Some overdue live reviews:
On Saturday September 10th I saw Willie Nelson at the Hollywood Bowl. Going to school in Austin, TX you hear so many stories of legendary Willie Nelson shows. Shows at Stubb’s, The Backyard, etc. where people just have amazing times. My expectations were pretty high. Unfortunately I was a bit of a cheapskate and I sat all the way back in section S. When you sit that far back at the Bowl, the performer looks like an ant (even with the small binoculars I have from last Christmas’ $20 gift exchange). Willie came out with the LA Phil (Beck’s dad conducting) and sounded great. His voice is so deep and soulful (constant dope smoking hasn’t negatively affected it at all). He did about five or six songs with the full orchestra, including “Crazy.” After a quick break, he came back without the orchestra and jumped into “Whiskey River.” His voice still sounded great, but the band seemed a little too far down in the mix. Unfortunately bands are never quite loud enough for me at the Bowl. I didn’t write down the setlist and my memory has gone a little hazy, but he played a lot of great songs including: “Me and Paul,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “On the Road Again,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “Pancho and Lefty,” “City of New Orleans” and “Always on My Mind.” When you hear a song like “Always on My Mind” on the radio you totally take it for granted, but there’s some real emotional resonance when you hear it performed live. Willie didn’t interact much with the audience – you’re never really sure if he even knows where he is. Overall a very good show, but looking down on the audience from the back of the house made it seem like the people in front weren’t that into it. It made we want to see him back in Austin.
Last Wednesday 9/13/06 I saw Golden Smog at the Avalon. I’m not a big fan of the Avalon. The sound there is good and there are decent sightlines, but I just never seemt to have a very good time. It might be because I’m reminded of the days of the Palace when they’d always kick you out early for the DJ nights or perhaps that the parking costs $15. For me, any amount I pay for parking at a show comes directly out of the amount I spend at the bar. $15 for parking means I didn’t have any drinks. My friend and I rushed through dinner and hurried over thinking the headliner would go on at 9:30. Instead we got there just in time for the unannounced second opener. I didn’t catch her name, but she had Tommy Stinson on bass (and she later came out and sang with Golden Smog). I wasn’t feeling it, so we stood outside for a while. Golden Smog came on about 10:30. They came out strong and sounded really great on the first couple of songs. Unfortunately they were under-rehearsed with their new drummer, Sim Cain (Henry Rollins’ old drummer). There were several false starts and uncomfortable beginnings as they struggled to get the tempo right. They joked that it was only their third show. Not unforgivable, given that Golden Smog has always felt like a bar band where several really good musicians meet up and try out originals and work through some covers. Unfortunately the tickets were $25 plus Ticketmaster service charges and the venue held 1,200 (?) so expectations were higher than your average bar band. Plus it felt very corporate – as VW sponsored the show (a car out front, huge lit up ads next to the stage and people handing out free keychains). Some in the audience seemed disappointed that Jeff Tweedy wasn’t there – when the female opener came out and did one of Tweedy’s parts, somebody in the crowd yelled “She’s no Tweedy.” Rude. The Avalon was maybe 1/3 full, which added to my lethargy. At one point, Kraig Johnson even lectured the crowd for not cheering enough. Given that 75% of the audience was males over 35 years old and the venue was 66% empty, I didn’t feel like he was in any position to complain about the people who were there. There were six or seven songs that sounded great but they were stretched over two hours. I really enjoyed most of Johnson’s songs, some of Louris’ songs and not that many of Dan Murphy’s. By the time Tommy Stinson came back out (on guitar) for the final encore I was really tired. Overall disappointing, but I’d go see them again if they played Spaceland or the Troub for $10.
On Friday I did a little time at Spaceland. I missed Low vs. Diamond who seemed to be the big draw for the night. Apparently they’ve got some major label interest at the moment. You can see them tonight at Little Pedro’s…..