Madrone sunrise, Point Lobos

Monday, November 24, 2014

Love Revisited

Leslie and I don't get out to see much music anymore. There are a multitude of reasons for this. We live in the country, far away from any decent venues, ticket prices are steep, we are getting older and frankly there just isn't a lot of music out there that really floats our boat.

During the last nineteen years p.j. (post jerry) only two performers have really grabbed our attention, must see, if they aren't too far away, Love and Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. Love hasn't been playing too much since Arthur Lee died. Ditto the absence of Johnette and Jim.

We saw a ton of Love shows when Arthur was around and were never disappointed. Love was arguably the greatest band from Los Angeles and their album Forever Changes is thought by many to be the greatest rock album of all time. It is truly a masterpiece. Arthur was a huge influence on Jimi and was sometimes referred to as the first black hippie.

Love Revisited had a show last month at the El Cid in Los Angeles but we decided to wait until the band came to San Diego this weekend. They played at the Casbah with Mike Stax's band, The Loons and Bunnynose Saturday night.

We drove down to San Diego and after looking for parking for a half hour, met our friend Chip at the Whole Foods parking lot in Hillcrest. Chip is a fellow guitar player and ardent musicologist who contributes on my collaborative music blog, Birdseye Music.

Chip took us to a great thai place for dinner, Lotus Thai on sixth and Robinson. Penang curry with duck, phad thai, thai ribs, thai rice, the place was outrageous, albeit a bit loud for us old farts.

We showed up at the Casbah a little after nine. I parked at the tall airport parking garage across the street that everyone was so pissed that they built and watched the jets fly right overhead. One day I am going to set my tripod up on the roof and bag some pictures.

We reconnoitered at the door and got our names checked off the will call. Bunnynose was playing a twangy Dylan song in a sort of country punk way and I quickly surveyed the interesting mix of young and old hipsters and devotees.

I really dig the Casbah. Need to get me some pointy shoes but my purple paisley shirt gave me some measure of psych cred, although the impact was somewhat diminished by the button popping strain of my enormous girth.

The Loons eventually came on and gave a spirited set, an Elevators cover, two good guitarists, everybody having fun. My buddy Lou Bacher's son used to play with this band.

Stax is the publisher of Ugly Things magazine, a really good guy and musician, his wife plays bass, it was very cool and sounded good.

Last year the Casbah hosted his thirtieth anniversary of the magazine three day event and we saw Love play, with a Swedish singer named Ebbot Lundberg who may have actually been a little drunk. He was a bit too theatrical for my taste, couple booze with an Ian Anderson type stage presence and attendant narcissism and it sort of tempered my enjoyment of the evening.

There was none of that this year. Rusty sang lead. They played an opening song or two and then said they were going to play the greatest album of all time and they did. Phenomenally. The ensemble was as tight as maybe I have ever seen them, even when Arthur was around. Johnny Echols, the original lead guitar on stage right, the original drummer, Michael Stuart Ware (Once of the Sons of Adam), sitting in here and there.

Love Revisited was Arthur's last iteration of Love, made up of members of the band Baby Lemonade but they actually had a longer tenure than any of the previous bands. A great band. I should add that we miss Arthur Lee so much!

This night they had a great horn and flute player and also a small string section consisting of a pistachio hued electric cello, violin and viola. I met the cellist on the sidewalk before the show and exchanged pleasantries, me being an ex cellist, that is if you count the fourth through sixth grade. This was not the large scandinavian string outfit that we saw play with Arthur on occasion, this was the brunette contingent. The cellist was sweet, a great player. They all were, the little violinist rocked.

I am not going to break it down song by song but the night was incredible. We were in the front, leaning on the stage. The syncopation and timing was mesmerizing. Randle seemed to be soloing less than usual and more interested in keeping a perfect groove with Johnny.

Randle is playing the fender custom tele these days instead of the customary white Gibson. Johnny was shredding a Schecter. Chapple was spot on on his trusty, beat up precision bass, Green ripped on the skins. But mostly the player of the night, at least for me, was Rusty Squeezebox on his electric hollow body and Gibson j-45.

Rusty is now a first rate singer. He sang loud and emphatically, a departure from prior years, with a newfound confidence and authority. In tune and with perfect timing. He was always in the background before vocally and the difference between then and now, and Ebbot and he, was extraordinary.  Love's new lead singer was already playing in the band. Cool. Chapple sang a rappy song as well, did a really nice job.

The electric cello also added something that I had never heard before, played as a counterpoint to her fellow string players, the sound cutting through with sonic abrasion and really adding something previously unheard to the mix.

After the Love album they played some other songs including a ripping Seven and Seven, Stephanie Knows who from Da Capo as well as Orange Skies. Echols delivered a nice version of the brooding Signed D.C..

We hung around, talked to and thanked the band after the show, now around 1:30 in the morning. They signed the excellent show poster for me. I got four hours sleep and went to work yesterday morning. Just like the old days.

If you don't know Love and Forever Changes, do yourself a favor, go to youtube and give them a listen. Better yet, if they are playing near you, make sure that you check them out. One of the few bands out there I would pay to see these days.


Anonymous said...

Sounds great. Wish they'd play nyc. But they don't tour ever.


Anonymous said...

Robert, it was great seeing you at the show. That review is not only flattering beyond words but it is beautifully written! Today's music writers have no clue.

Thanks again. I am sending this to Diane Lee (Arthur's widow)

Mike Randle

Anonymous said...

Really great article! Have had nothing but Forever Changes songs in my head since Saturday evening. Thanks again for the tickets!


Anonymous said...

Wish they would come play in the Bay Area...


Anonymous said...

I was at that show too. I love the music but the mix must have sounded better up in the front row where you could hear the sound directly from the amps on stage. Farther back the PA sounded way too loud to be appropriate (except for 7&7 is) and the strings, trumpet and flute were often not in the mix at all (wake up, sound man!) I like loud music, but this was distortion and feedback (the bad kind) I felt like reminding the sound man he was mixing Love, not Motorhead, but he wouldn't have heard me. The previous show at El Cid was performed and mixed beautifully. Parts were breathtaking. At either show they could have used better lighting and a bigger stage, but maybe they're waiting for a bigger audience, so everyone go see them again next time they play! -RJ

Blue Heron said...

Thanks for your review, RJ. I agree that the mix sucked. Soundman couldn't get the horn right and there were other problems, principally everything was a little too bright. Tough little room.

I had an advantage in the front as I could hear the strings and horn without amplification and everything was hunky dory. But I think that love sounds best when you can hear both the loud and quiet sections.

Peace in Love.