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Live in L.A. 

Thursday, Apr 14 2005
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Photo by Wild Don Lewis

U2 at Staples Center, April 5 For those of us who’ve gone two decades between U2 concerts, the biggest surprise during Tuesday’s opener of a two-night Staples stand was that Bono can still sing as high and clean and powerful as ever. That world-weary husk he’s been deploying the last couple records is just another tool in the voice-box. And despite the numerous reasons he deserves a supersized cream pie in the face (Africa tours with the treasury secretary; “who’s gonna ride your wild horses?”; a thousand pairs of terrible sunglasses), the Irish runt remains a captivating and convincing front man. Bono and the boys stalked onto the stage and took a lap around a catwalk-loop, looking like they were itching for a bar fight, then launched straight into two songs off How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (playing seven songs from the new album in all). They then pleasured us fogeys with “Electric Co.” and the dirty dirge “Into the Heart” off 1980’s Boy. U2 rediscovered five years ago that there was a great band beneath the ever-increasing layers of studio production, and the Vertigo tour is designed to show that off, particularly the inhuman abilities of The Edge, who executed a perfect descending falsetto harmony on “The Fly” while finishing off a climbing delay-pedal solo with an entirely different rhythm. Bastard. The gooey center of the show, though, was Bono’s “We Are the World” politics. Introspective numbers like “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “One” were turned into Third World/MLK anthems; the junkie song “Running To Stand Still” was dedicated to Daniel Pearl and “all the brave men and women in the military”; and the biggest applause line of the night was the scrolling text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (no lie). It really shouldn’t work, but it does. Bono has just enough glam in his Catholic soul to know when to pull back on the saint business, and his band has enough good songs to make two hours seem short. I’ll save the cream pie for next time.

LOW, PEDRO THE LION at El Rey, March 31 One of the last times I was at El Rey, Peaches climbed the rafters like a mad lioness while the rogue Mexican boys shouted their approval; tonight it’s the pea-soup presence of Pedro the Lion, a.k.a. David Bazan, schlumpy in his too-big blue button-down. The crowd feels wispier than a field of daisies; Bazan’s silky, saturnine guitar work and dust-magnet voice are nearly inconsequential. Rafter-climbing and monitor-humping aren’t necessary, but a flash of showmanship couldn’t hurt. Near the end, the crowd — excluding Pedro’s devoted awkward-Christian-hipster set — starts stirring, but perhaps it’s Low anticipation. Those hopes are quickly dashed, or so it would seem. After “Monkey,” with terse keys and Mimi Parker’s blood-simple drums, guitarist/vocalist (and Parker’s husband) Alan Sparhawk announces Parker has the flu. She won’t be singing, but “here’s your cable T.V. show theme song,” he offers giddily in his introduction to “California.” Without Parker’s harmonies, Sparhawk pours himself into the song’s amber and frayed melody — visibly concentrating, sometimes straining. Not perfect but still profound, his singing easily tops anything on The Great Destroyer. From there, the evening winds into Low’s typical territory: slow, warm-as-wax numbers that leave the wings of El Rey resembling a church lock-in come 4 a.m. — bodies sprawled and slumping, a few dead asleep. No matter. Sparhawk, seemingly electrified at the prospect of carrying the night, throws his share of curveballs with charming non sequiturs — “my guitar is signed by Chuck D, so that’s proof I’m not soft” — and by unexpectedly planting his face in his guitar and teething the strings during “Everybody’s Song.” It’s not Motley Crue: It’s primitive. Minimal.

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—Margaret Wappler

Oh, you rascal, you!Photo by Mark Hunter

DIZZEE RASCAL at El Rey, April 5 Maybe America isn’t ready for British hip-hop, maybe it’s just L.A., or perhaps it’s hard to get people out on a Tuesday night. In any case, there was no excuse for the half-capacity crowd at Dizzee Rascal’s L.A. stop. Fortunately, the mostly underage crowd who did turn out showed their love for English rapper Dylan Mills’ gritty bleep-hop — and in turn, the Rascal ripped it. Culling his set list from both of his albums, Dizzee provided a template for everything a hip-hop show should be: prompt, structurally cohesive, powered by unflagging energy and the ability to rock the crowd. If there were any slow moments — particularly when Dizzee tried to engage in call-and-response with the crowd — it was only because his accent was so thick, we could have used subtitles. (No, Dizzee, L.A. isn’t “sleeping tonight,” we’re just not completely sure what you’re saying all the time.) No matter, heads threw up the “L” for London, even if the closest they’ve come is a night at the Coach & Horses. From “Sittin’ Here,” which opened the show with Dizzee literally doing that, to the surly “Respect Me,” to the big-beat “Fix Up, Look Sharp,” his high-pitched squeal suffered no misstep over the litany of acid bass and tweaked-snare beats that are his bread and butter. This was something truly unique — how many times do you get to see an MC perform wearing a Donald Duck T-shirt? Fix up, look sharp indeed.

—Jonah Flicker

PARTIES, GOSSIP, STARS & SHIT Monday, April 4, was Moby Day at The W Hotel, as the ad men’s favorite beat nerd celebrated his new disc, titled — yep — Hotel, with a free-yet-exclusive acoustic performance (and actually, not so gratis after the $14 parking and $15 cocktails). Euro accents, sassy starlets Jennifer Tilly and Alexis Arquette, and a bevy of fellow baldies (including NBC programming head Jeff Zucker, who blocked our view the whole night) filled the pool area to get some unplugged Play, but it was local lads The Adored (Moby’s new V2 labelmates) who stood out like parrots in a chicken coop. The plucky punksters headlined the one-year anniversary of Ruby Tuesdays the following night at The Key Club, where jailbait thrashers including Hellcat signees Orange played rock star, while well-wishers including Tokio/Star Shoes’ Johnny Nixon, Debbie Harry/Cher/Madonna designer Michael Schmidt and party king Bryan Rabin dug the multigenerational jamboree. Hopped across the street to The Viper Room, where Balthazar Getty twiddled knobs with electro-folkpop outfit Ringside. The show brought out the trust-fund set, including booze ­heiress Carolina Bacardi (with cameraman; she’s rumored to be working on her own reality show . . . hopefully not another Rich Girls); Playmate Colleen Shannon; and the dudes from Daft Punk. The Kings of Leon chilled after their U2 gig at Staples in a ­decidedly cozier space — the V Room’s private downstairs grotto. La dee dah, indeed . . . In other news of the bald, how is it that Beck could not pull off one actually secret show in L.A., while the supertall, superbald, superhot (yes) Billy Corgan was able to go virtually unnoticed at The Troubadour Monday, April 4? Corgan graced the stage to play with legendary Pumpkins skinsman Jimmy Chamberlin’s new solo project (Corgan + Chamberlin = unfuckingbelievable). One guy at the show looked eerily like Tobey Maguire dressed as Oliver Twist (no confirmation). At the March 31 Juxtapoz-sponsored screening of John Roecker’s new claymation gorefest, Live Freaky, Die Freaky (at The Vista), it was hard to tell the difference between punk and just plain offensive. Note: Naked claymate “women” engaged in graphic sex = so not hot. Voice-over star Billie Joe Armstrong, on the other hand, has a knack for quasi-Midwestern accents. Who knew? In attendance and stealthily slipping out during credits were Tony Kanal and Adrian Young of No Doubt. Also present: Green Day’s Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, The Distillers’ Kim Chi and Jen Johnson of F Minus. The lovely, corseted Jane Wiedlin hosted the after-party where Death by Stereo’s Efrem Schulz rocked the “wet underwear” contest. Finally, Fischerspooner invaded Cinespace Tuesday, April 5 . . . thanks for the free vodka — it helped us forget the fashion and get some action!

—Lina Lecaro and Tatiana Simonian

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