Monday, February 18, 2008

BLACK LIPS live review

Black Lips at the El Rey live review, LA RECORD

The Valentine’s Day Black Lips show was all about LOVE. Teenage sweeties in the audience pushed their way forward to shove homemade valentines into the hands of guitarist Ian St Pe, and there were a surprising number of brave young things who climbed onto the stage explicitly to throw their arms around singer Cole Alexander. Drummer Joe Bradley played with a glowing heart, fastened out of rope lights, inside his bass drum, and Jared Swilley was courteous enough to use his forehead multiple times to bounce back a communal beach ball when it floated his way—until, of course, he smashed it with his foot and threw the deflated carcass back into the crowd. The most endearing part of the evening was Alexander’s chivalrous rescue of a young pink-haired girl —he rushed in to pull the offending arm of a large security guard off of her so she could continue to crowd surf in peace. Actually, throughout the night Alexander—not a large man but certainly a brave and loyal one—had to run to the rescue of so many manhandled kids that his face started to harbor wrinkles of sincere frustration, almost as though he wanted to apologize for subjecting his people to this kind of lame treatment. It did seem like an incredible waste of manpower on the side of the El Rey. When I first heard that the Black Lips were scheduled to play this venue, I was worried. I thought that the space was a) too big and b) not really their style—those who have seen the Black Lips previously would know that hanging chandeliers and candlelit dinner tables aren’t exactly the optimum setting for their cyclonic live show. But the venue ended up being completely and almost uncomfortably packed—due, most likely, to the constant radio play of their 2007 single “Cold Hands.” And as far as the El Rey not being their style, well, I should’ve known from last October’s wild performance at the Troubadour (and the video footage of their gig in Tijuana) that the Black Lips have the power to turn proper community social halls into dens of public masturbation and pleasurable group aggression. Nothing short of shackling each of their eight feet to the floor would prevent the Lips from hijacking control of their performance space, and that power lies in both the strength of their material and their collective adorable charisma. They played a rotating waltz of garage, doo-wop, and southern-punk songs off their last three albums and didn’t lose steam until perhaps their encore performance of “Veni Vidi Vici,” when Alexander’s voice was audibly strained. Exempting the occasions the Black Lips are thrown out of their own shows for lewd behavior, there is nary a band that can guarantee such an enjoyable night out.

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