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Choking With Rage 

Amon Tobin goes for the jungular

Thursday, Oct 2 2003
Photos by Wild Don Lewis

AMON TOBIN, JOHN TEJADA, DNTEL at the Henry Fonda Theater, September 26

If no one’s in the venue, does Dntel make a sound? Seriously, though, this kid’s experimental textures were wasted on the five or six people who bothered to show up on time at this KCRW-sponsored event. It was a missed opportunity for Dntel — a.k.a. Jimmy Tamborello — because while Life Is Full of Possibilities may come off flat on CD, it all starts to make sense in 3-D space. “This doesn’t sound anything like the Postal Service,” one annoyed patron said, referring to Tamborello’s side project. “Is he always like this?” But just when the evening seemed a washout, John Tejada’s pile-driving beats got this party crackin’. Tejada, who records for a zillion labels and whose mom is a noted opera singer, might be 4/4 at the core, but tonight he embellished to the nth degree, layering ever more exotic vines onto his techno trellis.

Around midnight, Amon Tobin gave a lesson in advanced jungle: an impossibly thorny whirl of syncopated skitter-pop backed by Doppler-effect bass drops that were felt as much as heard. Working behind a semitransparent triptych of screens — on which sundry engineering schematics and the odd zodiac sun were projected — added to the reticent Brazilian Brit’s mystery. But he seemed to rush through the signature tunes (e.g., “Verbal”), cramming them medley style as though he were embarrassed by the obviousness of this choice. Wish Tobin had dialed back the intensity once in a while as well to let these byzantine tapestries breathe. Sure, the convoluted beat-downs fed the kids’ rage jones, but they evaded any hint of how scrumptious — yes, scrumptious — this guy can be. Tobin encored with a Slayer/NIN–esque mash-up, his patented sense of humor better late than never.

RADIOHEAD at the Hollywood Bowl, September 25

Radiohead’s recent teetering along that ill-defined line between artsy and fartsy is amplified to an uncertain stagger in the live arena. Performing before a capacity throng of almost Deadhead devotion, the Brit quintet seem obliged to faithfully revisit their more accessible moments, yet simultaneously exploit their unquestioned credibility to roam roughshod into self-indulgent experimentalism.

It’s a credit to Radiohead’s confidence that they focus tonight on the new Hail to the Thief, opening with a Lion King rendition of their current single, “There There,” whose triple-barreled tribal tattoos muster definition and velocity beneath main man Thom Yorke’s signature whimpering. Yorke, resembling a disheveled Clay Aiken, holds effortless nerd-declared-cool court at center stage, whether flutter-eyed and bobble-headed at the mike or indulging in drum-circle freak-out jigs around his bandmates. His voice engages regardless of the cacophony or caress surrounding it: desperate and bleak in his regular register, otherworldly when launching frequent falsetto orbits. Embellished by a sometimes apocalyptic acid-head light show and a strip-club backdrop, the brace of “Airbag” and “Paranoid Android,” from 1997’s lauded OK Computer, are a reminder of how hypnotically Radiohead’s stars can align: ominous, cyber-blip bass lines, anesthetizing injections of acoustic guitar, and detached vocal pleas, building to Jonny Greenwood’s string-wringing, effects-drenched crescendos. But explorations of more recent android-friendly material suffer in this setting. “Myxomatosis” in particular descends into a bass-heavy quagmire, naked of entertainment value but for some emperor’s new clothes.

Radiohead are the Gen-Y Genesis: Long ago burst from the conventional guitar-band cocoon, they’ve butterflied into multi-instrumentalist yet pop-aware progsters, an unlikely intersection of Bread and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Tonight’s lengthy set and the patchy but palatable Hail to the Thief suggest that Radiohead, while drifting between stations, will never betray themselves, however disconnected the results may become. (Paul Rogers)

KROQ’S INLAND INVASION at the Hyundai Pavilion, September 20

Funny how KROQ allots a grand stage like Hyundai Pavilion to the very bands of yore the station has now relegated to its flashback-for-fogeys nooner hour: the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Duran Duran and the Psychedelic Furs, here paired with their current suckling babies Hot Hot Heat, Interpol and Dashboard Confessional. The seed of every worthwhile British band of the past 15 years has sprung from the Bunnymen, whose Ian McCulloch, the epitome of cool, puffed cigs through the band’s set, in finest form on beauties like “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” “Cutter” and “Seven Seas.” Still don’t get the Violent Femmes, but it only took one word — “Daaaaaay,” sung straight through the nose — from singer Gordon Gano to get the blisters in the sun to rise and shine. Not as bright was Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon, too preoccupied with his malfunctioning mike to give us full attention. But thanks for the “Careless Memories,” video montage, and for having a real saxophonist play on “Rio.” Riding the newer new wave were the catchy carnival keyboards of Hot Hot Heat and the nervy paranoia of Interpol’s guitar, as penetrating as singer Paul Banks’ cold, unblinking stare.

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