Photo by Wild Don Lewis
EMINEM, 50 CENT, LIL JON AND THE EAST SIDE BOYZ at Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion, July 23 The show started off hot and humid with Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, then cooled off. With a huge self-likeness puppet behind him, Lil Jon really got the skimpily clad women in the crowd dancing when he brought on Cuban rapper Pitbull and they ripped into Culo, followed by Toma, with Lil Jon shouting out Mexicanos! in his Deep South accent. After the crunk hits What U Gon Do and Get Low, Jon surprised the masses by visiting them way up on the grassy hill to sing Lovers and Friends. 50 Cent, all in black, emerged from a set representing an obliterated New York: collapsed Statue of Liberty, burned-out buildings, overturned cop car. His G-Unit crew including Tony Yayo (recently out of prison after a fake-passport conviction), Young Buck (currently awaiting trial on charges of stabbing Dr. Dres assailant), Lloyd Banks and Olivia helped him along with Candy Shop, Just a Little Bit and Disco Inferno. Newly signed partners Mobb Deep moved into Got It Twisted, and 50 jumped onboard for their new Outta Control. After changing into a white pimp suit with white fedora, 50 Cent pushed on with P.I.M.P., In Da Club and Wanksta. But take away the Dr. Dre and Scott Storch beats, and you wouldnt have much of a show, just 50 Cent showing off his cut torso. In black suit with red tie, Eminem put on a performance like a multilevel video game. Em commented on media speculation about his retirement, then mooned the packed-in crowd. With the help of his bad-ass new DJ, Salam Wreck (producer Fred Wrecks younger brother), he spat Ass Like That, Puke, Kill You and Like Toy Soldier before introducing his friends: D12, including Big Ol Bizarre, 50 Cent, Obie Trice, StatQuo and Nate Dogg. Though Stan and Mockingbird are great radio songs, theyre hard to get into live, and the sets temperature dropped like the thermometer. Our photographer got thrown out for trying to get in shooting range. Yo, its only a lens.
KBIG DISCO FEVER 2005 WITH KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND, J.T. TAYLOR, GLORIA GAYNOR at the Greek Theater, July 23 Delayed by a heated velour-vs.-terrycloth debate, we got to the Greek just as Gloria Gaynor was starting her finale a multitiered rendition of (what else?) I Will Survive. We arrived just in time: The crowd was pumping fists and thousands of skinny fluorescent balloons. Lo, the righteous mass vocals! And, oh my, the colorful Afro wigs! (On the ushers too!) Thanks for the props, Clear Channel even evil empires have a sense of humor sometimes. Up second, J.T. Taylor, former lead singer for Kool & the Gang, turned in such a lovingly polished performance, the Gang were not missed. Taylor looked great, and his vocals were pure 1978. With a tight funk band (including female drummer) and snazzy dance moves, Taylor blew through Get Down on It, Fresh, Ladies Night, Joanna, Cherish (dedicated to victims of terrorism) and, of course, Celebration. Headliners KC & the Sunshine Band (by our estimate featuring only two classic members) paled by comparison. Its hot as hell up here! KC exclaimed. Im tired as shit! He hardly sang, the endlessly jammy arrangements were boring and did you ever notice how Thats the Way (I Like It), Shake Your Booty and Get Down Tonight are the same song? Take a good look, said the thick-middled KC, because this is what Justin Timberlakes gonna look like in 32 years! Maybe so, but does the guy have to be happy about it?
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SECRET MACHINES at the Wiltern, July 22 Secret Machines have always enjoyed the critics caress: first in their native Texas and now, since their move to NYC and a major label, nationally. And so, even sans hits, they comfortably hold a sold-out Wiltern on the first of a two-nighter with backwoods rockers Kings of Leon. Secret Machines sound is dependable: tickledPink Floyd, retread Zeppelin and alienated Ziggy Stardust timbre, through the keyhole of standoffish art-school cool. Theres no performance to speak of, but as in romance, indifference inflames as much as frustrates desire. Tonight, Secret Machines further plunder last years Now Here Is Nowhere opus with minimal reworking, just a fresh lick of perkiness, thanks in part to Josh Garzas snare drum finally being more audible than his signature sinus-flushing kick. They open with the relatively sprightly Nowhere Again: Brandon Curtis extra-enunciated Hannibal Lectorisms; shimmying bro Bens timely harmonic interventions; and Garza pounding time in profile like some Kafkaesque industrial press, his exaggerated back-lift of arms, quivering arch of back and thicket of Haight-Ashbury hair all sympathetic to meter and moment. Though Secret Machines are collectively psychedelic, theyre all about purpose, their three-piece format dictating that each absolutely earns his keep. Sad and Lonely throbs like Eraserhead gone groovy, while the train-passing bustle of The Road Leads Where Its Led rescues a rambling midset that only the truly baked-like-Lays could navigate. And on it goes: deliberate, mesmeric grooves, choppy n chuggy riffs, Radiophonic Workshop guitar chortles and the Brothers Curtis Brit-inspired sibling revelry spawning eye-glazed melodies that oddly evoke their Dallas contemporaries Polyphonic Spree. Secret Machines undoubtedly have a thing. But couldnt they occasionally try, like, another thing?
THE GO! TEAM at the Troubadour, July 21 With another attempted bombing fresh off the news wires and fear and uncertainty on both sides of the pond, the U.K.s newest hot-shit sensation, the Go! Team, seem determined not to let current events dampen their spirits. Facing perhaps the happiest crowd the Troubadour has ever hosted, this group of three boys and three girls led by the lovely and charming lady Ninja challenged L.A.s heat wave with one of their own making. Their deliriously energetic music, a mixture of garage rock, punk, hip-hop and soul, came across as a youthful and ecstatic force, and Ninjas dance moves could put MC Hammer to shame. Although live they feel more like a regular band than their furious collage of a debut record suggests, the Go! Team rocked and popped the sweating room. Band members constantly changed instruments, moving from drums to guitar to harmonica to keys. Near the end of the set, drummer Chi Fukami Taylor took over microphone duties to sing a sweet and tentative number. But the lulls were never long this night, and the band quickly launched back into their urban amalgamation of street sounds. The hype machine is in full swing right now for this young group, but they proved their merit as a party band thats not overtly silly or ironic. The Go! Team is more block party than Bloc Party, and hopefully their move to the majors will nurture, not neuter them.