Blackmore's Night photosby Wild Don Lewis BLACKMORES NIGHT at the Wilshire Theater, February 5 Monks grab-assed duchesses in the aisles as Blackmores Night, the Renaissance-mewsick troupe of former Deep Purple ax cleaver Ritchie Blackmore, paraded into ye olde Wilshire Theater for revelrie surreale. The acid was less lysergic than uric on this occasion, though, as Blackmore had arisen with a case of the gout. (Isnt that a Renaissance affliction?) The good news is that hes overmedicated, quoth singperson Candice Night, the radiant co-star of the festivities, and Blackmore, despite Lady Nights claims that hed left his famously moody preminstrel behavior behind, proved the reverse by pitching a vintage bitch-fit when some mead-besotted boor kept demanding something like Woke on the Squatter. The Darvon failed to dull Blackmores chops. Sensitive economy has always been half his repertoire, and pressing 60, he demonstrated his current preference for perfection over abandoned expression, cutting diamondlike showpieces on semiacoustic guitars, lute and hurdygurdy (?yow!). His band, chock-a-block with multifunctional singers/instrumentalists and a rip-tearing gypsy fiddler (dubbed Tudor Rose), aint heard that Renaissance music is supposed to be quiet if thered been drummers who whomped and romped like this Squire Malcolm of Lumley in Shakespeares time, the industrial revolution wouldve arrived a lot sooner. They all crowded the hay-bale-studded and castle-backdropped stage in period costume and you know Blackmore himself has never required thumbscrews to get him into jerkin and buskins.
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Congenitally sunny and clear, the beauteous and gauze-bedraped Night kept things buoyant, seeming least at ease when forced to knit her alabaster brow, as on the Joan Baez Judas Priest moaner Diamonds and Rust, though she quieted the rabble successfully with the simmering balladry of Ghost of a Rose and wailed out some real-no-kiddin soul melismas on the dyna-soar Purple classic Child in Time. And lo, when she blew that little horn of hers, she did cause many a gallant to perspire. Blackmores Night summed up with Bob Dylans The Times They Are A-Changin. Which, in context, was food for thought. M.I.A. at the Knitting Factory, February 3 Its appropriate that a chunk of this shows door was earmarked for Sri Lankan tsunami relief. M.I.A. (a.k.a. visual-artist-cum-rapper Maya Arulpragasam) and most of her family fled that countrys civil war in her pre-teens, settling in England and leaving her Tamil Tiger freedom-fighter father behind. Even more fitting, she never explicitly mentioned either the benefit or the backstory. Though Third World politics pervades her lyrics her opening number began, Pull up the people, pull up the poor the on-the-cheap dancehall electronics and multilingual chorus-chants in which theyre framed mean to catch both ear and ass, whether youre a Democracy Now listener or not. On her debut album, Arular (dads nom de guerre), this mix is exciting and prescient; the jagged single Galang may be the template for much global pop to come. But given M.I.A.s art-school background, its surprising that she hasnt arrived at a more individual live presentation than the usual combo of MC, hype-man (okay, tall Grenadian woman) and DJ. Pre-show, Philly-based Diplo blended the Cures Love Cats with Brazilian funk, but he was less inventive behind M.I.A., closing nearly every track with the same video-game explosion sound. Similarly, a brief DVD loop of animated maps, war planes and (of course) tigers lost impact by the 40th go-round. The live set had exactly two advantages over the disc. One was the inclusion of tracks using uncleared samples, notably the Sanford & Son based Urqat (now floating around online). The other was M.I.A. herself, whose guileless, knock-kneed dancing was a far cry from the hypersexualized choreography that accompanies much U.S. hip-hop; she was more than watchable, at least until her physical energy gave way during the last songs. She may sing Like the PLO, we dont surrender, but tonight, she didnt seem completely ready to take her own form of resistance aboveground. Franklin Bruno THOMAS FEHLMANN & GUDRUN GUT at Bar Copa, February 6 Not all beats and DJ sets were created to get parties crunk, or to render its dilated peoples so ecstatic theyre being pulled over at 5 a.m. But just because a technotronic thump-thump-thump isnt left running the cerebral cortex afterward doesnt mean that the experience is lounge, or chill-out, or any of those cracker signifiers that actually spell B-O-R-I-N-G, or that it ignores inherently molasses-paced, future-funky deviants such as dub or that funny little rock-away (non-)dance that Fat Joe was peddling last summer. People of L.A.: Downbeat can be a ruler, not just a cocktail-sipping soundtrack. That, more than anything, was the lesson in the intimate joint rocking administered in Santa Monica by experienced Teutons Thomas Fehlmann and Gudrun Gut. Back in Berlin, Fehlmann (a two-decade-long participant in the digital-beat landscape whos collaborated with everyone from Eno onward) and Gut (headmistress of the excellent indie-meets-techno Monika label) run a legendary monthly called Ocean Club. And though thump-thump-thump is definitely part of Ocean Clubs modus operandi, a grand, eclectic exploration of beats and deejaying tools is its true guiding light. Hence, Gudruns hourlong set filled with fragments of oom-pah-pah overtures, Coltrane-ish saxophone invocations and piano flurries, underpinned by Berlin dub bass and various clicks and cuts could remain progressively electronic and keep the sway going without the use of traditional dance-section elements. Within such a smorgasbord of sonics, she could drop the organ-break indie-disco of 80s no-hitters Cynical Teens, or the slow-mo techno of Michaela Melián, and still have it make sense. Fehlmann, on the other hand, was live-laptopping all the way, re-creating the Dabrye-assisted, Dre-discovers-techno crunch of his recent Lowflow album. Soon, though, his BPMs began a-creeping and a-creeping into the low 100s, and most of the gathered had found enough of the groove that minor yelps of delight ensued. Nothing too crazy, though. Piotr Orlov
BANG SUGAR BANG at the Echo, February 1 Local-scene stalwarts Bang Sugar Bang have been called a female-fronted take on the Jam. But while theyve certainly absorbed the Brit mod masters BSBs The Machine Gun Song recalls the Jams Little Boy Soldiers; Kill the Radio has the whoah-whoahs of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight; Wheres the Fun in That? borrows Strange Town s snare-fill punctuation the trio wrap it in a sense of fun alien to Weller & Co., skip the social commentary, and infuse heavy accents of bicoastal American punk, from affected Blondie-isms to anthemic X inflections. Tonight, Bang Sugar Bang play their recently released sophomore album, Thwak Thwak Go Crazy!!, almost in its entirety. The pop-pumped songwriting of hubby-and-wife team Cooper (vocals/bass) and Matt Southwell (vocals/guitar) is sufficiently seasoned to stake a claim past the influences, and the group communicate the tunes with a second-nature verve three years in the making. A crowd-pleasing band-of-the-people, BSB nevertheless possess inbuilt glamour in the crimson-locked, glitter-flecked Cooper, all metal-chick flailing and mouth-gaping, eyes-rolling orgasmic delivery. And the Cooper-Southwell vocal banter hers more angelic, his more conversational covers multiple emotional bases. Southwells tireless gurning and drummer Pawley Filths comical histrionics, however, throw up a smokescreen of pantomime that sometimes obscures serious melodic instinct and savvy arrangements. Even while preaching to the choir literally, during the mass-sing-along set crescendo here at the Echo, Bang Sugar Bang pour it on with rare passion and panache; their labor-of-love attitude says punk louder than any Mohawk or motto ever could. Thwak Thwak, X-raided and Jam-rammed though it is, takes a stylistic vault beyond the groups self-conscious debut, and the songcraft and charisma are in place. This band can grace stages for as long as they choose to. Paul Rogers . . . AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD at Cinespace, February 1 Holy shit. As if it wasnt enough to put out what will probably be considered one of the best albums of 2005, Trail of Dead blew the lid off Cinespace. To all the critical naysayers who think the band screwed their indie cred years ago, the boys raw and sweaty performance sent a message: We dont give a fuck about you or your zine. It felt familiar, like old days watching Texas Is the Reason. Trail of Dead know how to pull off the risky two-drummers technique. Skinsman/vocalist/guitarist Jason Reece not only annihilated his kit but played it off the stage and into the audience, handing cymbal and stick to people in the front row at one point. Pushing mostly cuts off their new album lyrically simple but profound commentaries on the state of American music that happen to include string sections, some Sunny Day Real Estate like hooks and a lot of distortion Reece and front man Conrad Keely lifted a crowded house that found fans standing on booths and crouching in crevices. What made the performance unbelievable was how unchoreographed it was, with band members running into one another, screaming into the microphone hard enough to knock you over hell, Keely sitting at the piano to play a perfect Elton John cover when his guitar wouldnt work. Despite the cacophony, the whole thing managed to sound fantastic. And the band clearly appreciated their audience, which wasnt worn out after a mind-blowing, nearly two-hour show that left behind a satiated crowd and a trail of massacred gear. Tatiana Simonian