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
TOOL at Long Beach Arena, November 24
Long Beach Arena on a dank Sunday night made a strangely subdued setting for Tool's final show of their seemingly endless Lateralusworld tour. Yet, far from being burnt-out, these relentlessly uncompromising prog-rock torchbearers were in fine fettle from the opening mechanical refrain of "Sober," a near-flawless mix allowing Maynard James Keenan's moaning incantations to snake around his bandmates' unsettling, crafted cacophony. That Tool's ultra-ambitious art-metal can fill this gaping shed, and similar venues across the globe, speaks volumes for the listening public's appetite for a challenge and the band's respect for their fans' intelligence. But so deliberately disjointed is Tool's thought-provoking presentation that the chiefly Gen-X crowd can barely muster a mosh pit amid the swiftly shifting signatures of the quartet's epic, beyond-dynamic masterpieces, which tonight squirm from stark, minimalist seeds into sensory-overload crescendos of sheer white-light terror.
Though appreciative of their audience, Tool rarely pander: Their punctuating light show and flanking (deeply disturbing) big-screen images enhance the music rather than glorify the dimly lit musicians. Keenan himself, part S&M gimp, part Mexican wrestler in a black pleather body suit, vogues like an inebriated puppet atop a riser adjacent to the drum kit, often with his back to us, while guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor hunch at the stage lip. And to call Danny Carey -- a long-limbed study inside his Battlestar Galactica percussion ensemble -- the world's greatest hard-rock drummer is to belittle the superhuman scope of his polyrhythmic vision. While the slow-burning atmospherics of their set's more introverted passages throw momentum to the breeze, Tool retain an almost mystical instinct for planting intangible musical mazes that still somehow lead us to darkly empathetic centers.
Keenan promotes freethinking and spiritual/psychedelic exploration in his oddly polite between-tune tirades, with help from a projected speech from LSD guru Timothy Leary. But in the morning most of this crowd will be back fretting over car payments and credit reports, for, while Tool's ever-evolving soundscapes are unanswerable, their message is futile in the face of America's crushing corporate stranglehold.
TAHITI 80 at the Troubadour, November 20
Much is made of the vague, jumbled-up retro-ness of Tahiti 80's pop-flight escapism. The French quartet somehow packs your bags and your memories -- air-headedness and nostalgia as popular getaways. Tahiti '60s, perhaps: songs about a love from outer space, about the front men of the Kinks and the Drifters, songs to sway with that pretty Polynesian honey beneath your lampshade. But on an unabashedly personal note, T80's got that wafting mind haze of the late '90s, in the hallways of undergraduate living, where a CD carousel of easygoings -- Ivy, Stereolab, early Cardigans, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Yo La Tengo and the like -- taught me that study music and sex music were the same. It's the retro-ness of my college music that gets me here tonight.
Since a Japanese roommate introduced me to T80's 1996 EP 20 Minutes, this is how I'm passing the wait from the rafters: The crowd below is 35 percent Asian, 72 percent of whom are probably Japanese, 21 percent of whom have lightened hair, and 26 percent will scream and dance like pre-sex schoolgirls when they hear the song "Heartbeat." But "Soul Deep" (from Tahiti's new album Wallpaper for the Soul) is the first song out of the gate, led by a horn that hasn't been this jubilantly goodhearted since the Brit-soul days of Style Council. There are a couple of extra gents on stage tonight, all six sharing some 15 instruments to varying degrees, and at the center is the remarkable fidelity of Xavier Boyer's soaring whisper in live evidence -- a voice so big for being absolutely nothing. Boyer puts away his guitar and sits down at his own keyboards as the boys plunge into a jam session of deep-space funk, some Gap Band mashing, before showing off their song of the moment, "1000 Times."
Sounds great, but I'm still in a love-fool haze from what the band did with "Fun Fair," with noodling melodies so college-trippy that the song finds me and a forgotten friend hiding beneath a blanket, trying to keep quiet so my roommate can sleep. (Tommy Nguyen)
THIEVERY CORPORATION at the Wiltern, November 22
When Dude entered the Wiltern's main room, he liked what he saw. Dude was happy about the way they'd redone the insides, since Dude likes to dance. Dude never did like all those seats. Dude wished they'd put in some hardwood floors, though, since the carpeting got stickier and squingier during the show, and Dude hates squingy carpet. Dude also started to hate those people who chattered away and made it hard to hear the music. Dude wondered why they paid good money to see a show but spent their time talking.
Lucky for Dude, there was a lot of good music to hear. Thievery Corporation played the kind of funky, spacy grooves that Dude loves, and sometimes it seemed like they played all the grooves at once. Dude liked how the head Corporate dudes doing the DJ stuff had two percussionists, three chick singers and a sitar player join them. "The see-tar is a fuckin' great instrument," Dude's friend said. Dude thought it was really cool how they projected all these strange film clips on a big screen behind the stage. Dude wondered whether the music was the soundtrack for the films or the films were the visual track for the music, and that thought made Dude's head spin a little.