Monday, July 09, 2007

They all fall down together
Live Review
Saturday night was the big Band of Horses / Andrew Bird / Decemberists show at the Hollywood Bowl. My friend and I got took the shuttle over from the zoo and got there at 7:30, just as Band of Horses was taking the stage, so pay attention to those start times at the Bowl. [Side note: Have a little awareness. Once people start rushing towards the entrance, if you’re standing there spread out with all your friends finishing off your wine, please step to the side. It’s really fucking annoying to have to navigate around you just to try to get inside.] I was apprehensive about the Band of Horses. While I love their album, they haven’t been able to pull it off the times I’ve seen them. Apparently they read their reviews, because this time they had three guitar players. He also had almost enough reverby echo on his vocals. Unfortunately they suffered a little from that opener at the Bowl syndrome where the sound just isn’t quite full enough. You see it pretty much every time you go there; the opener never sounds fully plugged in. They played one new song that they “think will be” on their upcoming Sub Pop album and finished with a really good cover of Jagger/Richards’ “Act Together” from Ron Wood’s solo record. Overall, it was the best performance I’ve seen from them and after writing them off as a live band, I’ll be back to see them again. Download “Funeral” and “Bass Song

Up next was Andrew Bird, who I’ve only recently familiarized myself with. I picked up Armchair Apocrypha, and I really enjoy about half of it. He’s an ambitious and knowledgeable musician who’s capable of pulling off multiple styles of music. Amazingly, the Bowl was awash with lush sounds from the moment he came out plucking his violin. He completely filled the space, just moments after the Band of Horses (with their three guitarists and six musicians) sounded thin. Watching him build his songs was a little bit like seeing Jon Brion at Largo. He would lay down and loop a violin part, then swing his guitar around while singing and intermittently play the xylophone. Compared to the indie rockers I usually see, he’s on a whole different level. Meanwhile the drummer would lay down and loop his drum beat before switching to the keyboards. The bass player seemed to be triggering pre-recorded tracks for some of the orchestral parts of the album. I was very impressed with how much these three guys were able to do on stage. They sounded great and it was compelling to watch and unlike Peter Bjorn and John he actually seemed capable of live whistling. Some of the highlights were: “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” “Fiery Crash,” “Plasticities,” “Imitosis,” and “Darkmatter” [ed. note - apparently performance of this song only happened in my mind. you can see a photo of the setlist HERE.] Download “Heretics.” I strongly encourage you to check him out next time he comes to your city.

Adding a full orchestra to a rock band is always a mixed bag. Fortunately I’m not the world’s biggest Decemberists fan, so the songs aren’t too precious to me (although they are quite precious). Tonight, with one exception, the arrangements complemented the songs quite well. The one exception was “Los Angeles, I’m Yours,” which as my friend Tony pointed out, ended up sounding like the theme song to the Oscars. Hearing somebody from Portland sing “Its hollowness will haunt you,” and “How I abhor you” about our city seems like a little bit of a fuck you. It’s especially biting when you consider that it’s one of the few songs where Meloy’s not singing from the perspective of an 18th century sea captain. At the same time, that directness makes it one of their best songs. That contradiction/dissonance pretty much sums up my feelings about the band in general. I mean, do you think that after the show, as they read Chaucer on their tour bus, they occasionally glance up from their books and share a laugh about how they got 14,000 Angelinos to sing along to those lyrics? I do. The crowd loved every moment, especially any time their organ player Jenny Conlee was the center of attention. Four years ago, when I walked out of their half full show at Spaceland, I never would have guessed that one day I’d be watching Meloy repeatedly push the glasses up on his nose in front of so many people at the Hollywood Bowl. Good for them.
The setlist was [ed. note - thanks to Steven for pointing out the previous error]:
The Crane Wife, Pts 1 & 2
The Infanta
We Both Go Down Together
The Bagman’s Gambit
The Perfect Crime #2 (which is a pretty weak song, and on which they didn’t use the orchestra)
Los Angeles, I’m Yours
The Tain
O Valencia! (a highlight)
I Was Meant for the Stage
The Chimbley Sweep
photo courtesy of flikr user anclroo - click on his name for pics of the other bands as well.


stanhalen said...

dang, sounds like i missed a good show. It's a good thing I was able to sell my unused tickets... oh wait. damn craigslisters!

Duke said...

yeah, even though i ripped on the decemberists a little bit, i did have a great time.

Steven said...

Hey, I don't mean to be a jerk, because I love your site, and as always the substance of this review is thoughtful and on the whole right-on. But Andrew Bird didn't play "Darkmatter" or "Heretics, and the Decemberists didn't do "16 Military Wives." I'm actually kind of confused about what you're thinking of in the latter case as "another highlight," because there was no song between "Stage" and "Chimbley." Just wanted to set the record straight. Thanks as always for a great blog!

Joe Fielder said...

Nice article, Duke. Wish I'd made it!

Duke said...

steven - thanks for pointing out the errors. i guess the five tecates messed up my memory. i honestly thought bird played darkmatter. in the age of digital music i suck when it comes to titles.