Letters to Cleo Unplugged: Life, as a wise man once said, is what happens when you’re busy making plans. The prospect of the double bill of Boston ’90s power-pop band Letters to Cleo and local rising stars Broken Baby at the Roxy was mouthwatering to say the least. And the good news is, every second of the show that we did get was superb. Sadly, there wasn’t nearly enough of it. More on that later.
We had Broken Baby on the cover in August of last year, and deservedly so. Back then, we purred about Amber Bollinger’s prowess as a frontwoman. “Bowie meets Wendy O’ Williams. Madonna meets Beth Ditto. Karen O meets David Yow. But very much Amber Bollinger,” we gushed, accurately.
That was very much the case at the Roxy. While Alex Dezen and the rest of the band performed their musical duties with masterful aplomb, Bollinger seemingly covered every inch of the massive stage (and some of the crowd space too) as Broken Baby blasted through magnificent tunes like “Manic Panic,” “Get the Piss Up” and “Madonna’s a Dick.”
There’s a reason we had them on the cover, and that reason is there are few better live bands on the circuit in Los Angeles right now.
As for Letters to Cleo, things certainly started brightly enough. They opened with a lively rendition of the title track from 1997’s Go!, then into “Awake” from 1995’s Wholesale Meats and Fish, then an impressive “4 Leaf Clover” from the more recent Back to Nebraska EP (2016).
And then, with a terribly unfortunate twist of fate, the lights went off. As it happens, the power was down for a large stretch of Sunset, so nobody nearby was to blame. It lead to perhaps the evening’s greatest moment, when singer Kay Hanley led the crowd through a singalong of their wonderful cover of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind” — a really warm and quite inspiring thing to be a part of. The show must go on and all that.
Not really though. For safety reasons, we were ushered onto the street to join the similarly disgruntled Stryper fans that had been shepherded out of the Whisky A Go Go.
To her immense credit, Hanley came out to chat with the fans, as did other members of both bands. But waiting was futile. The show was over.
Disappointing, but it was one of those things that just happens sometimes. But again, the show we did get was superb.
Letters to Cleo Unplugged
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