A Live Concert Triptych

by Melanie Love

From June to August, instead of traveling or working or just being productive in general, I’ve been trying to jam as many concerts as I can into the spare time I have before being forced back into SAT prep and the perils of U.S. history and trigonometry. And so, I’ve braved pot smoke (seriously, what is it about concerts that equals being blazed anyway?) and rampaging crowds and some, let’s just say, interesting opening bands just to bring you a few of the best acts from the past couple of months.

Keane – Henry Fonda Theater – June 21st, 2006

I wasn’t sure how this concert would go over since Keane had just released their second album, Under The Iron Sea, the day before and I’d only listened to it once the whole way through. But with an audience made up of diehard Keane fans (who knew such a devoted group existed outside of England? But they’d lined up since early in the morning and even befriended the opening act, San Franciscan beatboxer Kid Beyond), it was just as easy to get lost in the hits of their debut album, Hopes and Fears, as it was to be taken with Iron Sea.

The only negative aspect of the concert was the subpar acoustics of the Henry Fonda, not to mention the security guards wouldn’t let anyone on the balcony stand up; lead singer Tom Chaplin was fine with ignoring that and had everyone up and out of their seats for the pounding piano and soaring choruses of “Somewhere Only We Know.” And while Keane shine on the darker, morose material that makes up the bulk of Iron Sea (the album’s opener “Atlantic” and the WB Yeats inspired “A Bad Dream,”) they’re just as entertaining on higher-energy tracks like the politically-charged lead single “Is It Any Wonder?” and “Everybody’s Changing” from Hopes And Fears.

Not many concerts make you walk out a true fan after being just a casual listener before, but Keane has got another convert; I even bought tickets for their next stop in Los Angeles in November.

Death Cab For Cutie – The Greek Theater – August 13th, 2006

Seeing one of your favorite bands in concert is great, but seeing them under the stars takes everything to a new level. Add in some fantastic opening bands (Spoon and Mates of State) and a bag of kettle corn and I’m sold (I know, I know, I’m easily amused).

And even without the popcorn, Death Cab put on a fantastic show, mixing in the bulk of their latest release, 2005’s Plans with the best of their previous albums, namely Transatlanticism and a few gems from The Photo Album. Predictably, the entire crowd sang along to Plans’ radio-saturated lead single, “Soul Meets Body,” but also joined in on “Crooked Teeth” and on an encore performance of the acoustic “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” before most of us sat back in awe as they broke out into a version of the transcendent, sprawling “Transatlanticism” in its entirety.

The advantage of a late August show and the calm hours of dusk (that is, after the stifling heat dies down) was evident in the band’s low-key, relaxed demeanor as they joked with each other and the audience. At one point, lead singer Ben Gibbard remarked that the night felt like a barbecue, to which drummer Jason McGerr responded “Only without the chicken.”

The Greek was the perfect place also; not huge, with a capacity of 5,700, so that the concert still feels intimate but without the claustrophobia of tiny venues like the House of Blues. But then again, you could put Death Cab anywhere and I’d go just for similarly flawless versions of my favorites “Marching Bands of Manhattan” and “Different Names For The Same Thing.”

I could rhapsodize for a few more paragraphs, but I think the insane amount of Death Cab For Cutie merchandise I picked up is evidence enough…on the other hand, an LP, a t-shirt, and a huge poster are great, but this is one of those concerts that’s going to stick with me anyway.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Forum - August 31st, 2006

Only the Red Hot Chili Peppers could make up for being stuck in the parking lot an hour-and-a-half after the show ended, stuck behind a car of potheads simultaneously smoking and trying to drive.

But from the second the opening guitar of “Can’t Stop” began, they had us entranced (and most of the audience up and dancing in their seats) with tracks from their latest, Stadium Arcadium including my personal favorite, “Tell Me Baby,” along with some revisited material like By The Way’s “Throw Away Your Television” with its U2-esque flashing images of media-saturated characters like Michael Jackson, along with a lightning-fast, stomping “Me And My Friends” from The Uplift Mofo Party Plan.

Throughout their two hours onstage, each member of the band had a chance to solo a few times whether it was lead singer Anthony Kiedis taking over on drums or guitarist John Frusciante’s electrifying minutes in the spotlight. Even breaking a string during the intro of “Snow (Hey Oh)” and having to restart it a third time didn’t deter from just how incredible his tone is to listen to whether he’s taking on the driving rhythm of “Dani California” or providing his spot-on backing vocals.

I knew it before, but this concert just knocked it into me just how much the Peppers rock, plain and simple, and it was beyond worth the contact high to hear songs like “Give It Away” and “Charlie” the way they were meant to be -- lots of lights and energy, but mostly, loud.


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