Live Reviews

Photo by Matt Otto VAN HALEN Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, Mon., Aug. 16 Whatever happened to the Hessian class of '84? The lanky, mulleted stoner boys who dreamed of someday drumming like Neil Peart or howling like Bruce Dickinson? And their skanky, feather-haired girlfriends who fantasized of deep-throating Dee Snider when they weren't scribbling imaginary love notes to Vince Neil across the fronts of their Pee-Chees? Now we know. Somehow, after several rehab stints, they all intermarried and grew up to be rich Newport Beach Republicans. How else explain the preponderance of Benzes in the parking lot of this Van Halen nostalgia show and their owners' willingness to fork out the cash for $90-and-up tickets (we'll say it again: back in '84, people got all snitty about the Jacksons charging $30 a pop for ducats to the Victory tour … Jesus, we are fucking old!) and $35 T-shirts that blurt VAN HALEN KICKS ASS on the back? The whole thing felt like a big 20-year high school reunion--bastions of early-40-ish types acting and talking as if they were 17 again and the '90s never happened. But the guys are losing their hair, and their wives/girlfriends/sluts went and got boob jobs and all matter of plasticized accoutrements and weren't shy about showing them off this night. Ever see a 40-year-old woman in black fishnets standing in the middle of a room and wagging her ta-tas in the hopes that Sammy Hagar will notice her? We have. And we may never be the same again. No, time has not been kind to these graduates of the Heavy Metal Parking Lot. But Van Halen seemed to be totally, weirdly ageless. Both Eddie and Alex walked onstage with their shirts off, buffed and waxed, ready to go, while Michael Anthony and Sammy looked exactly as we remembered them. Ageless-or do they just refuse to grow up, preferring to indulge in the extended adolescence rawk provides? Oh, yeah . . . we watched as Eddie sucked on several cigarettes, even though he had part of his tongue removed because of cancer. And we saw Sammy, Mike and Ed take gulps from whatever the audience handed them, even though Ed did time in alcohol rehab, unless it was grape juice in those cups, but we doubt it (Mike even brought out that old Jack Daniels bass--isn't that the very definition of "enabling"?). It felt uncomfortably like paying to watch Courtney Love shoot up between her toes. But whatever. Close your eyes, and you could've transported back to the heyday of big arena rock, what with "Why Can't This Be Love," "Best of Both Worlds," "Runaround," even the old David Lee Roth-era standards like "Jump," "Unchained," "Panama" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." All four guys took long, tortuous solo turns, Hagar kept bellowing, "Anaheim!" and "Are we having fun yet?" and during "Poundcake," the song's video flashed overhead, returning everyone back to the era of big-haired video vixens. And spittle from a drunken douchebag who hollered for "I Can't Drive 55" landed on the back of my head. Y'know, Gary Cherone is probably glad he got out when he did. (Rich Kane)

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MATMOS Winifred Smith Hall, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UC Irvine SECT Seminar, Irvine, Sat., Aug. 21

Within a small community of experimental electronic music enthusiasts--EEMEs, we should call ourselves--Matmos are legends. They're best known for their collaborations with Bjork, but the electronic duo won a place in critics' hearts by using unconventional sounds in their compositions: on 1999's A Chance to Cut is A Chance to Cure, Matmos turned filtered samples of the snips, clips, suctions, and squelches that occur during cosmetic surgery into a bouncy electronic album; their latest EP, Rat Relocation Program, samples a rat they captured in a non-lethal "Have A Heart Trap" and later set free in a wealthy suburban neighborhood.

But neither dirty little rats nor upscale suburbia brought Matmos to Irvine. Instead, it was out-there intellectualism—the kind found at the University of California's Humanities Research Institute, which is headquartered at UC Irvine. Half of Matmos—which is to say Drew Daniel—is a critical theory nut. He was going to be in town, anyway, to attend this summer's Seminar In Critical Theory (SECT) titled "Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Event"; on a whim he asked the local eggheads if Matmos could perform at the symposium. Thus was created one of the more unusual musical juxtapositions of the year: the ballet aficionados exiting luxury cars outside the Barclay while the Coke-bottle-glasses crowd found its way to more radical art around the bend.

Despite the Ivory Tower setting and a number of grad students and professors in the crowd exchanging meta-analysis, the Matmos performance was as light-hearted as their records. Their casual feel sets Matmos apart from more mathematical electronic brethren like Autechre and Oval. Daniel and M.C. Schmitt (Matmos' other half) set this tone before a single note was played, walking around the auditorium before the show, talking to the crowd. When the lights went down and the audience applauded, M.C. cut through the clapping and said relax: "It's not like you guys didn't just see us 20 seconds ago."

The interactivity of Matmos and its audience continued throughout the evening, in ways planned and spontaneous. On the very first song Schmitt used a mouthpiece to blow bubbles into a fish bowl and create a weird baby elephant cry; a human baby in the audience responded with cries of his own. For a while, Matmos got serious: Daniel jumped in with his synthesizer for an hour of filtered found-sound hypnotism; a guitar sound was deconstructed; and MC Schmitt gutted an open piano while a video revealed the hidden aggressive/percussive elements hidden within.

More characteristic was Matos' tongue-in-cheek thank-you to the seminar, in which they played music to remixed video clips from Planet of the Apes—and nobody in the audience missed the obvious reference to Man's propensity for authoritarian rule and police states, even after staging revolutions, or the irony (at least one sequel in the series was filmed on the UCI campus), did they? But it was the final performance that best captured Matmos' sense of Dada-like play. The room was almost dark for this strictly video piece that started with the looped sound of an ass slap. The image was then broken into four quadrants, each looping the ass-slap. A beat emerged. And after a few minutes of beats and breaks, the image went to black and M.C. Schmitt dropped trou, bent over Daniel's lap, and Daniel started slapping his partner's butt-cheeks while M.C. Schmitt clapped against the floor. The video started up again with a new slap-happy beat and the stage exploded into a sort of ass-slapping drum circle. Yes, it's official: this is art! (Maxwell Yim)

IKE TURNER Blue Cafe, Long Beach, Sat., Aug. 21 It's a shame all Ike Turner is gonna be remembered for is rubbing his knuckles and going, "Awww, Tina, baby"--yeah, we'll use that line 'til it stops being true--because he still plays that guitar just like a-ringin' a bell, but only on "Johnny B. Goode," and otherwise he holds it real tight and pulls notes off the neck like wings off a fly.

Enjoying that virtuosity on this night wasn't all that easy, though; there was a lot of environmental static to tune out: the backing band looked like a bunch of dentists (except for the seasoned guys on trumpet and piano) and the new Tina—C'mon, you know everyone was thinking it!—was spitting out more tacky brass than the whole horn section. Ike doesn't need that stuff. The show should really have just been Ike and his guitar, soloing in front of his Mercedes (vanity plate IKE TURN) with occasional breaks to tune and glare at people. But he still hacked at that whammy bar until his guitar started tuning in satellite signals, cutting between the gimme-songs like "Proud Mary" (barf; save it for Radio Disney) with lightning bolts like Lonnie Mack's '65 instrumental "Chicken Pickin'." People were loving it so unconditionally that some guy had to keep tactfully pulling some woman's woozy head back from his Dockers-safed crotch, and when the bass player would go, "Hey, do you guys like . . .THE BLUES?" they'd all tear out the kind of screams you save for a last-second field goal.

They finished the second set with a few songs by Not Tina ("Honky Tonk Woman"?!?), which was okay but sort of a tame conclusion, and when Ike was walking to the bar after the set and our photographer ("Our photographer JAMES BUNOAN," our photographer tells me right now) tapped Ike on the shoulder to ask about Mickey Baker, he whipped around like he was gonna punch him. Man, that woulda been so awesome! (Chris Ziegler)

ALOE BLACC, DJ EXILE, ROYAL BLU Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa Thur., Aug. 19 "That guy looks like a rapper," someone said as Royal Blu moved through the crowd, wearing a jacket zipped up to his neck and a hat too small for his head, looking for someone to dance with before he stepped on stage. And he was: breathing room was tight and the record needle jumped not once but twice as DJ Exile--green army hat tilted low over his face--set up behind the turntables and Aloe Blacc, who's been doing freestyle battles since first-grade recess, strutted onto the stage behind him. Royal Blu hit the crowd with so much energy it looked like he was chewing the side of his own face, starting with a quick political rhyme perfect for an election year: talking about Viet vets begging for money, talking about George W. Bush--that last one went by in a second but it still didn't seem like he had too much nice to say about the guy. Aloe's more obviously seasoned; his relaxed, conversational stage presence underlined the years he's got on Blu. The place was packed and when Aloe told people to put their hands in their air, they all jumped up like there was money hanging from the ceiling. (Charlie Rose) ENIRQUE BUNBURY The Grove, Anaheim, Monday, Aug. 16 Vintage Mack Sennett movie clips set the stage for Spanish rock en espanol demigod Enrique Bunbury's show at the cavernous Grove, complete with a deliriously joyous soundtrack of swooping trombones and clattering piano keys. What? No, just whatnot—which seems to be the essence of the crazed genius of Bunbury, a showman so consummate that Steve Wynn ought to build him a casino on the Vegas Strip. It is a testament to Bunbury that his audience—grimy rockeros dressed in their spiked best and ready to rumble—not only tolerated the ancient antics of the Keystone Kops, but some even danced to the other-era music. Bunbury didn't disappoint when he finally sauntered on stage in a glittering cowboy that recalled fat-era Elvis. He immediately delved into his whatsumever repertoire: monster rock jams so wretched that even Sammy Hagar would hold his nose, sinuous Middle Eastern tracks sutured onto Dixieland jazz, rockabilly, Delta blues, and some unclassifiable things that could play as easily at a circus as at mortuary. This Iberian Robert Goulet closed his initial set with a tortured version of Mexican ranchera legend José Alfredo Jiménez's "El Jinete," Bunbury's gravel pit of a throat rasping out the song's defeated lament. And Bunbury even took time between the chaos to ask fans to "do the world a favor" and "change presidents in November, please." Take note, gabacho audiences: the all-Latin crowd roared its approval to Bunbury's admonition. No rootin'-tootin' night would be right without a fight. After Bunbury concluded his third curtain call with a gruff waltz, a rockero jumped onstage and swiped Bunbury's jacket, which hung from a mic stand. A quadruple tug of war quickly ensued between the fan, Bunbury's people, Grove security and other rockeros scratching for a piece of the jacket. Nearby, a man flipped over a table and socked someone. Onstage, film credits rolled to "Fin." And then everyone moshed the night away. (Gustavo Arellano)
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