We weren't surprised to see a wonderful huddle of seasoned and stellar attendees in the VIP section of Bebe Buell's Roxy gig last night. The short list: Rodney Bingenheimer, Lori Maddox, Billy Corgan, Blondie's Frank Infante, Eric Erlandson, Ginger Coyote, actress Pauley Perrette and Buell's daughter Liv Tyler.
But we were surprised by how comfortable and vocally voracious the longtime music muse (don't say groupie!) was onstage while performing songs from her new album, Sugar.
Buell's back history is of course, the stuff of legend, full of romances with rock legends (Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Elvis Costello, Stiv Bators and baby daddy Steven Tyler to name a few) and model-life excess (she did Playboy). Her passion for swagger-full fellows has been well-documented, but music-making has been a big part of her own life as well.
This was all covered in her memoir, Rebel Heart, put out about a decade ago, around the last time she performed in Los Angeles. Shockingly, she had never taken the Roxy stage before last night, though we hear many of her musical inspirations were seen at the famed venue, and all along the Sunset Strip during its rock 'n' roll heyday.
Introduced by our mutual G.F. Giddle Partridge and dressed in a simple black suit, sparkling jewelry and fishnet gloves, Buell proved a formidable figure — a hot mama whose sensuality, at least these days, comes from her deep, almost Marianne Faithfull-style voice and rhythmic stance on stage.
The songs off Sugar (the pink vinyl of which, she signed at both Origami Vinyl in Echo Park and Second Spin in Santa Monica, last week) are intriguingly dark and moody yet strangely upbeat, from “Black Angel” — about the passing of her pal Joey Ramone — to “When We Were Godhead,” a homage to Rodney, whom she called out in the crowd before the tune.
(Anyone who knows the “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” knows “Godhead” is one of his favorite words.)
It was, as our friend Rodney also likes to say, “all happening” last night on the Strip. Some kind of construction was going on, but two parties on the street really made traffic tempestuous, even separated by blocks: Bing.com's bash at Boa with rapper Drake performing, and Nylon magazine's music mash at Sky Bar, hosted by M.I.A.
We were looking forward to the latter (even planning questions to ask Maya Trufflegate), but unfortunately for us, the swanky soiree was at capacity by the time we got there, surrounded by fire marshals and a long line of boho-chic-sters furiously punching their cellies for a way to get in. After the satisfying Roxy rockin', we decided not to be one of them.
Bebe Buell's Sugar is out now. Check her website to order the sweet pink vinyl.