The Rolling Stones
If last night's concert at Staples Center really was the Rolling Stones' final show in Los Angeles after nearly 50 years of faithful pilgrimages to the Southland, it revealed that the British warhorses are still capable of major gasp-inducing surprises. When the tour officially kicked off at this arena three weeks ago, there was considerable pomp and circumstance to mark the occasion, including visitations from moderately stellar celebrity guests and the stirring spectacle of dozens of blue-jacketed members of the UCLA Marching Band streaming through the aisles, belching out a festive instrumental version of "Satisfaction." However, at last night's bookend sequel at Staples, the thrills and chills were largely musical instead of theatrical.
McCartney and his crew soon moved on to Brazil to start their tour, but the Stones occupied the studios for the better part of the past two weeks, winnowing through at least 60 different songs -- both old and new, along with rare covers -- that are being considered for their "50 & Counting" tour of England and North America. You know, the one that kinda kicked off at the Echoplex on Saturday and gets going for real tomorrow night at Staples Center. We were there, outside, while they practiced.
Better than . . .getting your head kicked in tonight.
One of the Rezillos' earliest singles was titled "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures," but there weren't any statues standing around at their show last night at the Echo, which was only the second time the influential Scottish punk-pop combo has played Los Angeles since starting back in 1976.
The capacity crowd pressed tightly against the stage with pent-up excitement while co-lead singers Faye Fife and Eugene Reynolds shimmied and dashed madly about in a blur of nonstop energy. It was like the duo were living out their own madcap version of the Who's Quadrophenia: Reynolds resembled a surly motorcycle rocker, dressed in black shades and a black leather jacket, while the ever-glamorous Fife portrayed a colorful mod heroine, decked out stylishly in black go-go boots, lacy tights and a lime-green DayGlo mini dress over a slip with sheer black chiffon sleeves.
Fiona Apple, Blake Mills
Better than . . . getting knocked out by shadows.
There's something about Fiona Apple that makes you want to take care of her. Maybe it's because she's so slender, you assume she must be frail. Perhaps it's because of her notorious power struggles with her record company and the music industry in general, or that so many of the singer-pianist's songs deal with the ravages of romantic despair.
She apparently has a major case of stage fright. At Apple's concert at the Hollywood Palladium in July -- on her first major tour in seven years -- she came out 20 minutes late, apologizing to the crowd that she'd been nervous. Last night's show at the Greek Theatre also ran a little behind, but that was because the venue staff wanted to give fans more time to arrive due to a brush fire near the Getty Center that was delaying traffic across the city.
See also: Our Fiona Apple slideshow
It's hard to be a Fiona Apple fan sometimes. Half a decade can go by between tours, and the notoriously reclusive singer-pianist has released only four albums since emerging as a teenage phenom in 1994. Apple's latest album, The Idler Wheel . . ., is her first full-length work since 2005's Extraordinary Machine, and she hasn't toured widely in six years.
At least her L.A. followers have had the chance to catch Apple's occasional sets at Largo at the Coronet over the past few years. But as much fun as those surprise shows have been, with Apple letting her hair down and romping it up with informal covers by the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, she generally pulls only one or two originals out of her deep paper bag of tricks. The demand to hear her own songs has only grown to the point where her more fanatic fans were ready to practically explode by the time the singer and her four-piece band finally walked out on the Palladium's large stage.
See also: Our interview with Javier Escovedo
Even though the Zeros were born at the dawn of the punk era in 1976 and the Muffs didn't start until the depths of the grunge scene 15 years later, they couldn't have been more perfectly billed last night at the Troubadour.
Both bands play a form of punk rock -- which is actually just rock & roll, when you get down to it -- that's not necessarily currently in fashion but which has never really gone out of style. Although each group layers poppy melodies over slam-bang chords, one hesitates to describe the Muffs and the Zeros as pop-punk, if only to separate them from the adenoidal yelping of more contrived outfits like Green Day and Blink-182. Instead, the two bands are more in the spirit of the Ramones, taking the fun, simple hooks of '60s garage rockers like the Standells and the Kinks and then speeding them up with a remorseless punk rock power.
Better Than. . . standing under the flight path of a jumbo jet at LAX.
If Heartless Bastards keep coming to Los Angeles, they're going to need a bigger boat, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws. The previous time the Texas band played the Echoplex, back in 2010, they filled the place, but last night the crowd was so large and packed in so tight, even the club's employees had difficulty making their way through the throng to restock the bar with more cases of beer.
Better Than . . . self-medicating a broken heart without the keen supervision of a pair of trained English romantic-disillusionment specialists.
Slow Club is a band of fascinating contrasts. Onstage, singer Rebecca Taylor tells silly jokes and exhorts the crowd to have fun, and yet she and her musical partner, Charles Watson, croon some of the saddest ballads this side of their hero Leonard Cohen. There are some compulsively buoyant pop moods on Slow Club's recent album, Paradise, but you could say that the Sheffield group are at their best when they're feeling their worst.
"You got the brains/I got the body," Taylor intoned early on at the Echoplex, turning what could have been a sarcastic or boastful line into something vulnerable and hauntingly yearning. Watson answered her plea with star-lit chimes of guitar before the rest of the band came rushing in to fill the lonely void of "Where I'm Waking" with a euphoric chorus.
Better Than. . . going to the circus.
Abby Travis sure knows how to throw a party. She's seemingly ubiquitous as an in-demand bassist, backing everyone from Masters of Reality, KMFDM and Vanessa Paradis to Beck, Eagles of Death Metal and Spinal Tap, but the Los Angeles native performs her own music so rarely that, when she does play, each concert feels more like an event than a gig.
Last night's show at the Dragonfly was no exception, as Travis celebrated her latest solo album IV with a barrage of visual and mental distractions and stimuli. Not the least of which was the ungainly but stunning frock of black feathers she sported when she first strutted onstage.