Entries tagged “roseland.”

LCD Soundsystem and my rescue from the precipice of fogeyism

When I was in high school, I was perplexed by a trend I saw in adults’ listening habits. While I was gobbling up just about any record I could get my hands on, old folks seemed to be perfectly content with a small assortment of artists or albums. When you’re 17, every new album feels like a breakthrough, a mind-blowing horizon expansion in your eardrums. How could anyone not buy the new album by [insert critically-hyped up-and-comer here]?

I don’t think I truly understood this phenomenon until I sold all of my White Stripes records. I used to adore that band. There was a time when De Stijl would have been in the “Top 10 Albums of All Time” list in my head. But via the White Stripes, I discovered the Black Keys. I found out about Chicago blues artists like Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. I bought my first Stooges record (Fun House) because of the White Stripes.

After all that, I didn’t need the White Stripes anymore. Everything I loved about them was available in purer form. They were rendered redundant by their predecessors. When you have The Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers, you wonder why anyone really cared about The Strokes to begin with. Will Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ever outdo The Jesus and Mary Chain? Probably not.

This feeling of redundancy has started to plague most new music I hear, and I only passionately dig a handful of artists that formed post-2000. St. Vincent is one of them. Art Brut are great. I love Gorillaz, but mostly because I’m jonesing for a new Blur album. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fujiya & Miyagi and Arcade Fire are hit-or-miss. Cut Copy and Vivian Girls are pretty good.

2010.05.29 LCD Soundsystem @ RoselandBut LCD Soundsystem? LCD are bloody fantastic.

I’m not sure what it is about a new LCD Soundsystem album that impresses me almost as much as the first time I heard the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. They certainly aren’t immune to the same criticisms I cast upon their peers. In their music, you can hear pieces of the Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Daft Punk, The Stranglers, The Executive Slacks, The Fall, James Chance and the Contortions, David Bowie and many others. Yet somehow, it feels like its own sentient entity.

It could be that the man behind the moniker, James Murphy, has simply combined elements of dance and house music with punk and synth-pop in a novel way, but this assessment is overly clinical at best. Regardless of what musical genres LCD Soundsystem bends or twists, the key ingredient for this band remains a hardy, consistent sense of earnest authenticity.

2010.05.29 LCD Soundsystem @ RoselandThe compositions are created without the aid of modern computers or software. The lyrics aren’t written until the day the song’s recorded. The shows are played without click tracks or samples. Any element that would distance the listener from the process of creation has been removed or minimized. Any American Idol contestant can sing and be enjoyed. It’s another quality altogether to be believable. The former is the key to radio superstardom, the latter to relevance and impact.

LCD’s show at the Roseland on May 29 was the third time I’d seen them play. The first was in 2005 at the Wonder Ballroom, an infamous show nearly derailed by overzealous PlayStation sponsorship (and exacerbated by the resultantly miffed Portland hipsters). The second was at Coachella in 2007 amidst a sea of inebriated club kids and ravers. Last week, I finally saw them perform a show without any such caveats and found myself overwhelmed by their energy, evocation and honesty.

Maybe I am becoming that cranky old man complaining about the kids and their new-fangled rock-and-roll music. Maybe I need to think about trading in my LiLiPUT and Lizzy Mercier Descloux albums for the standard-issue No Jacket Required and an Eagles compilation.

But then I hear LCD play, and all of that goes out the window.

Sonic Youth versus the sun

Sonic Youth at the Roseland

Sonic Youth have been melting faces with mind-bending riffs since 1981, but perhaps never as literally as they did last evening at the Roseland in Portland.

As temperatures soared to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, Mallory and I were pleased to find the interior of the Roseland (while far from chilly) surprisingly comfortable. Diet Cokes in hand (we are such party animals), we took our comfortable post in the balcony to enjoy the show.

Amazing Color opened to a fidgety but respectful crowd. They passionately played a series of heavily Detroit-entrenched power guitar songs. The performance was ultimately forgettable for lack of an audible focal point, but the set was entertaining and by no means boring to sit through.

Unfortunately for Sonic Youth, the air conditioning gave out just prior to their arrival as dozens more warm bodies began to pant and sweat their way into an already stuffy theater. Thurston Moore was quick to impress, performing with a level of mastery, confidence and exuberance that was a joy to witness. The rest of the band (including the stunning Kim Gordon and bassist Mark Ibold, formerly of Pavement), while unable to exactly mimic Moore’s enthusiasm, played with a level of experience and fervor that matched the mystique of this now-legendary band.

In spite of Thurston’s wisecracks (including how good a “tall, warm glass of buttermilk” would sound), the unbearable heat coupled with punishing stage lights was clearly taking a toll on the band. Thurston’s leaps quickly turned to hops, then to rolling on the balls of his feet, then to a vertical, almost immovable stance.

Mal and I rarely leave a concert, much less a good one. But as we watched the lead guitarist’s gear cease to function 45 minutes into the set, saw the roadie try desperately to fix it as sweat dripped down our faces, we couldn’t help but become overwhelmingly aware of our thriving levels of discomfort.

Tapping into our most primal survival instincts, we did what any creature seeking refuge from the elements would do. We left, and picked up milkshakes from Burgerville. Mm, mm!

PJ Harvey and John Parish at the Roseland

PJ Harvey and John Parish live on stage at the Roseland in Portland, OR

In a 1993 interview conducted by Pere Ubu’s Dave Thomas, Charles Thompson (better known as Black Francis of the Pixies) rather infamously concluded that most women shouldn’t bother with rock. He reflected on his statements in a 1998 interview with the Onion’s Keith Phipps, clarifying that they were a reaction to “the phenomenon of diary-rock,” in which artists such as Jewel and Alanis Morissette rode a wave of unremarkable faux-alternative jams to the top of the charts.

If he would have been listening to more of PJ Harvey, I’m sure he would have had an easier time handling it.

What makes Polly Jean such a dynamic artist is her versatility, yielding a lack of predictability album-to-album, tour-to-tour. The PJ Harvey that played at the Roseland last week was different than the one that played ten years ago, or even the year before. She managed to balance her singular presence with a commitment to the song over the performer, commanding her audience with unwavering precision.

In performing her collaborations with John Parish she wisely avoided the obviousness of a frontwoman/band dynamic in favor of volunteering her voice as an additional instrument. The musicians proved capable enough to match her tenacity for the duration of an eclectic set filled with as much clamor as quietness. Harvey’s vocals were heartfelt and strangely cinematic, with movements and changes in posture subtle but somehow calculated. This made explosions of discordance and Harvey’s signature standoffishness that much more effective, particularly during the climactic performances of “Pig Will Not” and “Taut.”

The audience’s adulation of the duo was palpable and the band proved to be gracious hosts, thoroughly expressing their gratitude and playing a modest encore to thunderous applause.

Rightfully so. To call PJ Harvey a wonderful female artist would be completely unfair. She’s a terrific artist, period. Take that, diary rockers.

Blondie with Dahlia at the Roseland

The term “new wave” has become a bit laughable, and with good reason. How can something supposedly “new” refer to a movement whose genesis occurred over thirty years ago? It’s as erronious a misnomer as the term “modern” applied to typefaces like Bodoni, first designed in 1798 (thanks, Wikipedia!).

But semantics be damned! Watching Blondie rock 18 songs live on stage validates, nay, elevates the term. While other splintered groups of the era continue sans visionaries (The Cars minus Ric Ocasik and Benjamin Orr is like Star Wars without any jedi or lightsabers), the heart and soul of Blondie (Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, respectively) remain, and in stellar form.

Nine out of ten opening acts will be irrevocably, unapologetically terrible. Luckily, my pessimism was defied by the inherently likable (and twice as danceable) Peaches-esque trip-hop of Portland’s own Dahlia. Their upbeat set of fun, slightly raunchy tunes was a great precursor to the headlining act, winning the audience over and making the first 30 minutes fly by.

Blondie broke up in 1982 for several reasons, not least among them the attention focused specifically on their iconic vocalist. The moment the band took the stage, it was clear why. At age 63, it is remarkable how intensely Deborah still commands her audience. While the band performed very well, orchestrating a flawlessly tight set, it seemed they had accepted her level of charisma and adjusted their focus proportionally.

What I found most appealing about the set was how much personality the band exuded. Debbie danced in the least polished way, shimmying and stomping about like a punk rock chick who just heard “London Calling” for the first time. As they stormed through material largely from Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat (my personal favorites), they elevated and maintained a level of energy bands half their age would aspire to.

So who cares if “new wave” is an antiquated term? Blondie ruled that stage better than most contemporary artists; they’ve earned the distinction, and it’ll take more than an oxymoron to stop them.