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
Tilbrook seemed to delight in the unplugged, solo format, playing the most obscure Squeeze songs any joker in the audience requested, crowd-pleasers like "Tempted" and "Up the Junction," and a few new tunes like "This Is Where You Ain't" and "Parallel World," which didn't sound egregiously out of place between the old standards. Mocking his dinosaur status before launching into another '80s sing-along, he joked, "Every 10 years I've moved up a channel . . . started off on MTV, then moved over to VH1 . . . now I'm on VH1 Classic . . . 30 years, it'll be 'VH1's Isn't He Dead Yet?'" Thirty years from now, maybe, but not just yet. (Liam Gowing)
BUCK OWENS at the Crystal Palace, December 14
Holding forth every weekend at this ornate, low-cover shrine to self, Country Music Hall of Famer Buck Owens runs his shows with an almost disastrously casual attitude, but the fact that such a renowned performer (and one at the advanced age of 72) allows fans such ready access is nothing short of remarkable. Taking the stage with a deafening technological thunder-and-lightning introduction, Owens launched into his classic "Together Again" with all the authority and bite one would expect from the brash and occasionally bizarre showman. Bakersfield's Crystal Palace has become the ultimate sit-down gig (as hillbilly parlance has it), but Owens works the stage with an almost hectic fervor, switching from red-white-and-blue Fender to mandolin, even banging on a fiddle, as he performs a mix of whatever he wants and the numerous requests passed up to the bandstand.
Owens, like James Brown and Bob Dylan, has achieved that peculiar status of incomprehensible mumbler, and his lengthy mush-mouthed discourses have an almost disconcerting effect (Is he that drunk? Did he have a stroke?) made all the stranger by the fact that these shows are carried live on his KUZZ radio station. Tonight, though, he tore through every single number with clear, precise delivery and no small degree of right-here, right-now involvement. Despite frequent intrusions by a pair of wooden-toned girl singers, Owens still easily holds your attention, with fine straight-ahead country tunes like "Hello Trouble" and an intensely emotional "Cryin' Time," but when he dug into a pair of extraordinary and ambitious country-pop songs, "Big in Vegas" and "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass," one realizes that Owens was also at one point in the late '60s a sort of hard-country Burt Bacharach, dealing in the same sort of complex and evocative musicality as Jimmy Webb and Mickey Newbury. So stow all the lame gags about Hee Haw and trek up to the Palace; it's a complete gas, up to and including the artificial secondhand smoke, seriously, that gets thicker as the evening passes. (Jonny Whiteside)
A quarter-century ago, in the days of Genesis, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and David Bowie — the architects of rock & roll performance theater — 10 bucks bought you whatever wicked and wonderful live experience was on the touring docket. When you bought that seat for that show, you knew you were going to get more than riffs and melodies; you were going to get theater.
Back then, Peter Gabriel fronted the progressive institution Genesis, leaving the band to Phil Collins' suspect instincts when he departed on the highest conceptual note of its day, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in 1974. That tour was the most expansive and groundbreaking visual feast of its time. When Peter Gabriel last played Los Angeles, there was no Staples Center, and Kobe Bryant was still in high school. But on the heels of Up, his deep and sonically profound first true studio release in almost a decade, Gabriel returned to town with production designer Robert Lepage — who collaborated on Gabriel's globally successful Secret Worldtour — with the goal of creating some technologically advanced eye candy.
The staging of the show is vertical, props emerging from openings in the roof and holes in the "theater in the round" platform. The hanging cloth moon provides a powerful motif, and Gabriel explains the context to his tribe of faithful followers: "Up is symbolized by the moon," he says, "which has a huge influence on the tides, the menstrual cycle and, probably, human behavior." We are sucked into the metaphor, carried up and down from sky to Earth, life to death, the human condition articulated in two hours and 20 minutes by one of popular music's master storytellers.
During a set of classic songs that included stalwarts "Solsbury Hill," "Digging in the Dirt," "Family Snapshot," "Red Rain," "Secret World," "Mercy Street," "Sledgehammer" and "In Your Eyes," Gabriel presented his new material with visual accompaniment that played on each song's theme. Most astounding was the giant plastic Zorb ball he rolled around in for "Growing Up," traversing the stage, appearing at times to almost fly over the side into the crowd, which the near-capacity house half-expected given Gabriel's past penchant for letting the audience pass him around the arena like a floating prophet. A mesmerizing moment came during "Downside-Up" from Ovo, the 2000 album released only overseas. As the song entered its elevating final mantralike chorus, Gabriel and his daughter Melanie, who sang backup vocals, harnessed themselves to the bottom of a ceiling rig and walked upside down, to the rapturous roars of the crowd. Father and daughter, two kids at play, and 15,000 neighborhood onlookers, soaring back in time to their innocent, youthful days, courtesy of ringmaster Gabriel's mythical, musical merry-go-round.