Music Picks: Soweto Gospel Choir, Paul McCartney, Melissa Auf der Maur
JAY-Z AT STAPLES CENTER
Less than a month before he's scheduled to rock the opening night of Coachella — and not long after his show last November at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion — Jay-Z lands at Staples Center for the next-to-last date of his North American BP3 Tour (the trek wraps up Saturday at the Palms in Las Vegas). That's a pretty serious case of market saturation, but if anyone can stoke the fires of demand to meet such supply, it's Hova, whose once-edgy merger of the roles of rapper and businessman has now become hip-hop's dominant mode. Tonight he'll front a 10-piece band in a set you can expect to pull heavily from last year's The Blueprint 3, which found the MC back in fine block-rocking form following 2006's mushy Kingdom Come (remember that wack-ass Chris Martin collab?) and 2007's insidery American Gangster. With Atlanta crack rapper Young Jeezy and R&B smoothie Trey Songz, as well as any number of unannounced surprise guests. (Mikael Wood)
METRIC, CODEINE VELVET CLUB AT THE HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
Inspired by a trip to Buenos Aires, Metric's singer-keyboardist Emily Haines let the world know that she was back in black, in typically morbid and poetic fashion, with the stirring declaration "Help I'm Alive," from 2009's Fantasies. She confronts her romantic ambivalence head-on during "Sick Muse" (where she declares that "All the blondes are fantasies") and "Satellite Mind" (where she confesses that "I heard you fuck through the wall ... I can feel you most when I'm alone"). Such sentiments are juiced up by James Shaw's angular guitars and Josh Winstead's typically muscular, spiny bass lines. Whether she's climbing Shaw's skyscraper riffs or swimming languidly in pools of somberly melodic soundscapes, Haines is always captivating, and even cryptically hopeful when she sings, "Send us a blindfold, send us a blade/Tell the survivors help is on the way." Codeine Velvet Club is a new project from the Fratellis' Jon Lawler and lounge singer Lou Hickey. Despite brassy neo-swing orchestration and Hickey's perky vocals, their new self-titled CD on Dangerbird Records sometimes feels hollow at the core. However, a few of the less-derivative tunes, like the gauzy ballad "Nevada," hint at the pair's still-unfulfilled pop potential. (Falling James)
TRIORGANICO, J. ROCC AT THE TIME TUNNEL IN EL CID
An eternally mystifying mélange of heart and modernity, Brazilian music will always enthrall for its urge to gobble up every moving sonority in its path and combine it with the beauty of its Afro-Euro roots. Triorganico's Convivencia album (out on the excellent Now-Again label) gives these L.A. garage-bossa fellas a chance to display a fresh cannibalization of those roots in decidedly rougher, truer tones. Their palette mostly derives from '60s-'70s Latin-jazz greatness, an era that reinvigorated South American sounds with heat, grit and wondrously intuitive invention. Featuring expat Rio man Fabiano do Nascimento on guitar, Pablo Calogero on saxophones and woodwinds and Ricardo "Tiki" Pasillas on percussion, Triorganico shakes the dirt offa the roots in warmly felt and deliciously skewed angles. Speaking of which, do not miss Buyepongo's new-old take on Afro-Colombian cumbia, Muamba's hip-hop/samba slams and J. Rocc — the master — resonating earth-sound turntablisms alongside DJs Fresko, Rich Spirit and Renz. (John Payne)
Also playing Friday:
WIZZARD SLEEVE, THE LAMPS, MODERN WITCH at Show Cave; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; LYNDA CARTER at Catalina Bar & Grill; LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall; ART OF SHOCK at Key Club; THREE BAD JACKS at the Troubadour; ELECTRA at Whisky A Go-Go; FUNK SHUI at Bar One.
TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS AT THE TROUBADOUR
There was a time when early punk bands like the Clash and the Avengers served as virtual journalists, spreading news and information that you couldn't find in the mainstream media. Though we're living in an uncertain and troubled economic era, most modern punk groups prefer to be escapist, singing insipidly goofy songs and going for a dimwit party vibe, even as the ship continues to sink. While the D.C.-area group Ted Leo & the Pharmacists have a chirpy pop giddiness like Blink-182 and Green Day, they also reveal occasional hints of thoughtfulness on their latest album, The Brutalist Bricks (Matador). Leo croons like a punk Jackson Browne, with an easygoing good-guy persona on poppy tunes like "The Sons of Cain," but he sometimes shows a little more lyrical bite, on such songs as "Mourning in America" and "Even Heroes Have to Die." Even still, one wishes that he showed more urgency and passion. "Everybody's happy nowadays," as the Buzzcocks once sang, but the question is, why? (Falling James)
THE LIKE AT THE SMELL
There's always been the temptation to be a patronizing poophead about these three white gurls called the Like and their audacious claims that they are indeed a real rocking band, but look, that's obviously 'cause they were like 15 or 16 years old when they formed and, most damningly, their dads were famous rockers and producers (drummer Tennessee Thomas' dad is Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas; ex-member Charlotte Froom's pop is Mitchell Froom; original singer Z. Berg issued forth from A&R bigwig Tony Berg). Fact is, this particular band could from the get-go thrash and bash with the best of 'em, and if truth be told, the Like have become a really ace pop proposition boasting inspired song craft, a stunning heaviosity in their playing prowess and a strangely wise intelligence and humor about it all. Not incredibly prolific over the years, their crowning achievement thus far has been 2005's Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? (Geffen). At long last, though, a new album, produced by the estimable Mark Ronson, is promised for 2010. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday:
FAY WRAYS, DEAD PONIES, THE SHADE at Pehrspace; THE SPITS at Show Cave; FUNKY SOLE at the Echo; BACH'S ST. JOHN PASSION at the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena; THE AL WILLIAMS JAZZ SOCIETY at Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club; LYNDA CARTER at Catalina Bar & Grill; LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
P.O.W. FESTIVAL AT THE ECHOPLEX
Most garage-rock revivals are terminally geeky, formulaic, stiff and willfully irrelevant affairs that make your average Star Trek convention seem like Plato's Retreat in comparison, but the Party Out West fest has an intelligently chosen and fairly diverse lineup that juxtaposes legendary bands with some interesting, not-necessarily-slavishly-retro younger performers. Former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer hosts this daylong benefit for the MusiCares Foundation, headlined by '60s garage-rockers the Standells. While keyboardist Larry Tamblyn might be better known these days as television star Amber Tamblyn's uncle, he and his mates in the Standells recorded the classic "Dirty Water" and are making a rare appearance in their old hometown. Drawing a connection between garage rock and punk, the reunited late-'70s Chula Vista band the Zeros (led by Javier Escovedo — from the celebrated musical family that includes Sheila E. and Alejandro Escovedo — and Robert "El Vez" Lopez) play catchy Johnny Thunders–style tunes, mixed with occasional covers, such as the Standells' "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White." Giant Drag purvey a dreamy, fuzzy brand of alt-pop and post-punk that has more in common with Sonic Youth and the Breeders than it does with typical garage-rock bands, giving this bill some immediacy and emotional heft. There will also be appearances by the Plimsouls' Peter Case, Throw Rag's Sean Wheeler and Circle Jerks bassist Zander Schloss, among others, but the wildest group of all could be Pierced Arrows, led by former Dead Moon singer-guitarist Fred Cole, whose roots stretch back to the Sunset Strip in the 1960s, when he was howling proto-punk classics like "You Must Be a Witch" with the Lollipop Shoppe and drawing the praise of a similarly raspy singer, Janis Joplin. Since then, he and his longtime musical partner, bassist/wife Toody Cole, have tried living in the Yukon in a tent (!) and built their own recording studio in the middle of an Oregon forest (for the full fascinating, tangled story, check out Dead Moon's Unknown Passage DVD). The Coles have released a slew of feral, raw garage-rock classics (all of them stubbornly recorded in mono), such as the doomy blues-rock anthem "Paranoia," from their new CD, Descending Shadows (Vice Records). Don't miss 'em. The festival starts at noon. (Falling James)
AIR AT DISNEY HALL
The last couple of albums by Air have come up a bit short in the songwriting department, disappointing those of us who consider the French duo's early work a perfect union of tune and texture. (Think the Air songbook begins and ends with "Sexy Boy"? Go back to 2001's 10,000 Hz Legend and 2004's Talkie Walkie, both of which venture way beyond funny keyboard noises.) Fortunately, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (or at least their booking agent) chose a smart venue for the final date of their North American tour in support of last year's Love 2. At Disney Hall, even funny keyboard noises can be pretty compelling. Presenting a more stripped-down show than in recent years, Godin and Dunckel will be joined onstage by Bat for Lashes/Badly Drawn Boy drummer Alex Thomas. With local lounge-pop dude AM, whose next gig is opening for Air's old pal Charlotte Gainsbourg. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Sunday:
NELLIE MCKAY at Alex Theatre; W.A.S.P. at Key Club; LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA at Alex Theatre; LOS ANGELES GUITAR QUARTET at MOCA at the Geffen; TRIO ELLAS at Eastside Luv.
BLACK EYED PEAS AND LUDACRIS AT STAPLES CENTER
Now that they've finally stopped worrying about pleasing the old-school backpack rap-heads who once filled out their fan base, the Black Eyed Peas have become one of pop's most dependable party bands: Dis the elementary school rhymes and the blatant riff recycling all you want, but last year's The E.N.D. never lets up on the groove-and-chant front. At Staples, they'll leave you no choice but to feel their flow. Fresh off a No. 1 debut in Billboard last week, Ludacris opens the show in support of Battle of the Sexes, his brand-new set of characteristically rowdy club joints. Sexesbegan life as a full-length matchup between Luda and his former Disturbing Tha Peace homegirl Shawnna; when Shawnna defected to T-Pain's camp, though, the album morphed into a more broadly defined project that only sometimes stays true to its title concept. Because it includes duets with Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj, the result turned out just fine. With party-rap goofballs LMFAO. Also Tues. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Monday:
SPIN THE BOTTLE at the Roxy; MARINA V at the Hotel Cafe; JOHNNY POLANCO AND HIS CONJUNTO AMISTAD at El Floridita Restaurant; THE KEVIN KANNER QUINTET at Blue Whale; VIEUX CARRE MONDAYS at the Mint.
MELISSA AUF DER MAUR AT THE VIPER ROOM
Think Melissa Auf der Maur is pissed at Courtney Love? Nearly six years after the release of her self-titled solo debut, Auf der Maur has finally completed work on its belated follow-up — just in time to be overshadowed by Love's recently announced revamp of Hole, in which Auf der Maur played bass during the heady Celebrity Skin days back in the '90s. Auf der Maur's new one is called Out of Our Minds, and as if in recognition of her need to keep up with the media-munching likes of Love, it's not just an album. There's also a short film, a comic book and an "elaborate Web site that explores the multilayered MAdM/OOOM adventure" (her words). Not that you need all those extras to enjoy the fresh tunes: with appearances by Glenn Danzig and dudes from Nine Inch Nails and Battles, the decidedly ungrungy Minds kind of sounds like Fiona Apple fronting Can — weird but good. (Mikael Wood)
HEINO HAPPY HOUR AT EL CID
The real Heino is one of the most famous German schlager singers, a bombastic, kitsch-as-all-get-out folkloric superstar who has been churning out album after album of songs about the beauty of his homeland, his mom, cowboys and how much he would like to be in South America. He's also very strange-looking, with a trademark image (we mean this literally — Heino once sued a punk rocker who dressed up like him!) of albino-white hair, dark sunglasses, cadaverous complexion and awkward facial expressions. While collectors of incredible strange music have known about Heino for years (thanks, Jello Biafra!), a few years ago Canadian comedian Marc Hickox brought Heinomania to a whole other audience with his all-singing stand-up act. Hickox, in full Heino drag, does '80s covers in the style of Ol' Weird Eyes and has hilarious, bawdy interactions with the audience, always interspersed with shouts of "Jawohl!" and constant intimations to "sing mit Heino." The comedy Heino's natural L.A. home is the notoriously Germanophile Red Lion tavern in Silver Lake, but this week he's slowly making his way toward Hollywood with a variety extravaganza in partnership with Lucha Vavoom (who'll provide a Hula-hooping madchen for the always-randy Heino) at El Cid. Expect inappropriate Nazi jokes, tanzing und lots of weird versions of songs you know and love rendered in the deepest Teutonic baritone. (Gustavo Turner)
PAUL McCARTNEY AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
When you think about it, Paul McCartney was kind of a brave and plucky chap when he came out of nowhere in the early 1970s. At a time when rock bands were expanding, cranking out louder songs and longer guitar solos, this obscure Scottish farmer (actually raised in Liverpool) dared to shrink everything back down with a charming pastoral-pop intimacy on his first two albums, McCartney (where he played all of the instruments), and 1971's Ram. He had a flair for writing sticky-sweet love songs (he seemed to be particularly obsessed with some girl named Linda), but, unlike his singer-songwriter peers James Taylor and Paul Simon, he could also rock out on occasion. The only question about this talented new singer — an apparent control freak who was obviously used to working by himself in the studio — was whether he could interact with other musicians in a collaborative band environment. His subsequent success with Wings put those doubts to rest, even as McCartney constantly threatened — with Evel Knievel–esque recklessness — to cross over the line that separates sentimental romanticism from mawkishly silly love songs. Although he's been productive in recent years (with such estimable albums as Memory Almost Full and his electronica experiments as the Fireman), McCartney appears to be stuck in a nostalgic bag these days, to the point where he dyes his hair brown and wears suits like he's in Gerry & the Pacemakers or something, coming off like a less self-aware Neil Innes. In one of his obscure pre-Wings songs, he once wondered if his girlfriend (and his audience) would still love him "when I'm 64." Apparently, the answer was no, necessitating the 67-year-old bassist's curiously stubborn, puppy-dog eagerness to rush back into the egg and play comfortably ancient British Invasion–style melodies, even though his fans clearly want to hear the more adventurous new stuff. Also Wed. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
HAITI BENEFIT SHOW at the Troubadour; BRAD MEHLDAU at Largo at the Coronet; THE BLACK EYED PEAS at Staples Center; MY COUSIN THE EMPEROR, NORTHSTAR SESSION, BUDDY at the Hotel Cafe; LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
PAUL MCCARTNEY at the Hollywood Bowl; MEGADETH at the Hollywood Palladium; DUB CLUB at the Echoplex; CHRIS CORSANO & PETER KOLOVOS, EVANGELISTA, LUCKY DRAGONS, ASKA at the Smell; OTEP, BURY YOUR DEAD at Whisky A Go-Go; TOMMY KING, NINA STOREY at Hotel Cafe; THE CRYSTELLES at Que Sera.
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR AT CARPENTER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
There are choirs and then there are choirs. When the Soweto Gospel Choir sings (a rather inadequate term for it), you might feel as if you'd never heard choral harmony before — such is the hair-raising power of its collective efforts. Performing in six of South Africa's 11 official languages, the young, 26-member ensemble showcases an intriguingly speckled assortment of voices where the rough and raw mingles with the silky smooth and basso brilliant in thrilling quilts of sound notable too for their awesome precision and rhythmic sway. The double-Grammy–winning choir, which has also founded a charitable organization that raises funds for AIDS orphans in South Africa, has a tremendous new CD out on Shanachie called Grace, and recently recorded the official World Cup song, "Oh Africa," with Akon. Cred notes: Desmond Tutu is a patron of the choir's, and Nelson Mandela digs 'em, too. And yes, if asked, the choir might just do "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
LOUDER THAN BOMBS at El Cid; TROUBADOURS, ST. JOHN & THE REVELATIONS, THE ASHES, HAUGAHYDE at the Cat Club; VIZA, NATIVE JUNE at the Troubadour; JACK SHELDON at Jax Bar & Grill; THE BOB DESENA LATIN JAZZ BAND at Provecho; LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
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