Monday, July 09, 2007

Los Angeles, I'm Yours

Through a fortunate turn of luck, Saturday night I found myself in the good seats at the Hollywood Bowl for the Band of Horses, Andrew Bird, Decemberists show. And it dawned on me as I sat there that “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life.” By “this” I mean “see one of my favorite artists—preferably three of them—play at the Hollywood Bowl on a beautiful summer night.” And if for some reason the LA Philharmonic was to play with the last band and that band just happens to be one of my all-time favorites? Well all the better.

While I’d certainly heard people rave on about it, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the Bowl itself. It’s beautiful in every sense. The park-and-ride shuttles work with Swiss-like efficiency. It’s extremely well-designed. It’s a natural amphitheater tucked into the woods. The acoustics are insanely good. You can bring in any food, wine and beer you like.

Oh yeah, and it’s the same stage on which the Beatles, the Stones and the Doors all played. In fact, that there’s the same stage where Jim Morrison famously delivered a few key lines of “The End” to his mother and brother who were sitting in the audience.

Right. Frikkin’. There.

I’ll admit I got just as excited about the Garden. And about Red Rocks. Historic venues, good seats and great bands. Same story, pretty much. I'd put the experience on par with the first time I went to Yankee Stadium and saw how it's just on a different level. I mean, even the grounds crew is part of the show!

But back to Saturday night.

Band of Horses came on and opened the evening up. The crowd was crazy for them even as they were filing in and most of them in mid-picnic. A tough slot but they made it work. “The Great Salt Lake” (complete with boot stomping as Ben counted out the silence during the choruses) and “Funeral” were both crazy good.

And bonus points for the cowboy boots, beard and South Carolina shirt.

Then the sun seemed to disappear instantaneously and the amazing Andrew Bird came on. This guy. Wow. I’d only been introduced to him a few months ago but the best description I could come up with is Wes Anderson with a guitar. Could have been the tan suit. And that he played with no shoes, just striped socks. He made Dave Werner-like use of the looper and pretty much played everything except drums—guitars, violin, xylophone, you name it—and all at the same time. Oh yeah, and whistling like you ain't heard. I’d go see him in a heartbeat when he comes back around.

And he had these crazy, trippy pipes whirring around the whole time which I felt were pretty cool.

Then the wall came down and people in white dinner jackets began milling about, taking their places.

And then the Decemberists took the stage.

This was one of those shows where you fall in love with a band all over again. I had raved about the Crane Wife when it came out back in October but I don’t think I ever fuly got it in the sense of how beautiful a record it is.

They opened the show with the lovely “Crane Wife 1&2” that played out over like 15 minutes. Let me set the scene: just imagine Colin (in full seersucker suit, btw) all by himself with a full band and orchestra sitting quietly behind him as he plays that quiet opening bit of the song, the whole place ready to pop with anticipation of seeing how this “playing with an orchestra” thing was gonna be. And then in the second verse the strings start building up and then a few moments later the show was underway, full-orchestra belting it out. The hills, as they say, were alive with music. It was one of the best musical moments of my life. I’ve always thought “Crane Wife 1&2” rather than “Crane Wife 3” should have opened that album. Good lord, it’s good.

And while it ain't ideal, here is someone's video of the opening of the show.

The band itself sounded fantastic all night and was incredibly loose considering this was the first time they’ve done this. They were having as much fun as we were. Colin even played drums.

All I could think the whole time was “this is about the best thing I’ve ever seen and/or heard.”

All of the “holy crap” moments began to blur together at that point. They did, of course, play “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” which despite being a total slag on the city, was pretty magical. And it was just made for an orchestra. Speaking of, here is the orchestra waiting patiently before the encore, the conductor gently motioning to the crowd to keep it up.

They played a good deal of both “The Crane Wife” and “Picaresuqe” but they closed the show with a couple of gems: “I Was Meant for the Stage” which was positively fantastic and then they came back out to play “Chimbley Sweep”, both from way back off “Her Majesty the Decembrists.”

Here's the LA Times review: LA Times Review

I kept thinking there were probably songs I wished they’d played (California One, Oceanside) but I kept coming back to the same thought: this is perfect.

Just like it is.


Blogger minus five said...

okay, so what are some album names i should download from these three. i don't have any of them and have never heard any of them.

7:55 PM  
Blogger me jeff b said...

That's like the best lineup I have ever heard! Long live cerebral rock bands. I bet everyone left with their intelligence level bumped up at least 10 points.

Minus Five - Band of Horses: Everything All The Time, Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs, The Decemberists: Picaresque. Enjoy your new favorite bands!

9:17 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

Lord, I don't know where to begin to tell you to staqrt, Minus. I might even recommend "Castaways and Cutouts" as that's kind of where I came in.

And Jeff, you've got something to look forward to. That show this week should be awesome.

12:41 PM  

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