Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Wall of Sound

October 07, 2008

Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine
Photo: Lori Shepler/LAT 2008
As summer finally winds down in L.A., there’s that annual odd mix with the L.A. Philharmonic and L.A. Opera seasons starting up at the same time as the last rock shows of the summertime open-air-venue circuit roll into town. Three notable tours have been in town these last weeks with mixed results and may serve as lessons about the hazards of too much of a good thing. September closed out with two performances from the Jack White/Brendan Benson driven Raconteurs at the Greek Theater on the tail end of their tour in support of the most recent recording Consolers of the Lonely. Filled with come-as-you-are rock chords and a dash of twang, the show was much less arch than I might have suspected. Not unpleasant but the performance betrayed the group’s apparent fascination with 70s Southern Rock bands. Tight as they may be, I couldn’t get over the Allman Brothers overtones in the energetic, but still workman-like, performance. Or maybe it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Last week, the highly anticipated My Bloody Valentine reunion tour wrapped up at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium of all places. The large concrete slab of a venue in some ways provided a rather bleak industrial atmosphere that was appropriate for this throwback to the early 90s. I have very, very fond feelings for MBV and especially Loveless, which I continue to think was one of the greatest rock recordings of the last quarter century. But, sadly, the enthusiasm of the evening slowly dragged it down. Much has already been written about how loud these shows were, and it was true. Wisely, ear plugs were handed out at the door, but sadly they did little to improve the sound. The treble was gone amidst the thumping wail of everything else eroding 50% of what made the songs so beautiful to begin with. Too much excitement did prove to be a bad thing.

So, who would've guessed that the most satisfying rock show of the whole summer may well have been the last. Sigur Rós arrived at the Greek Theater on Thursday. And, while I sadly missed the L.A. Philharmonic opening gala for this one-night-only event, it was worth it in many ways. Concentrating mostly on older material, the Icelandic quartet did what they did best with a lack of pretension and a sufficient amount of quasi-European bonhomie. The light show was kept to a minimum but the band continues to inspire simply because of their love of what they do and the real care in developing these highly structured and often varying songs. So, the moral of the story may be to stay cool and stick with what you know.

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