Welcome back to another week's recap in my humble little corner of cyberspace. For those of you who offered kind words of support last week regarding my new job opportunity, I have to say much thanks. I was half expecting to read nothing but flaming comments shouting SELLOUT!' because I'll soon be making the transformation into full-on Corporate Zach; but no, you guys were encouraging and awesome and I feel great about my decision, ready to relocate, take on a new job, and start a new life chapter. Schweeeeet.
Having said that, I've been taking advantage of my last few weeks in Los Angeles and trying to soak up the city as much as I can before I peace out. I may or may not be doing weekend acts on weeknights (and I may or may not be suffering the consequences right now), but this week has been great for spending time with good friends and seeing a more-than-usual amount of live shows.
This week I was fortunate enough to catch two concerts back to back, all thanks to a special lady friend who keeps scoring Pino points by hooking up free concert tickets. This week: Wanna see The Shins Tuesday night? Sure! That sounds cool. Oh, and are you down to see Crosby, Stills & Nash Wednesday night? OMFG Yussssssssss!
That's right. Two big league acts in two nights, The Shins at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal Studios and CSN at the Nokia Theater, right next to the Staples Center.
So without further Fatty Doo Doo, here's my take on the two shows.
Although The Shins are a decent band, their show takes the rock and roll award for being the most vanilla live experience in existence. Imagine a sea of plaid button-up shirts and thick-framed glasses, standing attentively watching the similarly dressed band on stage. If rock and roll had a yearbook for the class of 2001, The Shins' senior superlative would undoubtedly be Whitest.
I wouldn't call myself a Shins fan per se, but this white-boy, early 2000s hipster image was firmly in my head as the lady friend and I parked in Universal's Jurassic Parking garage and killed lukewarm Tecates. My experience with The Shins mostly stemmed from watching Natalie Portman being impossibly girl-next-door hot in Garden State and convincing a mopey Zac Braff that The Shins would change his life.
The Shins were indie rock elite back in the day, and in addition to "Oh, Inverted World", they've released some respectable albums over the years. I was intrigued to see what they delivered live.
It wasn't too long after we arrived that I concluded, ...this is kind of boring. Not to say the band was bad far from it but perhaps the sheer size of the 6,000+ seat venue did little to complement their sound and aesthetic. The acoustic based tracks, like New Slang, trotted along under tempo, while the more upbeat rock songs didn't hit as hard as you'd like. If the show was at a mid-size club, an added level of intimacy may have helped the music resonate more. Overall, the show was good, not great... I figured maybe I just wasn't into seeing live acts at venues of this size.
The following day would be different with Crosby, Stills & Nash, with special guest Tom Morello.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Wednesday night the hump day and ideal time to see folk rock veterans take the stage. Unsurprisingly, the show was political in nature. As one would expect with the longtime activist band and guest Tom Morello, the show was held to raise money and awareness to oppose Proposition 32 in California, a campaign-finance measure that apparently benefits big business (tobacco, oil, banking those b-stards) and allows them to support their own agendas. At least that's how the lefties Morello and CSN view it. I didn't really care. I was just there for the music.
Similar to the Gibson Amphitheatre, The Nokia Theater seated 7,000, and the show was pretty much sold out. Immediately, my assumption that maybe rock music didn't translate well in large venues like this vanished, as CSN was clearly in a different league than The Shins.
Holy moly Moses. The band killed. Tight vocal harmonies (of course), a lively backing band that respectfully played behind David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash, a varied setlist of adventurous jamming, and a refined musicianship that has obviously matured with age. Each song surprised me too; I had no idea Stills could wail as a lead guitarist; they ran through extended jams that breathed new life into old hits, like Helplessly Hoping, Our House, Guinnivere, Teach Your Children, and my personal favorite, a rocking amped up version of Wooden Ships. They also busted out some Buffalo Springfield tunes, encoring with an energetic performance of For What It's Worth.
Every aspect to the concert elicited joy from the crowd. People of various ages, races and classes all cheered, danced, and sang along. There was energy in the room. The massive, crisp sound gave the band a huge sonic presence, and the band of sixtysomethings played with wide grins, clearly enjoying themselves and having a blast playing the songs they wrote some 40 odd years ago.
Elated, we left the show rejuvenated after seeing a powerful and unexpectedly vibrant rock show. My faith in arena rock was restored. Unfortunately, a Justin Bieber concert was being held at the adjacent Staples Center, and seeing the Bieber merch on preteens brought me back down to earth and reminded me that contemporary mediocrity will typically outsell legendary quality music. Sigh.
So after watching both performances, I couldn't help but compare the two bands. Sure, it's not exactly fair to directly compare The Shins to CSN, but when you think about it, the two bands are quite similar in terms of what's going on musically on stage both bands root their songs with open chord strumming on a mix of acoustic and electric guitars. You have multiple vocals, various keyboard effects, and of course drums, bass and a mix of stripped down ballads and up-tempo rock tunes.
I can't say that one band is better than the other, but in terms of a live show, what CSN delivered that The Shins didn't was a spontaneous and fun energy to the live show. While The Shins went through the motions, playing the songs well but not really engaging the crowd, CSN were having fun jamming away, suggesting to the audience that what they were hearing on that particular Wednesday night in Los Angeles was unique and spontaneous. CSN were the seasoned pros. The Shins were capable and talented, but not quite veterans of rock. Maybe they will be someday. But something tells me that the Shins couldn't pull off a performance quite like this:
Let me know if you have any similar experiences seeing big time live acts; have you ever been underwhelmed by a major band when you saw them live? Have you seen any veteran rock bands that absolutely blew you away? In general, who is better across the board young bands on the rise or the old fogies who've toured for decades?
Until next week, respect your elders and teach your children well!
On The Next It's The End Of The Week As We Know It:
Although Justin Bieber blamed milks as the culprit behind his on-stage chunk blowing during a recent performance, insiders in the Bieber circle hint that the pop star's autotuned monitors stopped functioning and physically induced sickness due to the sound of his unedited voice.
Metallica elaborates on how "soon" they'll begin recording sessions for their new record, stating that they're all in once Lou Reed is available.
Dave Grohl clarifies the main reason behind the Foo Fighter's hiatus an upcoming bluegrass duet project with Courtney Love.
By Zach Pino Twitter: @zachpino