“I’m no longer who I was, no longer who I thought I was. . . ” Joseph Arthur sang during a stellar performance of his song, “You Are Free” at The Troubadour. Well, I’ve been seeing Arthur perform live for the past 11 years and I don’t know who he thinks he is, but I think he is still one of the best songwriters around.
The first time I saw Joseph Arthur play he was opening for David Gray at The Palace (now The Avalon) in Hollywood. He performed solo and I watched in amazement as Arthur used numerous pedals to create and loop sounds, building momentum and evolving into extraordinary songs.
Joe and his pedals
It was the first time I had experienced an audience uproar for an opening act to do an encore performance (this was before Queens of The Stone Age opened for Nine Inch Nails). The crowd went insane when Arthur finished his short 30-minute set and were absolutely devastated when he didn’t return for an encore. After David Gray’s set, people were still talking about Joseph Arthur.
Flash forward to January 23, 2010: At this point Arthur can build a song by looping various beats and sounds, as he creates them, effortlessly. Once he lays down the tracks, he can paint while singing.
Joseph Arthur live painting
I’ve seen some live painting during concerts in my time, but usually the painter is another artist, not the performing musician. In Joseph Arthur’s case, he performs while simultaneously painting on several massive canvases. Arthur wasn’t just painting on stage because he could. After the show, Arthur sold his paintings, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
It wasn’t just Arthur, a bunch of pedals, and a paintbrush on stage. Ben Harper sat among Arthur’s very talented band, playing lap steel guitar. Harper accompanied Arthur on vocals during one of his more recognized songs, “In The Sun.” Harper also lent vocals to one of my favorite Joseph Arthur songs, “Ashes Everywhere.” In addition to Ben
Harper, Arthur was joined by band mates Jessy Green, Sibyl Buck, and Kraig Jarret.
Joe sings to the painting
As Arthur played, he’d often look back at the paintings as if he was singing a line specifically to them. “Your holiness is gone. . .” he sang back to a painting, possibly a self-portrait, during “September Baby.” Then Arthur would turn to the audience and sing, “Sometimes love will make you sad until you know where you belong.” And then back to the painting, “You’ll dream of what you never had. . . ”
Arthur played for nearly 3 hours, performing songs including “Honey and The Moon,” “Crying Like A Man,” “Slide Away,” and “Birthday Card.” Several years ago Arthur would play these similarly long sets at Largo, as if he wanted to make up for the lack of an encore during the David Gray show, or just wanted to ensure the audience was satiated. Nobody left early during those intimate shows and such was the case during Arthur’s set at The Troubadour. Although in this case, prior to his second encore, Arthur remarked, “That would be it (the end of the show), but I’ve got to finish these paintings.”
After the show, Arthur made his way to the front room where he signed autographs and took photos with every fan. He continued painting between photos and autographs, sometimes with frustration, other times with ease. Arthur also sold live bootlegs of that night’s show immediately following the set – something he began doing several years ago and that I was pleased to see him continuing to do.
After all these years, thankfully, Joseph Arthur is still who I thought he was.
In the spirit of the event, Web In Front has also listed several places you can donate money to provide further relief to Haiti. Radiohead’s benefit concert in Los Angeles on January 24th raised $572,754 for Oxfam’s Haiti Relief Fund.
January 24, 2010
Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles
Radiohead for Haiti
Yes, you read that correctly – Radiohead played the Henry Fonda Theater (capacity 1,300) last night. The band announced on their website Thursday afternoon that they’d be playing this intimate show to raise funds for Oxfam, to provide additional relief to the people of Haiti. Tickets were available by auction only, with the minimum bid being $475/each when the auction closed Saturday morning. $572,754 was raised as a result of this one night event.
As you will see by the set list and videos below – you had to be there. The guys played a dream set and performed one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen (and that includes the numerous other phenomenal Radiohead concerts I’ve attended).
They had a stripped down stage. No big light show. Just arguably one of the best bands in the world, playing their songs at full throttle, while raising a significant sum of money for a country in dire need.
While I have tremendous appreciation for the elaborate lighting and stage set up experienced at most Radiohead shows, being able to see and hear the band without the lights was spectacular. Typically at a Radiohead concert, you’re immersed in a sea of light and sound, which hits you in waves and layers. Last night, it was simply an aural symphony. Without the lights, I became even more tuned in to how the band builds each song, layer by layer, sound by sound. The people standing around me mentioned multiple times that they never realized how many of the sounds are created by Ed. If you had any doubts previously, this show enabled you to see the crucial role each individual member plays in creating the music. It’s one impressive thing that a band can compose and record this music; it’s another thing entirely that they can play it live, with perfection.
Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood
Radiohead literally ROCKED last night and they seemed to have fun doing it. At one point Thom commented, “You guys are getting all my jokes tonight. . . I’ve died. . .” Well, the way you played, so did we.
Here’s the set list. Some videos are posted below the set list, and judging by the number of cameras in the audience, many more can be found on YouTube.
Joseph Arthur is coming back to Los Angeles this week for two shows at The Troubadour (January 22 and 23). I’ve been seeing Joseph perform live for 11 years.
One of my favorite Joseph Arthur shows took place in the small room of the Knitting Factory in Hollywood several years ago. There were technical difficulties during the show which gave Joseph some time to hang with the audience while the tech issues were resolved. I was surprised and excited when Joseph pulled a notebook out of his backpack and began an impromptu show and tell of some sketches he had done. As with his songs, he had a captivating story behind every sketch. Arthur is not just a brilliant songwriter and performer, but also a talented visual artist.
I was pleased to learn that Arthur has been inspired to bring back his live stage painting during his shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Paintings will be sold immediately after the performance at the merchandise booth in a “make an offer” system, with a minimum bid of $500. Seven paintings were recently sold in Seattle and Portland, with Joseph creating more backstage to keep up with demand.
January 19 & 20 – San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Shop
January 22 & 23 – Los Angeles, CA Troubadour
Joseph’s paintings will be exhibited this year at Sundance, and Peter Gabriel hails Arthur’s work as exhibiting “strength and a visceral quality,” connecting ”Expressionism, Art Brut, Basquiat and the Graffiti movement.”