Talk Boxes, Banjo Pickings

Photo by James Bunoan MELISSA ETHERIDGE
HOUSE OF BLUES, ANAHEIM
FRIDAY, FEB. 27

What—Melissa Etheridge a bit too mainstream for this space? Too Star 98.7, which sponsored this show even though Mel (she lets us call her that) is nowhere to be found on the oppressive Clear Channel station's current playlist—BECAUSE SHE'S A LESBIAN?!? Okay, we don't know that for sure, but since queers are this election cycle's Willie Horton, we're wanting to kick some skulls around. So we tried to forget the evil fucking world that thrives outside the HOB for a few hours, and we tried to have a good time and not be so nitpicky about stuff, and for the most part, we were successful. We're huge lesbians ourselves, and we've liked Mel for 15 years. We saw her at the Roxy back in '89, when she had huge heavy-metal hair. We followed her through her last album, which was all about how her ex had totally screwed her over emotionally (we can relate, sister!), and up to her current disc, which is all about finding love again and being happy and horny. We liked the giddy optimism she radiated from her first tune, in which she wants to see how lucky lucky can be, and "Lover Please," for which she used a talk box stolen from Frampton Comes Alive. We loved the sight of greatest-session-drummer-ever Kenny Aronoff in her band and the vision of 60-year-old drunken lesbo couples in the crowd rocking out and carrying on like mulletheads at a Jimmy Buffett show. We liked that she changes guitars onstage more often than Stevie Nicks changes costumes. And her songs, well, we liked those, too (except maybe for "Tuesday Morning," a maudlin new one that, while being about gay Sept. 11 icon Mark Bingham, still made us crinkle our face with her "Let's roll!" exhortation at the end). But we could have done without the cheesy telephone skit during "If You Want To" and her wank-o-rific guitar player, who did this horrifyingly long, drawn-out solo that reeked of the arena-rock graveyard from which he exhumed it. And "Like the Way I Do" just would not end—yeah, she emulates Springsteen and all, but this song isn't her "Rosalita," not by a long shot. Still, she went on for three hours with no halftime, which was pretty damned impressive, and she didn't even look like she was sweating much, either. A pretty great deal, even for 75 bucks, and in a room that's probably the size of her kitchen back home. (Rich Kane)

THE BLANK TAPES
THE GYPSY DEN, COSTA MESA
SATURDAY, FEB. 28

Been meaning to catch the Blank Tapes live ever since their terribly great 24-song, 80-minute self-released CD landed on our desk last summer. By "their," though, we really mean "his," since the "band" is essentially Matt Adams and a slew of partners-in-sonic-crime. So we entered the Gypsy as Matt was in the midst of banging out a sweet Ray Davies-esque number on his Hendrix/ Clash/Misfits-stickered acoustic, with a couple of kazoo players and a bassist in tow. The place was mobbed—people standing at the end of the ordering line kept bumping into Matt's mic stand. But this was about as laid-back a musical environment as we've seen in OC short of living-room gigs, so nobody minded—though we minded the standard coffeehouse problem of several incessantly chatty people who yakked on cell phones and loudly gulped their beverages. If they had only paid attention, they, too, would have been enthralled with Matt's delicious folkie/bluegrass-tinged tunes and lyrical musings—sometimes sad and plaintive, sometimes darkly funny, but all of it great, great stuff. This was what a front-porch hootenanny in the 1920s would have felt like, we guess, with harmonicas and banjo solos and finger-snaps keeping the beat and hard-luck lines about having no money in your pocket and hopping trains to get around because somebody made off with your bike. A swell time, and we're happy that Alan Siegel—a.k.a. "Barry Diamond, formerly of Tex Twil"—has found work sitting in with Matt as he did this night. Last we heard, Matt's putting together an electric group, and if that's half as good as what he's doing on an acoustic with his comrades, then they're already our new favorite band. (RK)

 
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