Friday, July 30, 2010

Squeeze Live At The Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 7/28/10

Summertime concert-going can be an exercise in “pick your nostalgia.” Do you want to see Heart or Pavement? The Scorpions or Cheap Trick? Last night, I chose the early ‘80s New Wave-y variety of nostalgia, going to see a double bill of the English Beat and Squeeze at Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre.

Opening the show was the English Beat, which is now original frontman Dave Wakeling and a younger supporting cast. While professing to having some “weak knees” about playing in front of his adopted hometown audience, Wakeling enthusiastically ran through a set featuring key Beat tunes: “I Confess,” “Save It For Later, “Can’t Get Use To Losing You,” and their version of “Tears of a Clown.” His supporting cast was game, with toaster Antonee particularly enlivening the festivities with some nimble wordplay. Wakeling’s voice came off a little thin and got swallowed up a bit by the Gibson’s acoustics; however, the appreciative audience didn’t seem to mind. The band wrapped up their nearly hour-long performance with an especially energetic performance of “Mirror In The Bathroom,” which stood out as a set highlight.

Squeeze got the crowd on its feet from the opening notes of their lead-off tune, “Take Me I’m Yours.” It was a rousing rendition that set the tone for the rest of the evening. Lead singer Glenn Tilbrook showed that his voice is still as strong as ever, and he also flashed some aggressive guitar playing, which signaled that this just wasn’t a night for rote renditions by a band reuniting for a cash-grab. Tilbrook’s guitar work is something that often gets overlooked in the praise for his songwriter skills with longtime musical partner Chris Difford.

The band didn’t overlook their popular numbers; they filled the night with many fan favorites, like “Goodbye Girl,” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Tempted,” “Slap & Tickle” and the Difford showpiece “Cool For Cats.” They also displayed a genuinely fun vibe to their performance. In “Black Coffee,” for instance, Tilbrook sparred instrumentally with keyboardist Stephen Large. In fact, one of the show’s surprises was the strength of the band beyond Tilbrook and Difford. Large was a not only talented on the keys (his karate chops keyboard moves on “Slap & Tickle” were quite impressive) but also revealed an endearingly humorous presence. Both he and drummer Simon Hanson play in Tilbrook’s “other” band, the Fluffers, so it’s easy to see how they slip in naturally as Squeeze men. Similarly, the bassist John Bentley is a familiar face having played in the band back in the ‘80s.

The thoroughly entertaining concert also served as a reminder of the massively impressive song library that Difford and Tilbrook built over the years. Not only have they composed hooky, literate tunes like “Tempted” or “Is That Love” but they really crafted some truly unique numbers. It’s hard to think of rock songs that are crafted as inventively as “Up The Junction” “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” or “Cool For Cats” that are also catchy and memorable.

Although Difford and Tilbrook have had some rough patches in their professional relationship over the years, they now seem to be enjoying playing together. Tilbrook, in fact, told the crowd that they “love each other again,” while Difford said that standing next to Tilbrook on stage was one reason that his job was one of the best in the world. The band is releasing soon a disc entitled Spot The Difference, on which they re-recorded their classic tunes. While this could seem like another way to repackage their greatest hits and regain some publishing rights, the skill and enthusiasm that the band brought to this concert suggests that the album should also be just as joyous a journey down memory lane as the show was.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: July 25-Aug. 1

This week I want to start at the end as the “Show of the Week” takes place on Saturday. The big Roots Roadhouse ( takes over the Echo and the Echoplex. The headliners are California honky tonk icon Red Simpson, legendary bluesman Model-T Ford, and the “King of California” Dave Alvin. If this trio isn’t enticing enough, the lineup also boasts terrific local acts as the Chapin Sisters, Leslie and the Badgers, Old Californio, I See Hawks In LA and Pete Anderson, as well as visiting dignitaries like Chatham County Line and Frontier Ruckus. It shapes up to be a fantastic day of American roots music.

There will also be another visiting dignitary performing on Saturday night who deserves "Show of the Week" considerations. The one and only Kinky Friedman ( will be making his first LA appearance in nearly 20 years with a show at McCabe's. The Kinkster certainly has been busy over the years, becoming a celebrated mystery author and running for Governor in Texas. But he first got notoriety as a singer/songwriter and, with the help of two members of his old Texas Jewboy band, he’ll playing tunes that made him infamous (like “Sold American” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.”).

For those in a different mood, freak folk goddess Joanna Newsom ( also plays in town July 31 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Now, going back to earlier in the week. The Troubadour presents a terrific bill on the 27th featuring J. Tillman ( and Phosphorescent ( Tillman, who playing in the Fleet Foxes, crafts lovely spare music on his own while Alabama-born, Brooklyn-based Matthew Houck (aka Phosphorescent) really impressed him with the songs that I’ve heard off on his critically acclaimed new disc Here’s To Taking It Easy.

Another expert crafter of quiet tunes, Peter Bradley Adams ( returns to LA for a show at the Hotel Café on 7/28. Adams, who now lives in the Nashville area, has a way with gently alluring, intimately heartfelt tunes. If you want to get Peter's music, you can go here Also playing that night will be the Guggenheim Grotto (, continuing their July Wednesday Hotel Café residency.

On the 28th, the Gibson Amphitheatre hosts two key members of the ‘80s UK New Wave scene: Squeeze ( and English Beat ( The English Beat’s debut is one of the liveliest, more dance-happy albums of its era (or maybe any era), while Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have a true gift for writing literate and hooky tunes. They have made a “new” disc Spot The Difference, where they re-do some of their greatest hits.

Paul Thorn ( is a wonderful Southern storyteller with a uniquely colorful past (he has been a prizefighter and a skydiver). Touring behind his powerful Pimps & Preachers album, Thorn appears at the Mint on July 28 and the Brixton in Redondo Beach on the 29th.

Here We Go Magic’s “Collector” ( is one of my favorite tunes of the year. Its infectious melody and pulsating rhythms recalls the ‘80s dance-pop without sounding like they just want to be the next hip thing from Brooklyn. They bring their eclectic beats to the Troubadour on 7/29.

The Pousette-Dart Band was an act from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that I associate with folk-pop-country acts like Pure Prairie League, Firefall and, particularly, Jonathan Edwards. The PDB tune that I remember best is the dandy, humor-filled number, “Amnesia,” which still holds up very well. I don’t know what Jon Pousette-Dart ( has been doing over the years, but he will be playing Genghis Cohen on July 30.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: July 19-25

Yes, yes, yes, The New Pornographers and The Dodos make for a fine bill at the Henry Fonda Theater, but if you looking for an alternative, and still coming down from the She & Him, The Bird & The Bee, Swell Season Hollywood Bowl show, then check out Kaiser Cartel (, who have a show at the Hotel Café on 7/19 and at the Echo on the 20th. This Brooklyn-based duo is another delightful boy-girl indie pop couple. They are presenting their new disc, Secret Transit, the follow-up to their impressive March Forth.

Also on the 20th, Ben Taylor ( and Katie Herzig ( share a bill at Largo. On his last disc, The Legend of Kung Fu Part 1, Taylor favored an agreeably funky folk sound that suggested that he’s emerging out of the shadow of his parents (James Taylor and Carly Simon). I really enjoyed Herzig’s last disc, Apple Tree, which featured a winning set of winsome folk-pop.

Come on out to the Mint Friday night and be treated to the record release show by local troubadour Tony Lucca ( His new disc, Rendezvous With the Angels, boasts a strong of collection of his signature soul-folk tunes. David & Devine and The Chris Parish Band round out the bill.

What can be said more about Lyle Lovett? So, let me just tell you where his show is: Walt Disney Hall on July 23.

I’ve been intrigued by Kelli Scarr’s upcoming debut Piece ( The sometime Moby collaborator has crafted a disc of generally gentle, subtly lush music that floats into your ears and lingers in your brain. She has a gig at the Hotel Café on July 24 with the fellow NYC rockers The Shivers. Playing earlier in the evening there is another talented, up-and-coming (and also from New York) singer-songwriter Amy Regan ( whose full-length debut isn’t scheduled for release until later this year.

The Miniature Tigers’ debut Tell It To The Volcano ( was one of my favorite rock albums on the last couple years. They have a new disc out on the 27th, Fortress, which expands upon the Weezer/Fountain of Wayne like qualities of that disc. They form a nifty bill with the eclectic rockers, the Spinto Band ( at Spaceland on July 24.

Get introduced to Nashville singer-songwriter Shane Lamb ( at Venice’s Talking Stick on July 24. The talented Tennessee troubadour will be performing tunes from his impressive debut, Disengage. Although he hails from Music City, his music is something like a rootsier Tommy Keane than Nashville country.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Go See Hear in L.A.: July 5 - 18

I’m going to a special double issue of Go See Hear as I don’t know if I would have a chance to get to it next Sunday. I’ll try to be a little more concise so I don’t make it too long.

Rockabilly Filly Rosie Flores returns to SoCal for a show at the Coffee Gallery Backstage on July 6. She was a fixture in the LA roots rock scene from the late ‘70s through the ‘80s.

I have really been enjoyed the new Steel Train disc, which is simply a terrific bolt of energetic rock. They play the El Rey on July 6.

If you are going to the big Sugarland-topping Go Country concert at the Greek on July 8, please get there early enough to see Will Hoge, who is a fine singer-songwriter.

Over at the Echoplex on the 8th with strong pairing of the Euro-poppy Au Revoir Simone and the haunting spare songtress Alexa Wilding (I enjoyed her new, self-titled EP)

Peter Case rocks it hard on his new Yep Rock disc Wig!; it’ll be interesting to see how he plays it at the cozy McCabe’s – a place I’ve seen him play some great shows.

Another fine singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier plays McCabe’s the next night.

On July 10, The Getty series Saturdays Off The 405 has the Dawes in performance.

Former Bad Liver Mark Rubin comes to the Grand Ole Echo on the 11th with his new duo Fat Man and Little Boy.

The Mynabirds land at the Hotel Cafe on July 12. Led by Laura Burhenn, the 'birds debut, What We Lose In The Fire, We Gain In The Flood rates as one of my top albums of 2010, with its gorgeous take on Southern soul rock.

The Kings of Leon will reign at the Hollywood Bowl on July 12 and the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater July 14.

Ben Lee has a free show at the Santa Monica Pier July 15 as part of the Twilight Dance Series.

Shelby Lynne returns to town for a night at McCabe’s on the 17th. She put on a dynamo of a show at the Roxy back in the Spring.

Jeremy Messersmith has a gig at the Mint on the 17th. I’m intrigued by what I’ve heard of his quiet, lo-key tunes.

The Danish artist Kira arrives in L.A. with a gig at the Silverlake Lounge. There are some really hard-hitting rock tunes on her album. I particularly like “Riders of the Freeway.” She’s someone to keep an eye on.

The Philly band, Drink Up Buttercup bring their quirky, arty, quasi-psych-y rock to Spaceland on the 18th. They recently released their debut Born & Thrown On A Hook on Yep Rec.

The Hollywood Bowl hosts couples night on the 18th. With a trio of duos that KCRW would be proud of (in fact, it’s part of KCRW’s World Festival). The lineup features The Swell Season, She & Him and The Bird and the Bee. All talented act but I wonder if it might be too much of a good, but lushly dreamy pop, thing.

Also quirky, but more poppy – the New Pornographers have a pair of shows at the Henry Fonda Theater 7/19-20,with the Dodos opening.

The 19th also find the poppy duo Kaiser Cartel at the Hotel Café and then opening for the Grand Archive at the Echo on the 20th. KC have their sophomore disc, Secret Transit, out.