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Music Picks: R. Kelly, Leonard Cohen, Cat Power 

Thursday, Nov 1 2012
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fri 11/2

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

THE WILTERN

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If anyone should be a star, it's Grace Potter. Commercial enough to sing duets with Kenny Chesney, she's also freaky enough to trip out occasionally with folks like Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced parts of her latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat. Vermont native Potter plays a mean guitar and pumps out vibrant waves of gospel-style organ while wailing over it all with a passionately fiery and notoriously powerful set of pipes. On top of that, the long, tall, blondish brunette (who already has a dark-chocolate candy bar named after her) is drop-dead gorgeous — not that that should really matter. What does matter is that Potter's onstage intensity and pyrotechnics are well matched by founding drummer Matt Burr, guitarist Benny Yurco and intuitively wild lead guitarist Scott Tournet. On the new record, the Nocturnals move further away from the bluesy classic rock of their early releases into a shinier, sleeker and slightly more experimental pop sound. Although the overall songwriting is inconsistent, Potter still exudes considerable soul and charisma on stronger tracks such as "Turntable," "Loneliest Soul" and "Timekeeper." —Falling James

Ryan Darton

HOTEL CAFE

This is not Chris Martin from Coldplay's solo record. It is Ryan Darton from Kid Theodore's solo record — he just happens to sound disturbingly like Martin. The Los Angeles transplant hasn't just changed his location from his hometown of Salt Lake City; he's also changed his musical ethos. His self-produced debut, I Am a Moth, is about using production as a means of sound creation. This is something Darton shares with Coldplay, as well as that group's strong hold on melody and power choruses. Garden-variety as Darton's singer/songwriter-by-numbers music may be, it nevertheless sounds genuine and heartfelt. Darton ups the intimacy on the quiet and moody "Shadows," while bordering on angry on "Uptight." His contradictory sides come together on the album closer, an unexpected cover of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love," by turns tender and snarling. —Lily Moayeri

R. Kelly

NOKIA THEATRE

Just one year after undergoing emergency throat surgery, music megastar R. Kelly is set to appear at the Nokia for the West Coast leg of his Single Ladies tour. One of the most prolific figures in R&B, the South Side Chicago native captured the national pornographic imagination in 1993 with the release of his erotically imbued (now sextuple platinum) solo debut, Twelve Play. Having penned compositions for such icons as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross, the triple Grammy Award winner is recognized by the RIAA as one of the best-selling artists ever in the United States. His 20-year career, sometimes overshadowed by scandal, is detailed in his newly released autobiography, SoulaCoaster: The Diary of Me. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

LoveyDove

TAIX

This is a night of very high-grade modernist pop from indie hero Azalia Snail and her L.A. psych/pop partner (both in music and in life) Dan West. Snail is the 20-year-plus veteran who has released more than a dozen albums of radiantly unfashionable and often unclassifiable stuff (hazy psych-folk-rock is about the closest we can get), including this year's gorgeous Celestial Respect. West has done countless sessions and has his own supremely melodic and wonderfully harmonized Sidewalk Society, whose recent Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon should be sought out without delay. Aside from being a cute couple, Snail and West make fantastic music together as LoveyDove — making them something like Sonny & Cher, except really good. —John Payne

sat 11/3

Luis and the Wildfires

VIVA CANTINA

Luis and the Wildfires have one stand-up bass and four kick-ass dudes doing rock & roll with rare vigor. Hives compatriot Luis Arriaga is the guy up front tearing his heart out while he sings (and using the guitar strapped to his back more as a battle-ax than an instrument). Their most recent album, Heart Shaped Noose — on home label Wild, of course — matched snarling Them, Tom Waits and Joy Division covers with a Spanish-language reincarnation of "Baby, Please Don't Go" with punked-up smashers like "No More Days" and future classic original "I'm a Man," which begins with the most Arriagarific line ever: "Please forgive me, friends/if I seem strange/I'm still in love." Mandatory for anyone seeking rock, roll and reality. —Chris Ziegler

Dayna Stephens Fundraiser

BLUE WHALE

Embraced by the New York jazz scene, doing gigs with Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Carlos Santana and Stevie Wonder, saxophonist Dayna Stephens appears to lead a charmed life. However, he has a rare kidney disease that affects just 20 people in a million. His medication costs $4,000 monthly, he requires dialysis daily and he urgently needs a new kidney. But while jazz musicians are famously poor, they're talent-rich, offering their musical gifts in support of this beautiful soul. Tonight's bill features bands from the Los Angeles Jazz Collective, the Thelonious Monk Institute, Blue Whale owner and vocalist Joon Lee and, finally, the guest of honor himself, with guitarist Larry Koonse and pianist-organizer Josh Nelson. Bassist Charlie Haden is noted for imploring improvisers to "play as if your life depended on it." Nothing could be truer for this show. —Gary Fukushima

sun 11/4

Chicano Batman, Buyepongo, Anthony Valadez at Day of the Dead

ECHOPLEX

Chicano Batman is soul, although there's a lot more to this band than just soul music. There's psychedelia and tropicalia and cumbia, done up DIY in the most noble, garage-recorded tradition. If you ever saw the gigantic Chicano Batman logo — the Dark Knight merged with the UFW eagle — painted in triumphant colors across singer/keyboardist/guitarist Bardo Martinez's bedroom wall, you'd get it. This band is a dream made real. (And made even realer on the new Joven Navegante EP, with four songs of electrified experimentalism, actually.) This performance is part of a Day of the Dead extravaganza, including the mighty Buyepongo and the frenetic chicha-inspired La Chamba, who howl like maniacs when they really get going, as well as DJs Sloepoke and Anthony Valadez. —Chris Ziegler

Bush Tetras

THE ECHO

The collision of punk and funk resulted in a new, bass-heavy genre that encompassed everything from the straightforward vibe of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Doggy Style to weirder, harder and more aggressive groups such as Gang of Four and The Middle Class. The early-'80s New York band Bush Tetras were definitely on the artier side of things, with Cynthia Sley intoning dourly mesmerizing broadsides like "Too Many Creeps" and "Stand Up and Fight," while former Contortionists guitarist Pat Place chopped up angular shards of glassy funk. Sadly, founding bassist Laura Kennedy, whose buoyant, throbbing lines were such a major component of the group's early sound, died from liver disease last year. However, her replacement, Julia Murphy, has been with the reunited band for seven years now, and dubby tracks like "Das Ah Riot" still feel timeless. —Falling James

mon 11/5

Dark Dark Dark, Emily Wells

THE ECHOPLEX

Emily Wells' ambitious songs might seem too strange to attract much popular attention, but the Texas singer's unusual fusion of hip-hop rhythms with washes of classical-style strings and old-time folk, layered over her own innocently childlike cooing, has led to appearances on Last Call With Carson Daly and collaborations with hip-hop hotshot Dan the Automator. Despite its title, "Johnny Cash's Mama's House" isn't some predictably down-home, roots-reviving homage. Instead, the song is a gauzy electronic soundscape where Wells' eerie vocals and shimmering violin hover airily overhead like a delicate Kate Bush reverie. Headliners Dark Dark Dark have a similarly stately pop approach, with Nona Marie Invie's vocals wending their way winningly through her icily beautiful piano passages on grand new tunes like "Tell Me." —Falling James

Leonard Cohen

NOKIA THEATRE

Well-dressed man Leonard Cohen is often referred to as a ladykiller; no doubt, the gifted songwriter, musician and poet is effortlessly suave, with a quiet charisma that surely aids in conveying the pointedly poignant words and hues of his music and poems. Since his 1967 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen, the man has consistently kept it rolling; it's inspiring to note that he produced some of his best work decades after he got started, including I'm Your Man (1988) and the elegiac excursions of this year's Old Ideas, another satisfying blend of the wrenchingly heartbreaking and happily hopeful, with time-earned simplicity that's deeply felt and, better yet, shrewdly thought out. Both live and in the studio, Mr. Cohen is in fine, funny, fighting form. —John Payne

tue 11/6

Miss May I

HOUSE OF BLUES

Defying its (relatively) clean-cut aesthetic, this quintet — whose members were still in high school when they formed the band in 2006 — summons a witheringly dense, guitar-driven din that allows little room for argument, let alone vulnerability. But for these unassuming Ohioans, heft and deft coexist in furious harmony, with plenty of noodly six-string detail and industrial strength (and speed) kickdrums amidst a veritable monsoon of oversaturated riffery. There's melody, too, with bassist Ryan Neff offering heartfelt, singable counterpoints to frontman Levi Benton's apocalyptic roar. Miss May I may not sound especially original today, but they came early to metalcore's table, and a rare sense of single-mindedness still pervades their angry yet anthemic assault. —Paul Rogers

wed 11/7

Danny Janklow

VITELLO'S

To most people, saxophonist Danny Janklow looks even younger than his 23 years. The Agoura Hills native and 2011 Temple University grad returned to Los Angeles and quickly began making a name for himself in local jazz circles. After hearing Janklow sitting in with Conan saxophonist Jerry Vivino, leading saxman Doug Webb was impressed enough to lend the young man one of his personal instruments. Tonight Janklow is upstairs at Vitello's in Studio City, the club where he cut his chops a year ago jamming in the downstairs bar. He's backed by former Wynton Marsalis pianist Eric Reed, drummer Wes Anderson and fine young bassist Mike Gurrola, who turned down a Juilliard scholarship offer to stay on the West Coast. Janklow promises a mix of original tunes and standards from the likes of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. —Tom Meek

thu 11/8

Cat Power

HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM

Much has been made of Cat Power's recent makeover, with critics seemingly just as enamored of her new hairstyle (after the Atlanta native sheared off her trademark long, straight, brown hair in favor of a short, pixie-like blond cut) as they are the musical evolution on her ninth album, Sun. She shifts away from the Memphis soul of previous releases into a more overtly poppy, piano-laced sound, flecked with newfound traces of electronica. Such cosmetic adornments don't really change the soulful intensity that remains at the heart of Power's emotionally cathartic ballads. The arrangements might be different, but Power still hypnotizes with that languidly mournful yet ever-comforting voice. —Falling James

Bleached

THE FONDA Theatre

The Clavin sisters and their band, Bleached, came out guns blazing with two 45s (vinyl records, we mean) and a sound somewhere between the WipersT Wire, The Ramones (in the most primordial, awesome way) and The Shop Assistants. Which means: punk before it got all fossilized and cranky, pop as it should have been if Rough Trade ran the radio. No album yet, but that's OK because this is a band born to communicate through an A-side and a B-side: They know you probably can say in two minutes anything you could say in three, and you probably should make sure at least 30 seconds of that goes to some "ooh-oohs" for a chorus, too. If you've been looking for the perfect thing to paint on the back of your army-surplus jacket ... deeply consider B-L-E-A-C-H-E-D. —Chris Ziegler

Lydia Lunch's Retrovirus

FIDM GRAND HOPE PARK

Singer-poet–performance artist–provocateur Lydia Lunch never did do things nice and easy. From her days in Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, 8 Eyed Spy, 1313 and Shotgun Wedding, her terrain has been the dark, nasty and threatening, a sleazy underground spanning a damp tunnel through ear-drilling No Wave to skanky hard rock to noir-y jazz skronk and some really gruesome psychedelia. Tonight's performance accompanies the exhibition of Cesar Padilla's book Ripped: T-shirts From the Underground (see GoLA). Lunch wrote the introduction, and you have to fear and respect the savage band of like-minded sonic scalawags she's put together to further massacre all the "hits": Swans/Foetus/Pigface monster bassist Algis Kizys, Chrome Cranks/Knoxville Girls/Pussy Galore drummer Bob Bert and Flying Luttenbachers multi-instrumentalist Weasel Walter. This show will be remorseless and pity-free. May God have mercy on our souls. —John Payne

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