Monday, August 17, 2009

More Reviews of the Show

Thanks to Leona Laurie and an Anonymoous poster more reviews of the show :-) First one here, second one in the next post:

Last Night: Vincent Gallo, Sean Lennon, Bob Weir at Red Devil Lounge
By Jennifer Maerz in Last NightThursday, Aug. 13 2009 @ 12:06PM
​Vincent Gallo, Sean Lennon, Bob Weir, & The Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger
Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009
Red Devil Lounge

Better than: Getting what you expected, every time.

Going to a Vincent Gallo show is a bit like dropping money into one of those claw arcade games. You pay the fee and hope to grab a valuable jackpot, something worth the price of putting your trust into such a fickle, teasing instrument. You do this in part because when the claw grabs a tangible prize (a giant teddy bear! a performance where Gallo engages his fans and plays fleshed out songs!) it makes all the touch and go worth it. But the odds are too often on the hollow--or nonexistent--spoils.

Last night the actor/cultural provocateur/musician/sperm salesman sold out the Red Devil Lounge, bringing together a room full of people hoping to grab the Gallo prize. And what'd we get for paying into his prima donna playbook? A night of truly bizarre, unscripted, and yeah, frustrating entertainment. It was either a total bust or exactly the theater of the absurd fans appreciate from this slippery musician who, at the very least, keeps them in pursuit.

For my part, I enjoyed the show, in part because the whole event was so offbeat. But the tease wasn't for everyone-- one woman gave the entire bathroom line an earful about how she didn't pay $16 to "hear Vincent Gallo play one long song and leave." She obviously saw the claw as half empty.

The night opened on a normal enough note. Sean Lennon and his (latest beautiful waif-model-girlfriend) musical partner Charlotte Kemp performed together as The Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger. They were the warmest and most enthusiastic act on stage, Lennon playing guitar as Kemp played piano from somewhere behind a curtain. From there Kemp joined Lennon on stage and in harmony, their voices spinning tender ballads like cotton candy, all light and pink and sweet and melting away in the heat of the room. The pair don't have the dynamic punch of a She & Him, in part because The Ghost's music is so AM radio soft and the couple's falsettos blend into one another so completely (even their whistles became one). But under the red lighting of the lounge, there was something intimate and inviting about their set, even if it was more memorable as a whole then from any of its individual song parts. And Lennon's constant self-effacing banter broke down any diva impressions you could've had about John Lennon's kid.

That diva wall was erected for the second act, which comprised Gallo, Lennon, and a third musician trading off of drums, guitars, and synths for a half hour of half-baked, improvisational jams. Gallo sat on the floor for the most part, his back to the audience--or he'd hit the synths to rev up the prog vibe. He skipped his gorgeous, ghostly folk repertoire to instead expose us to an art-damaged band practice, the fragmented melodies like fever-dreams that only snapped awake with a final bout of feedback at the very end. I liked it in theory, although the concept was better executed when Gallo did his post-rock instrumentals with greater focus and different musicians at the Swedish American Hall a couple years back.

Whether you dug it or hated it, the Gallo portion of the evening was shorter than the line for the bathroom, and with a quick wave the headliner was off the stage after like a half hour. The crowd looked confused as to whether this was the end of the show, but an announcer told folks to stick around, as there was a "very special surprise" on next. This was the same announcer who'd also warned us, multiple times, that there was absolutely no cell phone use during the show, per Gallo's request: no texting, no chatting, and no taking photos.

So what was the grand finale? No Gallo.

Instead the show took another 180 and Lennon introduced a "local we wanted to bring on stage tonight," at which time Bob Weir appeared out of nowhere. From there, it became the Grateful Dead hour. The two men enthusiastically strummed their way through "Peggy-O" and "Big Boss Man," which both cleared out the room and made those remaining pack tight against the stage. It also made a couple Grateful Dead fans in the balcony hug each other and gush, "This is so fucking awesome! I'm so glad we came!" Lennon and Weir played well together, their presence and pairing working in part because it was so out of left field.

Whether the guest appearance was as improvised as Gallo's set, or as caculated as the actor's briefest of stints on stage, only the headliner knows for sure. In the end, I feel like I came away with the prize--playing an amusing game that's more of a challenge than your standard show, with a few real grabs at strange and haunting music along the way.

Critic's Notebook

Critical Bias: I wish Gallo and Lennon would've played last night like they did at Bimbo's a couple years back. At that show the two paired up on acoustic guitar for some quirky anti-folk ballads. Gallo seemed more at ease that night than at any gig I've seen him play since. (Perhaps it was all the ladies in the front taking photos.)

And Tetro, Francis Ford Coppola's movie starring Gallo, is one of my favorite films of '09.

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