costa's hummer

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Concrete Blonde - Belly Up Tavern

Last night Leslie and I had the pleasure of catching Concrete Blonde at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. If you have the opportunity to check out this band, they are really a treat.

Concrete Blonde is the chanteuse Johnette Napolitano and her amazing guitar foil, James Mankey, backed by a drummer, Gabriel Ramirez.

This band has been around since the early eighties, Mankey previously playing for the band Sparks. Concrete Blonde was the moniker given to the big hair musicians in bands of the seventies like Poison or Ratt.

Let me just say that Johnette Napolitano is the most powerful woman singer I have ever witnessed, with the exception of Grace Slick. I was never lucky enough to see Janis live but Johnette is definitely the shit. Deep and soulful does not begin to describe.

It is hard to put her magic into words but I will try. A workmanlike and proficient bass player, she and the superlative guitar whiz Mankey dance around each other's notes like Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. She has a great sense of time and power and can really drive the sound when she needs to. Mankey is like watching a master candymaker pull taffy, beautiful sonic squiggles emanate from the brushstrokes of this aural Rembrandt's strat. They listen to each other very well.

Mankey is a humble and quiet man who eschews the spotlight, preferring to speak through his instrument. My favorite guitar player for the last ten years, he weaves the rhythm and leads artfully and effortlessly. He will occasionally put his pick in his mouth and starts this psychedelic plucking with his fingers like a gentle foreplay, coaxing divinely inspired music from his fretboard.

Johnette is scary. Truly. Gothic tales of blood and betrayal. Kind of a creepy Anne Rice-ish vampire thing going on. But so intelligent. A woman in full flower with the vocal strength of 100 mortals, able to sustain her cries for an eternity and fear no space to tread. Just a freaking great voice, a long beautiful physique and a brilliant mind. I was thinking last night that it was like music for people who have been through a few personal wars and tribulations in their lifetime. Who have gained in wisdom what they have perhaps lost in innocence. And the rose in full bloom that senses the approach of cool autumn, if I may be permitted a bit of poetry.

We missed the opening band, hanging out with Ron and Lena and going for matzoh ball soup at Miltons. Johnette came out in a sleek dress and high heels, looking very hot. Very sexy, beautiful woman. Just started ripping as always. Played a Midnight Oil tune, and all of the rest of her songs that I wanted to hear. Pulled something interesting out about the last time she did a wakemeup, in 1983.

Last time I saw her was alone at Cafe du Nord, a kind of woman's bar in San Francisco. Last year. A lesbian chick with a steamer tattooed on her chest and a crewcut thought I was getting wise with her girlfriend and wanted to have it out. Lots of dykey plaid nose ring girls last night as well and a couple acting sort of crappy around Les.  But the crowd for the most part was really great and appreciative and we had a great time.

Leslie and I catch every tour they play and I think Johnette looked better than she has in years. And played better. Every Concrete Blonde show I ever went to had some great musical payoff. This was no different.

Highly recommended.