During the rare occasions when I consider the possibility of leaving Los Angeles, I remember experiences like Damien Rice playing at The Hotel Cafe Sunday night. It’s a “once in a lifetime” opportunity which thankfully has happened more than once in this lifetime.
L.A. – where you can wake up on a Sunday morning, ease into your day somewhat aimlessly, and find out that one of your favorite musicians – somebody who typically sells out much larger rooms – is playing a last-minute show, that same night, at one of your favorite and most intimate venues.
On Sunday morning, October 7th, it was announced that Damien Rice would be playing as part of Nic Harcourt‘s 88.5 KCSN Presents show at The Hotel Cafe later that night. It was the first in what is to become a monthly series hosted by Harcourt at The Hotel Cafe. It was also the first time Rice has played in Los Angeles since 2007.
The show sold-out in a matter of minutes. People who didn’t have tickets lined up 6-7 hours early in hopes additional tickets would be released at the door. People who did have tickets lined up 6-7 hours early with the goal of obtaining a prime position, close to the stage, for the standing room only event.
The evening’s openers, Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild, had an exceptionally rewarding and equally challenging job before them: opening for Damien Rice. Harcourt kicked off the evening, introducing the radio station (one of my favorites) and his new, curated, monthly concert series. He expressed his enthusiasm that Rice agreed to join the line-up, while sharing his concurrent enthusiasm about introducing the audience to two newer bands he’s passionate about. Harcourt did an amazing job of setting the tone for the evening and the audience was attentive, receptive, and engaged, during both opening performances.
The crowd’s attention to Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild is quite a testament to each band. What was once going to be an important, yet more low-key evening, was suddenly an even higher-profile show, playing to what could have been – and in many cases would have been – a difficult audience. Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild stepped up to the challenge in a way that inferred “we’re this good all the time, not just tonight.”
The spectacular evening was also a testament to the crowd. Rice’s fans appreciate music. They listen. They dance, laugh, clap, and cheer, when appropriate. They trust the venue and the evening’s curator to present shows that will be of the highest quality. Their expectations are high, as is their confidence that expectations will be met.
Rice began with “Delicate” and concluded with “Volcano”, complete with a crowd sing-along, in the round. Everything in between was as exceptional. Rice’s voice is impeccable, his songs honest.
Rice guided the audience through his set, describing the various stages of his failed relationships, the resulting introspection, and the songs that emerged in the end. He sang with eyes closed most of the time, but opened them each time he belted, “I remember it well. . . ”
His honesty and humor shared the stage with his music. Introducing “The Professor & La Fille Danse,” Rice asked the crowd to imagine if, when they were younger, someone gave them a million dollars every day, along with the advice, “do good with it.” Then, the next day they show up to give you another million dollars, and so on, for the rest of your life. ”Well, we are given a million sperm each day,” he said, adding that this is the root of failed relationships. Later, endearingly labeling himself an “asshole,” Rice debuted a new song, “Greatest Bastard”.
What happens when Rice sings – and consider this your warning – is he unsuspectingly draws you in with his exquisite voice. Then, you’re enveloped in the story and you begin to feel what he’s experiencing. The pain is mitigated by his voice, his sense of humor about it all, and the drink in your hand. As Rice sings, and the songs build, you realize you’re fucked. Welcome to Damien’s world.
His relationships may fail, but his shows are always a success.
For a person so beyond their years in sheer talent, chronological age can be rather insignificant. In Laura Marling‘s case, her age is relevant only in that she can now enjoy a glass of wine on stage. Long-time fans have experienced this coming-of-age with Marling, surely the most noticeable change between tours. The quality of her voice and the content of her songs maintain their excellency.
The crowd was captivated as Marling delivered a beautiful set at Hotel Cafe Sunday night. As she tuned her guitar between songs, the room remained silent. ”My father dreads coming to my shows. He just can’t believe I don’t do more to make everyone feel comfortable,” Marling said.
One of the unique things about a Laura Marling show is precisely that – these moments between songs, their silence further punctuating the songs themselves. Perhaps the reason her father noticed is because it’s rare - the uncomfortable silences as everyone hangs on whatever it is Marling may do next – tune her guitar, critique her wardrobe, or offer additional insight about a song. The crowd doesn’t stir, fidget with their cell phones, nor move to the bar for a drink. They are spellbound.
At one point, Marling mentioned that she was a bit nervous about the transparency of her dress. “My mom always said to wear matching underwear in case you get hit by a bus. . . but she didn’t say anything about standing in a room full of people in a see-through dress.”
Marling played for just over an hour. As she made her way toward the end of the set, Marling explained that she doesn’t do encores, joking it’s one way she avoids awkward, self-conscious moments. I can tell you about the silences and stillness between songs, but her performance and the songs themselves are something you should experience first-hand.
Peter Gabriel is currently touring in honor of the 25th anniversary and re-issue of his album, So, with the band from the original tour — bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, drummer Manu Kache and keyboardist David Sancious.
When Gabriel took the stage at The Hollywood Bowl Saturday night, he prefaced the show, to let the crowd know what they could expect. He explained that the set would be divided into three sections, like a good meal or story. The first section would be the quiet section, the foundational history. The second piece would be the “rock bit”. During the third segment – “the dessert” – Gabriel and band would perform the album So, straight through. In his attempt to set expectations, he had already exceeded them.
Then came the music. The entire show felt like an encore, brilliant song upon brilliant song. Gabriel kicked off the set with “Come Talk To Me”. His voice sounded spectacular, the band incredible. Next up, “Shock The Monkey”, which made me question whether we’d already moved on to the “rock” bit. But no, this was still the set-up, the first couple of chapters, reeling the audience in deeper and deeper. “Family Snapshot” concluded the first segment. It may have been the introduction, but the crowd was already on its feet.
“Digging In The Dirt” initiated the second segment – the rock bit. ”After all that digging, it’s time to enter a ‘Secret World’,” Gabriel said, announcing the next song, one of my personal favorites. With the “rock portion” of the show, came an equally energetic light show, appropriately accompanying Gabriel and band through “The Family and The Fishing Net”, “No Self Control”, “Solsbury Hill”, and “Washing of The Water”. By this stage, the crowd had already gotten their money’s worth and Gabriel hadn’t even begun the advertised portion of the concert, playing So, start to finish.
Gabriel continued to mesmerize the crowd during the “dessert” section of the set. ”Red Rain”, “Sledgehammer”, and “Don’t Give Up” hit with such force and momentum, I don’t recall breathing. Song by song, Gabriel delivered So spectacularly.
Gabriel’s stamina and energy is enough to embarras those far younger who even considered sitting down during the show. Even when he sang the entirety of “Mercy Street”, lying on his back, Gabriel’s performance was powerful beyond belief.
As the audience was being transported through time, John Cusack walked out on stage and presented Gabriel with a giant boombox, reminiscent of that famous scene in Say Anything. Raising the boombox above his head, Gabriel began “In Your Eyes”, the anthem song featured in Cameron Crowe’s anthem of a movie. The crowd sing-a-long was in full effect, but simultaneously and respectfully gave way to the divine sound of Gabriel’s voice. Gabriel made a point of thanking and acknowledging Cusack as well as Cameron Crowe, who was also in attendance. “Cameron Crowe made this song famous,” he said.
Upon completing “dessert”, Gabriel returned with dessert wine, closing the evening out with “Biko”.
Not many artists can successfully tour on an album that’s more than a quarter of a century old. Given his body of work, Gabriel could do it successfully, many times over. Each song tells a story so engaging, so universal, that you yearn to hear it repeatedly. Collectively, they make up an album that speaks volumes, So.
A limited edition So box set, special edition 3 CD set, and newly remastered CD will be released on October 23. For more info or to pre-order, please visit http://petergabriel.com/
Great Northern kicked off the evening with songs and a performance that sucked you in like a good novel. It almost felt like a trick; a welcome trick. The songs went places I didn’t expect them to go, not because they were new to me, but because they actually had an arc, momentum, story, and fervor to them that (I feel) is becoming a lost art in both mainstream and indie music.
Becky Stark took the stage next and cooed songs about love. Optimism and naivety were in a constant dance. On the surface, rose-colored glasses. Yet Stark allows you to peer through the window, and deep into the uncertainty that sparks a once silent prayer into a song.
Next up was one of my favorites, Daniel Lanois. Among the things I love and respect about Lanois:
He’s a kind, wonderful person
He’s a brilliant musician
He has produced some of my favorite albums
His instrumental songs express more than many songs that have lyrics
He is a reminder to make sure we let people know how much we appreciate them, every time we have the opportunity
Lanois sounded amazing. His shows are always a treat. They will spoil you, as you constantly feel you’re being rewarded, just for being there, just for being alive. If you don’t think you’ll remember to check his website for shows in your area, set up a Google alert. If you’ve seen Lanois before, see him again. And again. And again.
Father John Misty’s entertaining set concluded the night. This was my first time experiencing Josh Tillman’s solo endeavor, though I’ve surely heard the buzz. At this point, buzz makes me skeptical so I’ve been cautiously and intentionally avoiding Father John Misty. Last night’s performance was a buzz killer – in a good way.
Tillman’s voice, his expressiveness, the content of his songs and the improvisational way that he delivers them is refreshing. Tillman is an artist who’s adept at integrating the current environment into his show, giving me confidence that although I’ve only seen him once, every show is unique. The audience’s enthusiasm often sparked banter, mid-song, that Tillman artfully wove into his performance, so that it was additive rather than distracting.
Tillman’s quick wit is as admirable as it is entertaining. It requires full presence and awareness in each moment, while he is simultaneously lost in song. I look forward to seeing him again.
Thomas Lindsey kicked off the night with tremendous courage, backed by his exceptional talent. The crowd at The Troubadour was living Friday night like they earned it – cocktails flowing, conversations buzzing – the room was charged. . . and loud. With no introduction, Thomas Lindsey took the stage, looked around, and began to sing. No instruments. No band. It took Lindsey precisely 17 seconds to silence and command the attention of everyone in the room.
Given Stewart’s talent and true genius, his shows are something that need to be experienced first-hand. He takes music, rock & roll, community, collaboration, and style to new heights. If you pay attention to the subtleties, you’ll also discover his quick and poignant sense of humor. Something about Stewart – everything about Stewart – will make you feel more alive, infinite, and connected. He reminds you that rock & roll is meant to be fun, celebratory, and invigorating.
As is the case with Stewart, Stewart’s 12-year old daughter, Kaya, is a talent you need to see for yourself. She will blow you away, period. Kaya raises the bar. The music business should be afraid.
Stewart was joined on stage by a great group of exceptionally talented friends. Among my favorites – and I’ve seen her before – is Orianthi. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. If you haven’t seen her perform, prioritize it on your to-do list. She’ll simultaneously kick your ass and melt your heart, simply in the way she plays. Then, after a couple hours of giving everything she has to live music, she comes off stage and gives everything she has to fans, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and having in-depth, meaningful conversations. If you didn’t know better, you’d think everyone Orianthi met in the crowd for the first time was actually a long-time, dear friend. Again, she’ll kick your ass and melt your heart.
You had to be there. I was there and came home so amped up I couldn’t sleep. Time for coffee.
Here are some pictures:
Thomas Lindsey silenced the entire room, using nothing other than his voice