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Friday, December 31, 2010

Paul McCartney: Kennedy Center Honors










After watching the Kennedy Center Honors this week, I must say Paul McCartney's tribute segment was mostly a snooze. Not that it was going to be rock-fest, in a presentation with President Obama and the First Lady in attendance, but still...

I enjoy Alec Baldwin's acting, but thought he was all wrong for the opening speech. 

No Doubt seemed out of their depth while doing "Hello Goodbye" and "Penny Lane." Dave Grohl and Norah Jones did a nice take on "Maybe I'm Amazed," which Grohl added some soulful vocals. Steven Tyler was very lackluster during "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" (even Rob Thomas has done a more spirited version), "Golden Slumbers," "The End," etc. I wondered, "where was Aerosmith?" And why not do "Come Together?" Aerosmith did it on their first Greatest Hits. James Taylor was his usual sedate self for "Let it Be" and "Hey Jude," joined by Mavis Staples and the other musicians.

I also just saw the repeat of Macca's appearance on Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show from Dec. 7 and that was excellent. In NYC to play a gig and talk about the fab new reissue of Wings' Band on the Run, he only did that show and SNL.

The pair duetted on a humorous "Scrambled Eggs" (the original title for "Yesterday") with updated lyrics and Fallon even got Macca to do a moving, acoustic rendition of "Here Today," in honor of John Lennon's passing.    

2010 in review: best albums-the top 10

These are my picks for the top 10 albums of the year...

1. Josh Ritter, So Runs the World Away –The Americana singer/songwriter’s knack for penning literary-minded lyrics, rife with by atypical characters and scenarios, continued. Elegant vocals and a rich sonic tapestry woven by uncommon instrumentation added up to one stunning album. 
 



2. Hoodoo Gurus, Purity of Essence – Rejuvenated and eclectic as ever, this veteran Aussie band used the Stones, Stooges, MC5 and New York Dolls as touchstones for its rousing garage rock and power pop excursions.

3. Against Me!, White Crosses – Ironing out some rough edges didn’t dilute the politically-minded punkers’ intense sonic attack, especially during “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” “Suffocation” and the title track.

 4. Steel Train – Frequently frantic like Arcade Fire and quirky as Modest Mouse, the young Jersey guys played like their life depended on it, particularly on exhilarating anthem “Bullet”  and punkish “Speedway Motor Racers Club.”

 



 5. Trashcan Sinatras, In the Music – These Scotsmen tend to take several years to make albums, but they are always worth the wait. Case in point: this enthralling, ultra-melodic batch of alt-pop tunes, encompassing everything from poetry to Burt Bacharach-styled grandeur.

 


 6. Devo, Something for Everybody –A welcome return for the innovative group, whose long-awaited comeback album sounded completely modern, yet revisited stylistic elements that put them at the forefront of the late ‘70s post-punk movement. “Sumthin’” and “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” proved they could still whip it real good. 

7. Ed Harcourt, Lustre – The British singer/pianist’s studious chamber pop is rife with vivid lyrical imagery and bolstered by more of a female harmony presence than usual, making for an inspired, captivating collection.

8. Matt White, It’s the Good Crazy – From the whimsical opener “And the Beat Goes On” and sly humor in “Therapy” to a simply gorgeous falsetto on “When I Fall” and ebullient closer “Sunshine,” this soulful piano popster’s winsome NYC tales definitely stuck in your mind.
  
9. Far, At Night We LiveJonah Matranga’s singing teetered on the edge of desperation, while his band mates provided a sound both monstrous and mellow. The result was the year’s most compelling alt-rock reunion effort.

10. Findlay Brown, Love Will Find You – Filled with swelling orchestrations, quavering vocals and reverb-drenched music that recalled Orbison, Presley and Spector, this British male’s latest dose of sublime pop treasures transported the listener back to the early Sixties.



2010 in review: best albums-the bottom 10

 













My top 20 album picks of 2010:

11. Jason & the Scorchers/Halcyon Times - This just narrowly missed my top 10. It was great to have the alt-country band back in action on this solid reunion effort - even if it was just down to original members Jason Ringenberg and Warner Hodges.


Rest of the best:

12. John Mellencamp/No Better Than This
13. Kings of Leon/Come Around Sundown
14. Arcade Fire/The Suburbs
15. Gin Blossoms/No Chocolate Cake
16. Robert Plant/Band of Joy
17. Gaslight Anthem/American Slang
18. Hellogoodbye/Would it Kill You?
19. Griffin House/The Learner
20. Young Veins/Take a Vacation

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in review: best singles
















The following are my picks for top 10 singles of the year...

1. Saturday Sun/Crowded House
2. Teenage Dream/Glee Cast feat. Darren Criss
3. Animal/Neon Trees
4. Bloodbuzz, Ohio/The National
5. Holiday/Vampire Weekend
6. Ready to Start/Arcade Fire
7. Written in Reverse/Spoon
8. Something Beautiful/needtobreathe
9. Radioactive/Kings of Leon
10. Superman Tonight/Bon Jovi

Crowded House photo, above, courtesy of Big Hassle Publicity

2010 in review: top concerts















This year, I managed to attend 66 concerts (nowhere near my record of 86 in 2001), held in everything from small clubs to large outdoor festivals. Although there were highlights among the quick glimpses of acts at various fests, I limited my choices to full performances. 

Here are ten of the most memorable...

1. needtobreathe, The Glass House, Pomona, Calif. (April)
2. Florence & the Machine, Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival-Day 3, Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, Calif. (April)
3. Peter Wolf, the Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (October)
4. Muse, Coachella-Day 2, Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, Calif. (April)
5. Green Day, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine, Calif. (August)
6. Gary Numan-"The Pleasure Principle Live," El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, Calif. (November)
7. Paul Weller, the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, Calif. (November)
8. Crowded House, Club Nokia, Los Angeles, Calif. (August)
9. Nada Surf, Troubadour, West Hollywood, Calif. (May)
10. Something Corporate, Grove of Anaheim (August)

Bear Rinehart photo, above, courtesy of needtobreathe.net and Atlantic Records

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Minute Music Gift Guide Part 2

Here are more of my music buying suggestions...

REISSUES (CONTINUED)
Arcadia
So Red the Rose

Duran Duran
Notorious; Big Thing
(Capitol/EMI)
The latest batch in EMI’s fine Duran Duran reissue program focuses on the mid-to-late Eighties period when the Fab Five began splintering. Their days of topping the charts had slowed somewhat, but there was plenty of compelling material on these three remastered 2 CD/DVD Special Edition albums.

When John and Andy Taylor formed Power Station in 1985, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor went forth with Arcadia, an atmospheric and keyboard heavy side project with guest appearances by Sting, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones and others. “Election Day” went top 10; “Goodbye is Forever” dented the top 40 and the album itself went platinum. Disc 1 contains 7” mixes and a soundtrack song; Disc 2 has more remixes, while the DVD marks the debut of “The Making of Arcadia” videos and behind the scenes footage.

1986’s Notorious saw 3/5 of Duran reconvene. The Brits brought funk and Latin brass elements under the guidance of producer Nile Rodgers (Chic), who played guitar to supplement contributions from future full-time axe man Warren Cuccurullo and a basically M.I.A. Andy Taylor. The title track was the major hit; “Skin Trade” reached the lower top 40. The handsome mini-box set includes the original album, art card prints, a disc of remixes, B-sides and the rare “Duran Goes Dutch” live 1987 EP recorded in the Netherlands. A previously unreleased “Working for the Skin Trade” live DVD was shot in Rio on the Notorious tour; music videos round things out.  

Adopting a more dance-oriented, house music approach, 1988’s Big Thing found the group experimenting more and backing further from its pop origins. Both top 40 singles (“All She Wants Is,” “I Don’t Want Your Love”) were keepers and Le Bon’s dramatic vocals on “Do You Believe in Shame” and “Edge of America” proved memorable. This reissue restores the original “Drug” to the album running order. Disc 2 contains B-sides and remixes, while the DVD is an Italian concert from ’88. A must for all diehard Durannies.


Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 
Damn the Torpedoes
(UMe)
This 1979 disc was the band’s commercial breakthrough and one of the standouts in a catalog that spans more than 30 years. Half the songs became album rock radio classics (“Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That”) and continued Petty’s introduction into the mainstream that started with “American Girl.” The deluxe edition is remastered and has nine bonus cuts (seven of which were previously unreleased). They encompass rare studio takes “Nowhere” and “Surrender,” B-sides a demo and a live trio from 1980 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Liner notes were written by Rolling Stone magazine’s David Fricke. 

RETROSPECTIVES

Oasis
Time Flies…1994-2009
(Big Brother/Columbia)
This is the first career-spanning collection from the Beatles and Stone Roses-worshipping Britpop titans who achieved platinum success with their first three albums (Definitely Maybe, What’s the Story Morning Glory, Be Here Now) here. On Time Flies, all 26 UK single A-sides - 10 U.S. Top 20 modern rock radio singles among them (“Wonderwall,” “Live Forever,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Don’t Go Away,” “Stand By Me,” “D’You Know What I Mean,” etc) - are all represented. The deluxe limited edition contains 38 music videos (some live or UK versions) and the Gallagher brothers' commentary on DVD, plus a London 2009 concert.


Soundgarden
Telephantasm
(A&M/UMe)
Seattle’s Soundgarden released its first EP on a nascent Sub Pop Records in 1987 and became the first grunge band to sign with a major label. Its BH Surfers-meets Zeppelin and psychedelic sound, plus leader Chris Cornell’s wailing vocals, took awhile to reach the masses. Shortly after it finally did, the group disintegrated in 1997.The deluxe two-disc, 24-song set has all the major hits (“Spoonman,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Pretty Noose,” Burden in My Hand,” “Blow Up the Outside World,” “My Wave”) and fan favorites (“Jesus Christ Pose,” “Rusty Cage”). There are two live tracks, a previously unreleased song (“Black Rain”) and 20 rare and official music videos on the DVD. Also available as a single disc.

Billy Joel
The Hits
(Columbia/Legacy)
The primer for a comprehensive catalog reissue campaign in 2011, The Hits racks up 19 noteworthy tracks for the first time on a single disc (previously, Joel had put out “Greatest Hits” Vols. 1-3). Nearly everything a casual fan could want is here, spanning “Everybody Loves You Now,” off 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor, to the title track from 1993’s River of Dreams. In between are such chart toppers as “It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me,” “Tell Her About It” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”


SOUNDTRACKS

Viva Elvis – The Album
(RCA/Legacy)
The companion piece to the Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil production, currently running at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, is similar to what was done for The Beatles’ Love by Cirque du Soleil. Thousands of samples of The King’s voice and interview clips were spliced into different keys and tempos on several signature songs. The new hip-hop, punk and ragga elements can be jarring at first, but the sound is very modern. Both “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Suspicious Minds” are reminiscent of U2, “That’s Alright Mama” has an Iggy Pop “Lust for Life” vibe and “Heartbreak Hotel” became punchy and in-your-face. Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) mixed three of the dozen tracks.
CONCERT ALBUMS

Dave Matthews Band
Live in New York City
(Bama Rages/RCA)
The Dave Matthews Band can usually be counted on to tour America each summer and afterward, a live album frequently follows suit. Live in New York City is culled from a run at Citi Field last July. Part of the lengthy tour in support of 2009’s Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, this double disc set is heavy on deep album cuts. It includes selections from King, Stand Up, Matthews' solo effort Some Devil and traditional show closing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

Bryan Adams
Bare Bones
(Decca)
Adams had done an “MTV Unplugged” back in the ‘90s, but was accompanied by an orchestra and band then. Bare Bones, culled from several nights during an East Coast tour of America and Scandinavia, is truly acoustic. Adams just plays guitar and keyboardist Gary Breit joins on a few songs. “Straight From the Heart,” “All for Love” “Heaven,” “It’s Only Love,” “Summer of ’69,” “Cuts Like a Knife” and “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” are all heard in a fresh, relaxed context as Adams talks to the crowds and jokes around.

Cheap Trick
REO Speedwagon
Setlist: The Very Best Of
(Epic/Legacy)
Comprised of live nuggets from the vaults, the Setlist series is a single CD of remastered tracks embedded with .pdf files containing liner notes, discography, photos and more in an eco-friendly slim package. Cheap Trick’s edition was taken from LA’s The Whiskey (1977), the famed Tokyo Budokan shows (1978), LA’s The Forum (1979) and Daytona Beach (1988).

The REO Speedwagon edition comes from an early tour (1976), E. Troy, Wisconsin (1980) and Denver (1981) – during the massively successful Hi Infidelity tours, Indianapolis (1984), Kansas City (1985) and Grand Rapids, Mich. (1990). Diehard fans will definitely want to pick it up since seven songs are previously unreleased.


MUSIC DVDs

Ladies and Gentlemen: the Rolling Stones
(Eagle Vision) Running time: 110 min.
Hot on the heels of the amazing reissue of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street comes this long-unavailable concert culled from that album’s U.S. tour. Filmed over the course of four Texas gigs in 1972, it was briefly shows in theaters and has been newly restored and remastered. The band is in peak form here.

Among the many standouts are “Tumbling Dice,” “Love in Vain” and “Dead Flowers” (where guitarist Mick Taylor does some amazing solos), “All Down the Line,” a more ruminative than usual “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and an epic, hypnotic take on “Midnight Rambler” (Mick Jagger turns in a bluesy harmonica solo).

Bonus features consist of a three song tour rehearsal (“Shake Your Hips,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Shake Your Hips”), a ’72 TV interview with Jagger from the BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” and a 2010 chat with the singer. In the latter, he talks about how the band bought the rights to the concert film and cleaned it up as well as that tour’s low-key staging and dim lighting effects of the time, where the camera was stationary. The DVD booklet has a short essay by UK music journalist Paul Sexton and a mini foldout poster.

Jackson Browne
Going Home
(Eagle Vision) Running time: 90 min.
Originally shown on The Disney Channel in 1994, this music special combines in-studio performances from then-recent album I’m Alive with archival footage and interviews from throughout Browne’s career. Longtime friends and collaborators Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, David Crosby, Graham Nash and David Lindley all reflect on Browne’s music, while all but Henley are shown performing with him at various points. The Eagle recalls how Glenn Frey helped finish writing “Take It Easy” and says “Jackson had an influence on me; he was the first one of us to get signed to a record deal.” The director does a cool job stitching together different performances of the same song, giving the viewer a sense of how Browne’s arrangements have evolved. Other high points include clips of Browne at the MUSE benefit shows, joking around with Crosby & Nash in an acoustic number and trips to Europe. Many classics (“Doctor My Eyes,” “These Days,” “Take It Easy,” “The Pretender,” “For Everyman,” “Before the Deluge,” “Running on Empty”) are spotlighted too. 

COUNTRY CDs

Keith Urban 
Get Closer
(Liberty)
For his seventh solo album, the Nashville-via-New Zealand Urban co-wrote a bulk of the material. The singer/guitarist splits the difference between mid-tempo numbers (“Put You in a Song”) and earthy ballads inspired by wife Nicole Kidman and their baby daughter as well as a slew of country-rockers (“Shut Out the Lights,” “Long Hot Summer”).

The standard version is eight tracks, but diehard fans would be better served getting the exclusive deluxe version at Target stores. It includes four live tracks four live songs recorded during his “Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour” and a fine cover of Santana’s 1980s hit “Winning.”

Kenny Chesney 
Hemingway’s Whiskey
(BNA)
Not quite as relaxed as “Just Who I Am” or “Lucky Old Sun,” the new Chesney album is still a mature effort with both laid back and uptempo songs. He teams up with George Jones, who originally recorded “Small Y’all” and takes on a Guy Clark penned number in the slowly unfolding sports influenced title tune (which clocks in at 6:32 and is the theme to the Chesney-produced documentary on high school football). Elsewhere, “Somewhere With You,” delves into the after effect of a break-up, there’s the driving Tom Petty-esque “Round & Round” and ballad “Where I Grew Up.” On the yearning, acoustic-tinged “You and Tequila,” he even pairs with roots rocker Grace Potter.






Friday, December 17, 2010

Last Minute Music Gift Guide Part 1

If you’ve procrastinated and just started your Christmas shopping, can’t decide what to get a big music lover on your list or just want to take advantage of some of the heavy discounting this time of year, here’s part 1 of my guide to several worthy 2010 album releases.

BOX SETS
Various Artists
The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts
(Time Life)
The companion to a DVD set, this all-star concert was recorded over two nights in October 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Originally broadcast on HBO, it features 54 performances from artists who came to prominence in the 1950s through the ‘90s, including Crosby Still & Nash with Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and James Taylor; Paul Simon with Dion DiMucci (of the Belmonts); Little Anthony and the Imperials; Simon & Garfunkel; Stevie Wonder with Smokey Robinson, John Legend, B.B. King and Sting; Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, John Fogerty, Darlene Love, Billy Joel and Sam Moore; Jerry Lee Lewis; Jeff Beck with Buddy Guy and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top; Metallica with Lou Reed, Ozzy Osbourne and Ray Davies; U2 with Patti Smith, Black Eyed Peas and Mick Jagger.

Standouts include Crosby & Nash’s tender “Here Comes the Sun,” Simon & Garfunkel’s entire set (especially “The Sounds of Silence”) where you can hear the excitement among the crowd, Springsteen and Fogerty harmonizing on “Oh, Pretty Woman,” The Boss and Joel trading verses on each other’s tunes and Sting’s soulful “People Get Ready.” Although U2 was a bit road weary, having just completed a tour leg on its 360 Tour and the largest audience to that point at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, it still put on an energized set. The high points were Springsteen guesting on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, both alongside Smith on “Because the Night” and Jagger making a surprise appearance for “Gimme Shelter” and duetting with Bono on “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” Selected photos from the events and a mini-fold out poster replica signed by all the artists comprise the liner notes. There really is something for everyone here.

Bee Gees
Mythology
(Reprise/Rhino)
While there have been multiple career-spanning Bee Gees collections over the past several years, this 4-CD, remastered 81-track box set is quite different. Each disc spotlights a single brother - including Andy - and includes favorite tracks personally chosen by Barry, Robin, Yvonne (the widow of Maurice) and Peta (Andy’s daughter) Gibb. The result is a good assortment of hits, particularly on Barry’s disc, but also plenty of deep album cuts, plus some B-sides and rarities (two previously unreleased Maurice songs and one from Andy, recorded shortly before his 1988 death). Robin’s disc is sequenced in chronological order; the others are random.

The accompanying booklet includes seldom seen family photos as well as testimonials by Elton John, Graham Nash, Tom Jones, Olivia Newton-John, Brian Wilson, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Celine Dion. Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Diana Krall, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and more. Definitely for the diehard Bee Gees fan.

REISSUES

Nine Inch Nails
Pretty Hate Machine
(UMe)
Although Trent Reznor put Nine Inch Nails on indefinite hiatus last year, he’s had a high profile lately as composer of the soundtrack to popular Golden Globe-nominated film/score “The Social Network.” NIN’s 1989 debut was a seminal album in ‘80s industrial and alt-rock music. Built around hard charging guitars, drum machines, synths and bleak lyrics, it includes three tunes that went onto become staples at modern rock radio stations (“Head Like a Hole,” “Down In It,” “Terrible Lie”). Former viewers of MTV’s “120 Minutes” might recall the equally intense videos in regular rotation. Newly remastered with a bonus track cover of Queen’s “Get Down, Make Love” and housed in a tri-fold cardboard with transparent slipcase, the Machine songs still jump out and grab you more than two decades later.

Stereophonics
Word Gets Around; Performance and Cocktails
(V2)
Emerging amid the mid-‘90s BritPop movement, Welsh trio Stereophonics actually had more in common with the Faces and Kinks than Blur, Pulp, Suede, et al. Raspy-throated singer/guitarist Kelly Jones’ knack for picturesque lyrics was evident from the start, as Around clearly shows. The band upped their game several notches on Cocktails, the excellent follow up. Having racked up five UK platinum albums in a row and twenty top 20 singles there to date, it has outlasted most contemporaries and still sells out arenas back home. These deluxe versions feature Jones’ handwritten lyrics from old journals, archival photos and  a second disc containing B-sides, live tracks, demos and BBC Radio 1 sessions. Of special note are the Dylan, Stones, Nirvana and Neil Young covers on Cocktails’ Disc 2. 


New Christmas Albums


For those looking to bolster their Christmas music collections for parties, family gatherings or personal listening over the next week, I’ve provided the lowdown on a few noteworthy holiday albums.

Annie Lennox
A Christmas Cornucopia
(Decca)
The former Eurythmics singer always displays a sense of refinement on her solo albums and A Christmas Cornucopia is no exception. A truly eclectic collection, the songs range from obscure (“As Joseph Was Walking,” “See Amid the Winter’s Snow,” “Lullay Lullay”) to international ones derived from French (“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant”) and Latin (“Angels From the Realms of Glory”) traditions. Then there’s the more familiar (a Middle Eastern tinged “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” the flowery “First Noel”) and Lennox’s own compelling ballad “Universal Child” (all proceeds from the single go to her foundation supporting HIV/AIDS-striken women and children in Africa). Half the songs also feature the African Children’s Choir.

Sheryl Crow
Home for Christmas
(A&M)
Crow’s seasonal tribute to Southern soul initially came out two years ago and was only available in Hallmark stores. Now a Target exclusive, it has the added bonus cut “Long Road Home,” from her latest studio effort 100 Miles From Memphis. A horn-laden “Go Tell it on the Mountain” boasts a Dixie spiritual vibe, “White Christmas” is snappy with a laid back groove, Crow’s wailing vocals on “Bells of St. Mary’s” are enriched by a string section and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear/O Holy Night” is rife with New Orleans styled horns. Booker T (of the MGs) also contributes organ work. 

REO Speedwagon
Not So Silent Night
(Sony Legacy)
In a more rockin’ vein is REO’s thoroughly enjoyable Christmas effort. First released last year, it has been reissued with three bonus tracks (a fun “Sleigh Ride,” acoustic based original ballad “I Believe in Santa Claus,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”; downloaded versions add “We Three Kings”). Sometimes reminiscent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra (though far more interesting and minus the over-the-top aspects), a rock gospel flavored “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” doo wop-oriented “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “White Snows of Winter,” a countryish “Blue Christmas” (with bassist Bruce Hall on lead vocals) and “Deck the Halls,” where frontman Kevin Cronin’s kids get into the mix, are among the songs assembled here.  


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2011 inductees announced

Today it was announced that the 2011 inductees will include Neil Diamond, Tom Waits, Alice Cooper Band, Dr. John and Darlene Love.

I am pleased to see Diamond finally get in since he was eligible in 1993 (the rule is 25 years after the debut album), but only recently nominated. The singer has been putting out some of the best work of his career with his last three efforts.

Many people will be overjoyed to see Waits honored, but I am not one of them. Never liked his voice. He is one of those I respect as a songwriter though.

Cooper is long deserving. He told Billboard magainze thet fact that KISS got nominated before he did was apalling. 

The less said about Dr. John and Love getting in now, the better (Little Steven Van Zandt must be celebrating; you can bet he and The Boss will probably be onstage with her, come March in NYC).

I would have preferred to see one of these acts on the final ballot get the honor in '11: Bon Jovi, Donna Summer, J. Geils Band.

Over the last few years, the hall has inducted a small amount of acts, which is ridiculous considering how many still haven't got in. In the early years of the hall, it was around a dozen. I wonder how long it will take for influential bands associated with new wave to get nominated (Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure immediately come to mind).     

Bonus Q&A with Fitz & the Tantrums


Photo courtesy Dangerbird Records

Here is more from my interview with singer/keyboardist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (center) of Fitz & the Tantrums.

Tell me about the band’s recent sold out show at the El Rey Theatre in LA.
That was amazing. It was our homecoming after doing a whole western United States tour. We sold out in Seattle [too]. It was just a great time. Then we came home and sold out the El Rey, which was over capacity. We had booked that space awhile back. We thought, ‘is anybody even going to come?’ People were so into it.

Do you tend to see a lot of younger people at your shows that might be just getting into this style of music?
Yeah, it was pretty amazing at the El Rey to see in the front row – teenage Latino kids, the early ‘30s KCRW/NPR-type hipsters, a bunch of young women, an old Vato dude and a couple in their early 50s that probably grew up on that music. It’s been a really amazing experience to see how many different kinds of people are into it. For older people, it takes them back to a period of music they loved. I think we’re been getting a lot of young fans because they’re appreciating good songwriting. Everybody in the band is such an amazing player. When we play live, we don’t just play the record. We really try and make the live show a unique experience, where we’ll take 16 bars and the organ player will just be playing a crazy Farfisa solo. It just has a real electric life of its own and I think for younger people, it’s an introduction into soul music. I love electronic music and stuff with programming, but for people who have listened to just that, hearing something that feels more organic is very exciting and interesting to them.

The fact that you’re real musicians playing real instruments helps you stand out as well.
I hope so. From the response that we’ve been getting, it’s crazy. When you’re playing onstage in your happy, freeform moments, all the sudden the drummer will play a monster fill. The song was supposed to end, but because he’s feeling it, he decides, ‘I’m going to take everybody to 110 percent.’ All the sudden, we’ve got to go there with him. It just created these electric moments. There’s been times onstage where I’m laughing uncontrollably. I can’t believe what’s happening. As a listener, I’m getting excited. Then I’ll look at the crowd and they’re right there with us being excited by that moment.

Last year, the band opened for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on New Year’s Eve in Washington D.C. Did you do other shows too?
Yeah, we got asked to go out on tour with them last spring throughout the south. For us in the band, we all love them so much. They’re really the people that are most responsible for bringing that music back into style and consciousness. For us to be out on tour with them was such an honor…as a performer, I learned so much from watching Sharon because she is such a bad ass. She owns that crowd. I felt a lot of affinity with them as well…it’s so great and inspiring for us to see that you can do the thing you’re passionate about. If you have a lot of tenacity and heart, hopefully people respond to it. Being out [on the road] with them was so much fun.

On a whole different tangent was the Maroon 5 tour. How did that come about?
We have been so fortunate to have all these crazy, serendipitous moments. Adam Levine was getting a tattoo from his favorite artist in New York, who was in L.A. a few weeks before and heard us on KCRW. He said, ‘Adam, you have to hear this new band I’m crazy about.’ A week and a half later, we were out on tour with Maroon 5 playing colleges on the East coast. They were so welcoming to us and it was a big break…because of that experience, we have this whole network of college kids we connected with that follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We definitely take an old school approach. After every show, Noelle and I sit down at the merch table. We want to meet every single person because we feel so fortunate to have this experience and opportunity. To be able to go out and meet people in person and see their raw excitement, if it’s the first time they’ve seen us play, has been really rewarding and a great asset to connect with them on a personal level.

What was the inspiration behind “Rich Girls?”
That and “Moneygrabber” definitely [touched upon] that experience where you think you’re in it for one reason and you find out the other person has a different agenda. They’re more concerned with what they’re going to buy you. In the moment, it was a heart crusher…the other day, I was going through a bad relationship moment and devastated. I walked into the studio with the guys, feeling like I didn’t have anything to say. We came up with this idea and it just lifted me right out of my mood. I was like, ‘guess what? I’ve got something to sing about today.’

Then there’s “Dear Mr. President,” which has a socially conscious vibe.
As with everybody, the intense thing about what’s been happening economically is it’s been this universal experience for all of us. It’s been a big stretch for me personally and everybody in the band: how to survive when all the sudden the bottom drops out of everything.

What exactly are you saying in the French section of “News 4 U?”
I’ve got news for you/This is the end of our story/You’ve broken my heart for the last time/Now when I walk the city streets at night/I look at the stars and the moon and the cars that pass by without you.

Can you tell me about your previous music background?
I’ve been a singer my whole life. I went to a performing arts high school. I studied vocals there. I was pretty shy as a kid and my voice hadn’t really changed. These kids had already matured vocally. And it was so intimidating for me. It was a great experience to be there. After college, I focused my attention working in the studio with Mickey P who did Beck’s “Midnight Vultures” and a Fields record. I worked with him on Ladytron’s “Light and Magic.”

Writing “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” was the catalyst for the band and album, right?
It felt amazing to sing. That was the first moment I felt like I had permission to be myself and it all came together. When you’ve been singing your whole life, you can sing lots of different styles. Then the question is, ‘what is me? What is authentic to me?’ This just rang so natural. It set the compass for the direction the whole record would take.

Where did you and sax man James King attend college together?
We went to Cal Arts [in Valencia]. I actually studied experimental filmmaking there and made friends with James. After I wrote that first song, I knew a couple things: I wanted to make a record without guitars, there had to be saxophone and a female vocalist singing co-lead, harmonies and backup with me. I called James, who is so talented. We instantly said we have to put this in a live setting.

I read an interview where you cited Britney Spears’ “Toxic” as one of your all-time favorite pop songs.
I’m a lover of great songwriting and am always obsessed about what makes for an amazing song. I always try and aim for that every time I write a song. Some people might hate [“Toxic”]...I used to work with this folk band The Chapin Sisters on their demo [and got them to cover it]. Once we arranged the harmonies, they realized the song was so magical. It actually became one of those most played songs on KCRW. To me, that’s the test of a great song. Can you play it on one instrument and sing it? If it stands up there, it stands anywhere.

Tell me about the video for “Winds of Change,” where you do a bit of acting.
When we started out, we didn’t have any support, any record deal or money. We came up with this simple idea and made the video for $800. Me and the co-director took about 500 pictures. It all came together and worked nicely. We couldn’t even afford to do playbacks. We took inspiration from Bob Dylan [“Subterranean Homesick Blues”] and did lyrics on cards. We put in so much work and we were editing it and found this cool pacing that worked with the rhythm of the song. It turned out a lot better than we thought.

         

Interview with Fitz & the Tantrums

photo: Dangerbird Records
A version of my interview originally appeared in the North County Times.

When it comes to holiday music, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick gravitates toward ‘60s classics.

“I love all those old Phil Spector Christmas recordings; they’re amazing. And you can’t go wrong with Sinatra,” said the Fitz & the Tantrums singer, in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home.

No surprise there: his band’s snappy full-length debut album “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” specializes in vintage pop and soul that could’ve been crafted in the same decade.

The L.A.-based sextet just released their own seasonal tune, “Santa Stole My Lady,” co-written by backing vocalist Noelle Scaggs.

“We wanted to do something fun and in line with the angry [vibe] of the record,” explained Fitz. “Noelle came up with a great concept. We’ve printed up some limited edition 7” vinyl copies. We’ll be playing it when we’re down at the Belly Up.”

Those who attend the show should be prepared to shake their stuff. 

“We dance our butts off; Noelle and I never stop moving. We like to make the crowd [part] of what’s happening onstage. There’s a lot of participation. We’re kind of mean that way – if you’re not dancing, we’re going to call you out and get people to encourage you.”

From a performance standpoint, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue is one reference point. Watching Fitz and Scaggs onstage, “you don’t know if we’re going to make out or fistfight.”

Fitz first met saxophonist James King while attending Cal Arts in Valencia. In the mid-2000s, he worked as a producer, engineer and programmer (Ladytron, Chapin Sisters), alongside Mickey Petralia (Beck).

“I focused on learning to make records because I was obsessed with how those old Motown records sounded,” Fitz explained. “Then I decided to take piano lessons again.”

Later, after purchasing an organ from a garage sale, he played the instrument and “it was one of those magical musical moments. I was so inspired that I wrote ‘Breakin’ the Chains of Love’ in five minutes…it was the first time I felt completely authentic and true.”

Opting to make his own album sans guitars in 2008, college pal King was recruited first. They made five phone calls and the lineup was complete. “Usually, it’s a pain to find the right people. We literally could have played a show after our first rehearsal. Everything just clicked.”

Last year, the sextet put out a well-received EP (“Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1”), appeared on KCRW radio program Morning Becomes Eclectic and opened a New Year’s Eve gig for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings in Washington D.C.

In the interim, they’ve toured with both Jones and Maroon 5, appeared on TV’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” and the popular, award-winning “Live from Daryl’s House” internet performance show.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Daryl Hall and gotten comparisons to his vocals…to be sitting with him and saying, ‘on this song, we can do a two-part harmony,’ was amazing.”

Meanwhile, songs from the album have received airplay on prominent SoCal stations KCRW and KROQ and continue to get spins across the country.

While recording at Fitz’s home, the band was “heavily influenced by Motown and soul,” but didn’t want to make a carbon copy. “We took it as a jumping off point to see if we could push the envelope” and move that sound into the future.”

On the title track and “Chains,” the robust lead vocal recalls the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs.

“The music sounds fun and upbeat, but if you actually listen to the lyrics, they’re cutting and a little bitter. I try to create a male mantra or perspective of heartbreak.”

That’s evident during “Rich Girls” and “Money Grabber,” directly inspired by past relationships. Songwriting is definitely a cathartic experience for Fitz.

“At my lowest points – if I’m going through a bad breakup or bent out of shape - music truly saves my life,” he candidly admitted.

Some foreign flair was also added to the proceedings. “News 4 U” features a brief spoken word section in French. “It’s my little shout out to my mom,” said Fitz, who was
born in France. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be speaking” the language.

Firmly rooted in the present is “Dear Mr. President,” inspired by the poor economic climate of the past few years.

“That one sticks out from the rest of the record. I always saw it as a letter to the president…Obama was bound to let everyone down with all the hype around him. At the same time, I just wanted to sing this song to him and say, ‘hey, you can do better.’

Fitz & the Tantrums opens for Greyboy Allstars on Friday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, Calif. For more info, go to fitzandthetantrums.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sir Paul McCartney

I thought it was very cool to see Macca not only perform more than two songs on "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend, but get involved with the skits as well. The "Weekend Update" mocking of Prince Charles and Camilla was a hoot. So was McCartney singing a line from Berlin's "Take My Breathe Away"! Wonder what Terri Nunn thought about that?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon exhibit at Grammy Museum/L.A. Live

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder in New York City – a time when everything suddenly stood still for many people. I was 11 years old and remember watching a TV sitcom around 8:30 p.m., when a special report relayed the news. I’d purchased the 45 rpm single of “(Just Like) Starting Over” from a Licorice Pizza store only weeks before and played it often (but not the flipside containing Yoko Ono’s “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” which I thought was dumb. Even now, I’m inclined to agree). 

As fans celebrate his wonderful body of music and cue up something – possibly from Capitol’s fab catalog reissues (I’m personally listening to the new hits collection, Power to the People), it’s a good time to remind SoCal residents and L.A. Live visitors about the Grammy Museum’s current exhibit honoring Lennon.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the museum for the first time. John Lennon, Songwriter explores his early influences, formative group The Quarry Men, The Beatles and solo career. Among the cool artifacts are Lennon’s Fender Telecaster guitar, those trademark round, wire-framed glasses, a typewriter used to write lyrics (and several drafts showing where certain lines were crossed out), a replica of the famed Sgt. Pepper costume, drawings, rare photos and posters, Grammy Awards, video footage, etc.

Since I’d never really seen a large trove of Lennon memorabilia, this was quite a treat. Even more so was In the Studio with John Lennon, an interactive area featuring an actual mixing desk used to record "Double Fantasy." Visitors can pick from two songs to add their own vocals to (“Give Peace a Chance,” “Beautiful Boy”). Although a bit apprehensive to sing at first, I had the area to myself late this particular afternoon. So I chose the former tune. Let’s just say, I should’ve been louder.

John Lennon, Songwriter runs through March 31, 2011.

Going on concurrently is Strange Kozmic Experience, an exhibit delving into the late ‘60s rock and psychedelic music era. Focusing on Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors, among the more than 60 rare artifacts are Joplin’s custom-painted 1965 Porsche 356 Cabriolet, her paintings, letters and art; Hendrix and Doors memorabilia, photos,  posters (some from the collection of Doors authority Ida Miller, who runs www.idafan.com, a site devoted to band-related news) and more. It was very interesting to see Jim Morrison’s poetry books.

Strange Kozmic Experience runs through mid-January, 2011.

Another section that I found particularly enjoyable was the third floor. Revolutions of Recorded Sound, featuring Playback: From Mono to Surround, takes you from the earliest gramophone to the mp3. I chose Amy Winehouse’s live version of “I’m No Good” as an example. The In the Studio interactive experiences take you through what a producer, engineer and remixer’s job entails. It was very enlightening. I stepped into the soundproof booths to watch and “help” Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson) record backing vocals on The Human League’s “Human.” 

Then I "assisted" producer Mike Clink (Guns ‘N Roses) in “deciding” which group of musicians to use guitar overdubs and a keyboard mix on a cover of The Who’s “Who Are You.” Not an easy choice, when you have Slash, Matt Sorum, Wendy Melvoin, Taylor Hawkins and Mike Inez among the players. The remixing process is somewhat complex, as Paul Oakenfold showed. In another booth, veteran Bob Ludwig from Gateway Mastering sheds light on his job. Getting just the right compression and dynamic range adjustments on a Beck tune wasn’t easy.

I definitely could have spent more time up on the fourth floor. This is where the Songwriters Hall of Fame gallery is located and you can “collaborate” with noted wordsmiths Hal David, Lamont Dozier and Desmond Child via computer kiosks. There were also several interviews and acceptance speeches to hear.

These are just a few of the things to see and do at the Grammy Museum. The museum store stocks music t-shirts, buttons, pins, books, CDs, hats, magnets and more.

Each month, special programs featuring master classes, artist performances and interviews take place in the 200-seat Clive Davis Theater for a separate fee. Some previous participants have included Stewart Copeland, Yoko Ono, Roseanne Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Train, John Mellencamp, Jeff Beck, Ringo Starr, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Dwight Yoakam and Annie Lennox.

Located across from Staples Center at Olympic Blvd. and Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles, the museum is open 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12.95 for adults and can be purchased at Ticketmaster and the museum box office. For additional info on admission and curator tours, go to www.grammymuseum.org or call (213) 765-6803. 

Lennon archive photo courtesy of Capitol Records; logo provided by the Grammy Museum. Thanks to David Miller for his assistance.   

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Posies/Brendan Benson concert review

A version of my review originally appeared in the OC Register and can be viewed at the link below:
http://soundcheck.ocregister.com/2010/12/05/the-posies-return-for-faithful-fans-at-club-nokia/40454/
Photo by Julian Ochoa, courtesy of Rykodisc

Since Club Nokia opened two years ago, I’ve only been to a few high profile concerts. So it came as a surprise to see the 2,300-capacity L.A. Live venue less than half full on Dec. 3. The impressive lineup including The Posies, Brendan Benson and Aqueduct attracted a crowd that probably would’ve fit inside The Roxy.

The Posies – an acclaimed Seattle band whose power pop-leaning, 1990 major label debut Dear 23 drew prominent airplay on MTV and alt-rock radio (they were part of the first KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show) - found even more success with the aggressive follow up Frosting on the Beater at the height of grunge. through breakups and long stretchers of inactivity, when members toured with Big Star and R.E.M., they’ve retained a decent cult fan base in America and Europe.  

Blood/Candy is The Posies’ first studio album in five years and easily one of the best. A sonically adventurous effort, it features guest vocals by Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers), Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene and Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo.    

Maybe the sparse Los Angeles turnout was due to competition or simply wishful thinking on the promoter’s part. Regardless, the quartet put on a rousing and often ragged performance that was akin to hanging out together in a rehearsal space.

There were plenty of humorous and musical asides between co-songwriters Jon Auer (vocals, guitar) and Ken Stringfellow (vocals, guitar, keyboards). The latter musician worked up quite a sweat jumping all around the stage, but expelled so much saliva, it eventually became a distraction (I felt sorry for the Nokia maintenance crew). Sometimes his antics proved detrimental to the set when Auer would laugh mid-song.  

Getting off to a shaky start with “Plastic Paperbacks,” the first of several new Blood/Candy tracks, Stringfellow played piano and sang in a strained, quavering voice. The group quickly rebounded on “Flavor of the Month” and “Please Return It,” both chuck full of driving guitars and feedback.

Some of the most memorable moments came when Auer’s warm, burnished voice took the reigns and the guys’ trademark harmonies shined (“So Caroline,” the wah wah guitar-infused “Glitter Prize”). Unfortunately, early hit “Golden Blunders” (covered by Ringo Starr on 1992’s Time Takes Time) was a bit messy and their vocal pipes didn’t mesh well.  
  
Taking a serious turn, Stringfellow told the story behind “Enewetak,” inspired by the coral atoll – and 1948-1958 nuclear testing site - in the Marshall Islands. Marked by Auer’s wailing guitar lines, the tune boasted some sweet Beach Boys-styled harmonies (I would’ve loved to see them actually segue into a Brian Wilson number there).

Right in the middle of “Throwaway,” from 1996’s Amazing Disgrace,” bassist Matt Harris (also supplying welcome backing vocal assists) briefly traded places with Joe Skyward, one his predecessors who had been watching from the pit area.

Finally, The Posies capped the main set with an audible from the audience: “Burn & Shine” off Frosting. Auer said it was the song’s American tour debut. An exercise in controlled chaos, the calm vocals eventually gave way to a frenzied electric guitar freak out worthy of Neil Young & Crazy Horse.  

Auer and Stringfellow also played in Brendan Benson’s backing band – an idea hatched earlier this year after the three performed together at an Alex Chilton (Big Star) memorial tribute in Memphis. The Posies members helped lift Benson’s already blissful singer/songwriter tunes further into the alt-pop and classic rock stratosphere (think McCartney & Wings, Todd Rundgren).

The Raconteurs member acknowledged as much by enthusing about the pair onstage. Benson’s solid 55-minute set delved into each of his under appreciated albums, dating back to the mid-‘90s, and concentrated on 2002’s Lapalco (“Tiny Spark,” “Metarie,” “Folk Singer,” “Good to Me”).

Last year’s brilliant My Old, Familiar Friend – one of my top 10 picks of 2009 – was barely represented though (the Motown-esque strains of “Garbage Day,” triggered by Stringfellow, Elvis Costello-ish “A Whole Lot Better”). Still, everyone was obviously having a good time onstage and the crowd responded enthusiastically.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

2011 Grammy Award nominations

Here are my musings on the 53rd Annual Grammy Award nominations, which were announced this week: 

I was glad to see Florence+The Machine get a Best New Artist 
nod (as usual there is a "who?" nominee in there with Esperanza Spalding)  and La Roux get some for Best Dance Recording and Electronic Album.

Bravo to Arcade Fire landing a much deserved Album of the Year slot. I'm sure their indie label Merge Records is still celebrating that one. They'll have to overcome heavy competition from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry (what a joke), Lady Antebellum and Eminem (who most critics heap tons of praise on, but I still despise due to his past homophobic lyrics; sorry Elton - I don't buy that he's sorry for that, even if you two are friends).

I'm not too thrilled about Song of the Year nominees Cee Lo, Miranda Lambert, Eminem/Rihanna, Ray Lamontagne and Lady Antebellum.

Record of the Year contenders are pretty weak this year too, with Eminem, Cee Lo, B.o.B./Bruno Mars, Jay Z/Alicia Keys and Lady Antebellum (overplayed, but the best of that lot).

The Best Alternative Album field is all good with Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Vampire Weekend, Black Keys and Broken Bells. 

Since Bruce Springsteen didn't really have anything to nominate during the eligibility period (I'm sure he'll have several nods in 2012 for the amazing "Promise/Darkness" package), Neil Young picked up the slack in the rock categories for "Le Noise." Young nabbed three, including Rock Album, Song and Solo Rock Vocal. On the latter, he's up against Paul McCartney's fab live "Helter Skelter" from "Good Evening NYC." 

Members of The Doors are well-represented with guitarist Robby Krieger getting into the Pop Instrumental category (curiously for a jazz album; Doors expert Ida Miller tells me she believes it's his first nom), while the band itself gets slotted into Best Long Form Music Video for the "People Are Strange" documentary. 

Cyndi Lauper's inclusion in the Traditional Blues category for "Memphis Blues" was a bit of a surprise. Although I'm a big fan and thought she was ill-suited to the genre, the album seemed to get decent reviews. 

Best Song from a Motion Picture, TV Show or Visual Medium is very strong for a change, with Steve Earle, Ryan Bingham and Lucinda Williams/Elvis Costello all in contention (no, that wasn't supposed to be Best Contemporary Folk). 

Dierks Bentley competes against himself in the Country Collaboration with Vocals for his cool cover of U2's "Pride" and "Bad Angel," where he's joined by Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson. Both are well deserved.

Another surprise came in the Traditional Pop Vocal Album area, with veteran Johnny Mathis' "In Nashville." 

Michael Jackson got a posthumous nod in Best Male Pop Vocal for "This is It," while "Idol" Adam Lambert is also in there for "Whataya Want From Me." 

Best Compilation Soundtrack is very good, with "Crazy Heart," "Twilight: Eclipse" and "Glee: Vol. 1" all making the cut.

Speaking of the Fox-TV show, I was pleased to see them get into Best Pop Performance Duo/Group for their brilliant cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." 

Leon Russell continues to feel the love, as he nabbed a Best Pop Collaboration with Vocal nod for his Elton John duet "If It Wasn't For Bad." 

The Grammys air Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Faith No More concert review-Nov. 2010

A version of my review originally appeared in the Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog and can be viewed here:

http://soundcheck.ocregister.com/2010/12/01/faith-no-more-powerful-at-palladium-opener/40274/


Archival photo, circa 1997, courtesy of Warner/Reprise Records

Faith No More
Hollywood Palladium (Calif.)
Nov. 30, 2010

During Faith No More’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s heyday, Mike Patton often engaged in bizarre antics onstage. For the first of two Hollywood Palladium shows on Tuesday night though, the singer focused on delivering his uniquely twisted vocals while the band remained a tight and energetic force to be reckoned with.

Patton pogoed around and kept the chit chat to a minimum until the group’s breezy take on The Commodores’ “Easy,” an hour into the 90-minute set. Urging some audience participation, he said, “It’s OK to sing along; TMZ isn’t watching you.” Later, there was this unusual taunt: “Who wants to go to jail? Spit on me! I want to feel your happy.”

Longtime fans who packed the sold out venue crowd surfed with abandon and were obviously ecstatic to see the group again after an extended absence. These dates comprise its first Los Angeles appearances since 1997 at the Palace - now Avalon - and Palladium in ’95. I managed to catch both gigs and recall the notorious soup can acoustics inside the latter put a damper on the proceedings.

Last year’s Second Coming tour in 2009 saw Faith No More tour Europe and South America exclusively. The quintet finally returned to SoCal this past April as co-headliner on the second day of Coachella. Watching them give a powerful performance on the festival’s main stage, it was evident how they had influenced such popular ‘90s alt-metal acts as Tool, Deftones, Staind and System of a Down.

That fact was hammered home in the more intimate indoor confines of the Palladium. Despite only a handful of modern and mainstream rock radio hits here, plus a single gold and platinum album, Faith No More continued to find major success abroad before splitting up in ’98. Among those areas were Australia and South America, where the world tour concludes Sunday at a Santiago soccer stadium.

Nowadays, the band’s influence is still being felt. A new remix of “Epic” - crafted by British electronic duo Utah Saints for their recent UK summer festival appearances - was just posted online and can be downloaded free here: soundcloud.com and houseplanet.dj. And a new Faith No More-inspired musical with that same song title is reportedly in the works next spring in Melbourne. 

Opening as they did in Indio with a straight, soulful version of Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited,” Patton was clad in his usual red suit, sunglasses and used a cane for dramatic effect. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum served as duet partner.

Then it was time to get the megaphone out. Bottum triggered a siren sound, the musicians went into full on rock attack mode on the frenetic “From Out of Nowhere” and Patton did some screeching and growling.

Rarities from the 1987 pre-Patton album Introduce Yourself (“Spirit,” the stinging and thunderous “Chinese Arithmetic,” prefaced by a snatch of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”) surely delighted old school fans. A stellar “Everything’s Ruined,” where Jon Hudson really proved his mettle with distorted guitar sounds and “Helpless,” replete with Patton’s crazy whistling and yelping, made their tour debuts. Actor Danny DeVito even danced across the stage at one point.

Other evening standouts included the sinister “Caffeine” (Patton exorcised his demons to strobe lighting), a funky “Evidence,” the whisper-to-a-scream dynamics and Mike Bordin’s tribal beats on “Midlife Crisis,” Patton’s over-the-top dramatic vocals amid the Bee Gee’sI Started a Joke” and the always intense “Epic” (here the singer was like a tiger unleashed from a cage). 

During the encore section, LA natives Bottom and Gould briefly reminisced about memorable shows they’d seen at the Palladium in the ‘80s (U2, the Clash, English Beat) and the keyboardist got a solo spotlight on a bit of Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire.” Finally, Patton and the band ended in lounge mode with a crooning cover of Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s in Love with You.”

Setlist: Faith No More at the Hollywood Palladium, Nov. 30, 2010
Reunited/From Out of Nowhere/Everything’s Ruined/Caffeine/Evidence/Surprise! You’re Dead!/Poker Face into Chinese Arithmetic/Last Cup of Sorrow/Cuckoo for Caca/Easy/Midlife Crisis/The Gentle Art of Making Enemies/I Started a Joke/Epic/Ashes to Ashes/Just a Man
First encore: Chariots of Fire-Stripsearch/Spirit
Second encore: We Care a Lot/This Guy’s in Love with You