20 September 2009

Always the summers are slipping away

There are times that no matter how much I like a song (or in some cases, am indifferent to its charms), hearing it lives changes the whole way I listen to it. Last night, "Trains," which I've always been partial to, was that sort of experience. It was like the first time I heard "Natural Science" live, or "Life and How to Live It"--transcendent.

This was another of those almost-didn't-go nights. Lately, I've been living on adrenaline and frustration, and trying to get into downtown ever is not easy, especially when the 405 North is closed by a massive car accident. But true to form, the more I don't want to be somewhere, the more fun I have.

The show was scheduled to start at 8 with the opening act, and I got to will call to pick up my ticket at 7:50. The whole L.A. Live area has changed dramatically since I saw Rush at the theater there a little more than a year ago, and it's all still under construction, and neither I nor the cab driver knew where we going.

(And it turns out, the Emmys were being held in the theater tonight, which explains a lot of what was going on in the vicinity last night.)

So that part was excitement I could have lived without.

Actually finding Club Nokia took some doing, too, since it is located on the third floor of a complex of restaurants. I'll hand it to the staff of the place, though: they were uniformly polite and well-informed and gave good directions to get everyone where they were going. The only hang-up for me (besides having trouble finding will call) was the nice people's insistence on looking for me on the guest list while I was equally insistent that no, I bought a ticket and that was what I needed. It must have been the head-to-toe black.

Club Nokia was a bit of a surprise. It's definitely got a club atmosphere, but I couldn't quite parse what felt like '80s decor--it opened less than a year ago. I was in the GA area (standing room only), and it was slightly claustrophobic because of the way the balcony above extended nearly to the stage. Of course, being me, I was checking out the construction and the support structures and the nearest exit. Pleasantly, though the show was sold out, the crowd was not completely overwhelming. The stage itself was on the smallish side, and I'd parked myself off to stage left, so the back of the stage was well hidden. Still, the tiered construction of the GA area helped with the sight lines, and I had a spot right at the rail above the first tier, so it was an unobstructed view of the front of the stage. And the venue is a good bit smaller than I'd expected, so the vibe was similar to the places where I used to hang out in my younger days--the Palladium, the Palace, even Club Lingerie (which really was small)--but with much better acoustics.

I'm going to refrain from saying much about the opening act other than not my taste in music and leave it there.

Porcupine Tree, on the other hand, was pretty amazing. I bought the new album right away, and have had it on repeat, so it was a pleasant surprise that they played the first disc in its entirety. Again, a case where live blows the studio recording out of the water. "Drawing the Line," "The Incident," and "Time Flies" in particular gave me goose bumps, though it was all wonderful. (I'm not sure that I should admit "Your Unpleasant Family" just makes me laugh, especially when Steven Wilson sings, "How vile they are..." because it brings an unbidden image of certain people I avoid like the plague. Who have a history of smashing cars.)

The second set was all older material with the exception of "Bonnie the Cat," and all stuff I was thrilled to hear. "Trains" was simply electric.

It was good to haul myself out of the kitchen and back out into the world. It's been far too long.

Go listen to some good music: "Trains" from the album In Absentia by Porcupine Tree.

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