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
Beyond all previous Gabriel tours, this one makes the audience truly feel like part of the play. His four-piece band includes two old friends and collaborators, guitarist David Rhodes and bassist Tony Levin. When he brings support act the Blind Boys of Alabama and Tanzanian musicians Hukwe and Charles Zawose onstage, you're taken by the pure warmth and celebration. Peter Gabriel lives for music and connection; he feels it, his troupe feels it, and most of all, we the fans feel it. (Lonn Friend)
AUF DER MAR, STELLASTARR at the Derby, December 15
With a crowd rich in über-stylish, overly scarved hipsters and 50-something-year-old industry businessmen (big gold pinky rings attached), the stage was set for lithe fashionista Melissa Auf der Mar's eponymous band's second show. It was the kind of night that makes you want to drink heavily for some reason; maybe it was the disconcerting scent of "industry showcase" hanging in the air. Nonetheless, there were titillating highlights.
If you were looking for the missing link between Robert Smith and good fashion, it'd be opener Stellastarr's front man Shawn Christensen. The New York band is an eclectic mix of '80s pop sensibility, '90s indie-rock guitar style and forceful vocals that include three-part harmonies. It was good to hear songs that actually have a buildup that builds up to something. Stellastarr sound nothing like the current post-punk hype coming out of NYC. In fact, in what seemed to be a gibe at the recent New York garage trend, the band's male drummer played shirtless, with a black masking-tape star over one nipple and heinous silver Elvis sunglasses. It was enough to make you want to stuff some dollar bills in his snare.
The thing about bands featuring members of other well-known bands is that they naturally draw a buzz that may overstate their actual appeal. If one looked at Auf der Maur and replaced ex-Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa with a lesser-known rock auteur, it would come off as a slightly metal, slightly hard-rock indie band fronted by a vocalist with excellent stage presence and musicianship but somewhat thin vocals and lyrics. Melissa's well-coifed preening and posing (and lack of bra) slightly detracted from the other members of the band and their otherwise solid wall of sound. It's easy to see why Auf der Mar has also formed a Black Sabbath cover band, and surprising that tonight's show wasn't a bit more engaging. (Tatiana Simonian)
MARY HANSEN, 1966-2002
When Mary Hansen was struck dead in a bicycle accident two weeks ago in London, we all lost the mellow voice that sang the meandering melodies in Stereolab's best orchestrations. Hansen was referred to as the "second voice" in "the groop," but for those who grooved on the 'Lab's flawlessly incorporated, easy-on-the-ears "ba ba ba"s or "dum da dum"s, it was Hansen who held the prize. In 1993, during their first U.S. tour, I happened upon their show in some banquet hall on the UC Irvine campus. I had no idea who they were; all I knew was that the pure fuzz they were emitting, the synth and organ and melodies at deafening volume, was about the most elating mix of sounds my ears had ever heard. And there stood Mary Hansen, calmly swiveling and strumming her Jazzmaster, harmonizing to Laetitia Sadier's melt-away French lyrics.
As the Sadier-Tim Gane songwriting team moved into expansive, Bacharachian multi-instrumentation (and original members left), Hansen transformed with them and remained front-and-center at the shows, even singing lead occasionally, most notably on "Come and Play in the Milky Night" from 1999's Cobra and Phases. Always coolly deadpan onstage, Hansen was a stoically stylish co-front woman, waving the tambourine and shyly smiling every so often. Once, Hansen asked the audience for a lyric, and when some clown yelled out, "Ba ba ba ba," she replied, "That could be any of them!"
In her hometown of Maryborough, Australia, there is a museum of famous Marys who've come from there (Mary Poppins author Pamela Lyndon Travers being one of them). Surely now they'll make a space for Mary Hansen — the loveliest vocal melody maker in a prolific band that will never be the same without her.