian Anderson would be caught dead or alive pulling such a stunt.
As usual, I was wrong. Rush hit the stage right on time, and I missed all but "The Trees," "Free Will" and "Natural Science" of the first set, though that was, oddly enough, more than enough time and space and matter for me to refuel my melancholy bittersweet aqualung of the soul. The second set started with the new one, "One Little Victory," their best number in years, but began to bog down around the first instrumental, which was neither the classic, "La Villa Strangiato," nor the triumph, "YYZ." So I didn't feel guilty about cutting out early -- and not just for the sake of my long-suffering associate, who grew up not in La Cañada listening to bad white rock with the bedroom lights dimmed, but in Crenshaw listening to KDAY, helping his dad install car stereos.
In fact, when I made out the faint opening of what must have been "Strangiato" itself, my not making it there in time to hear "Tom Sawyer" or stay long enough to catch "The Spirit of Radio" didn't seem so bad or as evil anymore. I'd done what I could (shook the hand of a teenager, reassuring him in his argument with an older brother over who was better, Neil Peart or Stephen Perkins). And Rush had done what they will always do for me -- which if I could just stop crying for a minute, I'd tell you what that is. It's tough to concentrate because I can't get that damn Gram Parsons song "One Hundred Years From Now" out of my head, and in 100 years it will only be 10 more until 2112. (Bob Mack)
BRAD MEHLDAU at the Knitting Factory, September 26
Only an idiot could dismiss Brad Mehldau now. Before, a few sneermongers might have faintly justified downvaluing the pianist because he worked in the arcane jazz-trio format, or his improvisations were too long, or he was too intellectual, or his posture at the keyboard resembled somebody else's. But with the irrepressible new Largo -- a leap in conception and instrumentation upon which, this Knitting Factory performance showed, he can expand in concert -- Mehldau seals off all the escape routes, sits you down and makes you acknowledge him.
Like all resonant artistic choices, Mehldau's revolution occurred naturally. Part of it was seeing Jon Brion, an unusually expressive musician and producer (Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright), perform at the Fairfax Avenue club Largo, and recognizing a potential collaborator. Brion brought squishy flourishes as Largo's producer, and at the Knit also provided a great splash of stage color as he squatted on the floor hammering directly on a vibraphone's tubes, or flapped a baton at the two separate four-member horn sections (one brass, one wind) that Warner Bros. Records sprang for.
The music, though, was Mehldau's. Wanting an atmosphere that could be both a mattress and a cloud, he doubled his basses (Larry Grenadier with Darek Oles) and his drums (Jorge Rossy with Matt Chamberlain), a pairing the stickmen especially relished as they delivered an intense groove massage. Mehldau made his vibraphone debut on two songs, using the instrument as an economical hook messenger. At the piano, he plucked heartstrings with melody or stung the ears with dissonances, sometimes selecting a single "off" note, sometimes stringing a whole poisonous garland of them together and defying you to deny the thrill. There were triumphs of arrangement invention, too: A complex piano reharmonization was supplanted WHAM by a full-on group samba; bowed sustains high up on Grenadier's bass strings contrasted with rapid-fire low-register stabs from Mehldau that he somehow made sound electronic.
Every song in a resort-paced 105-minute set was soaked with the subtlety of a master musician and the communication values of the White Album-era Beatles -- an old Mehldau influence whose spirit, both overt and indirect, is especially strong at this moment. Populism isn't condescension when a musician's and listeners' emotions can unite like this. No, that's called lasting art. (Greg Burk)
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