Gwen Stefani at Jiffy Lube Live: This was a fun throwback show. I've seen No Doubt before, but never Gwen Stefani (whose first solo album was my jam senior year of college). Eve opened the show and was surprisingly enjoyable. I'd forgotten how weird and amazing Gwen's first solo album was. There is a yodeling song. There is a weird Alice in Wonderland song. There is obviously the cheerleader b-a-n-a-n-a-s song. It was all amazing live. She looks and sounds exactly like she did 20 years ago. It's crazy. Eve joined her for "Rich Girls" and "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" and Gwen also busted out a bunch of No Doubt covers. It was a really, really fun show despite the blistering heat.
The GoGos at Warner Theatre: Best Coast opened and was awesome (one of the best shows I've seen from them) though I don't think many people cared. This was a GoGos crowd. AKA it was almost entirely middle aged women and gay men. I'd seen the GoGos once before, from the lawn at Wolf Trap, so this was much better. It's their farewell tour. Belinda and Jane look like they can keep going forever but others in the band looked ready for rock retirement in their energy level. They kicked off with "Vacation."
My favorite part of the show was when they played a few punk songs from back when they were a legit punk band in LA (it's always humorous when I read books about the LA punk scene and how big of a role they play). "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat" were the expected but still awesome end to the set. They did two encores, starting with a good Miley Cyrus cover and ending with "Head Over Heels." After the show I went to a dive bar and watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Because, 'Murica.
Ellie Goulding at Merriweather: This was my first amphitheater show of the summer and I had awesome seats. The set (especially early on) was heavy on Ellie's latest album, which is okay but not spectacular. So it was a bit slow starting. But by the second half she was busting out songs of Halcyon and things picked up. "Burn" was a great set ender and "Anything Could Happen" and "Love Me Like You Do" made for a solid encore.
I went to four concerts last week. It was a pretty incoherent mix. Let’s go in order:
Television at 9:30 Club: I hate to say it, but they were really, really underwhelming. Tom Verlaine might as well have been asleep on stage, that’s how low the energy was. Sigh.
Mac Sabbath at Fillmore Silver Spring: Wow, was this one pretty weird. I’ve been intrigued by Mac Sabbath for a while. I mean, how could I not be curious about a Black Sabbath McDonalds parody band? When the first wave of Ticketmaster settlement voucher-eligible concerts was released, the DC choices were pretty slim because most of the venues have shifted to the superior Ticketfly. But low and behold, Mac Sabbath at Fillmore Silver Spring was an option. They closed the balcony (that I hate because of the restricted stage views) for this show because they didn’t sell out, but the floor was pretty packed. The first opener was Clownvis (King of the Clowns). In case you aren’t good at guessing obvious things, this was a clown Elvis. It was shockingly amusing. The set was short, funny, and packed with Elvis songs – all good things. He even sang the Reading Rainbow theme song. It’s unclear why, but it was my favorite moment of the night. The next band wasn’t a parody act – just a meh local metal band Dog Fashion Disco. Their band name might have been the most stupid part of the evening, and that says a lot. Oddly for a metal band they had a saxophone player and a keyboardist. Those turned out to be the best aspects of the band. The guitar, drums, and vocals weren’t impressive. Bass was okay. The crowd seemed evenly split between people who only liked DFD or only liked the parody acts.
Mac Sabbath had a wide array of props. To each side of the stage there were Ronald McDonald heads that lit up and breathed smoke. At the back of the stage there were to big inflatable clowns (looking less clearly like Ronald, but it was close enough) with laser eyes. The microphone stand was a giant McDonald’s milkshake. And there was a grill on stage. Lots of smaller props too. Ronald (aka Ozzy) came out in a strait jacket and a pretty spot Ozzy mannerisms during the songs. His fake accent for banter between songs was more forced, and he made more band name food puns throughout the night than I could keep up with. I couldn’t decipher much in the way of the lyrics, but that’s probably for the best. The Sabbath music sounded awesome and the costumes were fantastic. My favorite was fake Grimace (Grimalice), who played bass. The guitar player was Slayer McCheese and the drummer was a Peter Criss/Hamburgler mashup named The Cat Burgler. I don’t need to see it again, but I’m glad I had this experience once. And I’m very pleased with the Mac Sabbath t-shirt that I bought (luckily I only had $20 on me otherwise I would have bought all of their merchandise. All of it.)
Kanye West at Verizon Center: 2 hours of Yeezy with no opener and a killer floating stage….yes, please! The stage was the star of the show here. It was simple but awesome. A lighting rig spanned the length of the arena floor. A smaller stage hung from wires underneath that and would move around. Meaning the view was constantly changing. Sometimes the only lights came from under the stage. Other times just on top. Or all other sorts of crazy combos (and everything along the way could tilt and such to further change. It was visually very appealing. The sound was awful, even by Verizon Center standards. The music tracks were super loud, but Kanye’s vocals weren’t. Even with ear plugs in the music was obnoxiously loud and echo-y (I’m guessing it would have been fine in a venue with better acoustics – loud is perfectly fine in most settings) and drowned out the vocals. Kanye didn’t go on as many rants as the first time I saw him, but he snuck in two good ones – a short one about how listening to his own lyrics picked up his spirits after the lackluster response to his latest fashion line (“I just needed to hear me today!”) and a longer one about how he could have been a painter (something about seeing colors as a child…it was hard to follow). Not as good as his anti-Kid Cudi rant (“I birthed you!”) from a few days ago, but I’ll take it. Speaking of his fashion line, I’ve never seen such long lines for ugly clothes. The merch stands were ridiculous. HUGE lines. And the t-shirts were like $50 bucks and super ugly. I don’t get it. The set was good. Heavy on new St. Pablo tracks at the beginning but eventually spanned his whole career, including all the hits, rare collaborations, and a few Watch the Throne tracks. He might be an egomaniac, but dude puts on an epic show.
Brian Wilson at Fox Theatre (Atlanta): I caught Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary tour when I was in Atlanta over the weekend. What a fun show. First off, the venue was super cool. It’s an old movie theatre that has crazy architecture. Interesting from the inside and outside – never seen anything like it. I had a great view from the front of the balcony. Brian had a great 11 piece band with him, including former Beach Boy Al Jardine and Al’s son (who did a great job with the Mike Love vocals), and still sounded good. The set was really long, which is great considering how many good songs the Beach Boys have. They warmed up with 13 non-Pet Sounds tracks, from hits to rarities, before playing one of the best albums of all time in its entirety. Pet Sounds was obscenely good. Then they played an outstanding six song encore. Can you imagine having so many good songs that after playing a 26 song set including what is largely considered to be the best album of all time and still having the following songs left for your encore: “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “Love and Mercy”? It’s insane.