these guys are an LA institution just waiting to break out into something bigger. they kicked off their funk-filled session with a "f*ck bush" chant which was only matched in its subtlety by the "impeach the president" song which followed. i get it, but we can do better. and they did. they threw some james brown out there, which killed it, and then some johnny cash (ring of fire) which sorta worked. they kept things hot for about 20 minutes and finished with "cramp your style" (fantastic tune!) and a series of instrumental solos. i've never heard a flute solo sound so cool. i gave their latest album to my pal danny 2 xmas ago and was wondering if it was polite to ask to rip it before he left it was so good :-)
cold war kids
they were easily the best and biggest surprise of the evening. i'll admit that i got their album from kcrw's cd club and then gave it to my cousin after ripping it and giving it a once over early this year. boy was i wrong. they brought a manic intensity to their performance that i can now hear after listening to the album several times over. they served up some seriously pissed-off bluesy rock and roll with dark but powerful lyrics. the highlight for me was "saint john" which is stripped down to nearly accapela and accented by sparse piano and simple guitar/drums. "hang me out to dry" was great too and about the only song they do that isn't depressing in some way. how can you not like a group that sings about laundry that's upset about too many spins in the dryer?
rodrigo y gabriela
if cold war kids were the biggest surprise, r&g were the best performance. nothing else came within a whisker. who would've thought that flamenco guitars and metal could combine to make something so lovely? the 2 mexicanos (tamaleros as jonathan calls them) sit down across from one another with solely their guitars in hand and play beautiful, forceful music that commands your attention. they got a standing ovation after nearly every song. gabriela is unbelieveable, she plays her guitar masterfully but interweaves percussion beats into her chords by thumping the guitar with her hand, knuckles, etc. I can't do it justice with words, if you get the chance, see them. their finale of "stairway to heaven" even managed to make the wonderful but long played-out track fresh again.
ok, it's getting late here in dublin (ohio) so i'm going to turbo thru the others:
travis - unoffensive and charming. i will not remember their performance in 2 weeks. they should have brought the rest of their band perhaps.
lily allen - her voice was stronger than i though it would be. and that's where the good stuff ends. she looked like she was going thru the motions at the end of a long tour. she was missing most of her band and they kept inserting these silly laptop-produced noises into the show which i think were supposed to be kitschy but ended up sounding dumb. not bad, but i had high hopes that were not met.
the shins - i had little hope for a good finale and they met my low expectation. better than travis, but i will not be able to place which body part closed out the show 2 weeks from now. forgive me if i accidentally call them "the toes" or "the kneecaps" or something.