Jarvis Cocker @ the Wiltern 7/27/09

As published by LA RECORD:

I have seen the true King of Pop, and he’s not much like Michael Jackson — although they did once cross paths at the 1996 BRIT Awards when Jackson did his best to impersonate Jesus Christ during a performance of his “Earth Song,” and Jarvis Cocker and Pulp mate Peter Mansell stormed the stage. (Jarvis repeatedly shook his bum at Jackson and was later detained by police on suspicion of assault. He was never charged.) In his first proper L.A. concert since playing Coachella two years ago, Jarvis proved his monarchical status at the Wiltern on July 27. With not one Pulp tune for safety, Jarvis culled the set entirely from his own solo library, relying heavily on recently released sophomore album Further Complications—including the Stooges-inspired “Angela,” the purely joyful rocker “Further Complications” and the sax-driven “Homewrecker!” And he reached all the way back to 2007 with songs off his debut Jarvis for the swaggering pop perfection of “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time,” the deliciously “Crimson and Clover”-like “Black Magic” and the punk-thrasher “Fat Children.” As a dancer, he’s peerless, though he ain’t no moonwalker: Jarvis jerked about his freakishly long limbs with stone-cold geeky conviction. The band sounded so good and brought such a euphoric new dimension to the tracks that I couldn’t even hate Loud Drunk Guy behind me. He drowned out Jarv’s between-song quips with declarative bellowing. (“Stella makes you get in a FIGHT!” “Come ON, Jar-vis!” “Homewrecker!!!”) But anyone who sings along to Jarvis song—every single one, mind you—with such passion has to be a good guy, right? Jarv closed out the show out with “You’re in My Eyes (Discosong),” the final track off the new record, which was augmented by an actual disco ball shooting wondrous flickers of light into the audience. (P.S. I don’t know what the guy from the Weekly is talking about, saying the audience was not familiar with the material. Everyone around me—dead center in the pit—was singing along. If you don’t believe me, just ask L.D.G.)

—Linda Rapka

PJ Harvey & John Parish @ the Wiltern 6/27/09

My review as published by LA RECORD:

Polly Jean Harvey reaffirmed her undeniable prowess with sometime collaborator John Parish at the Wiltern Saturday night. Possessing a mystique and attitude far greater than her slight stature suggests, PJ carried the show with her dominating vocals, which were accentuated by irreverent movements clearly powered by the thralls of performance ecstasy. Everything about the stage set-up informed the audience that we were witnessing more than a mere rock show—instead, an event of theatric proportions. Similarly dressed from head to toe in sophisticated black, the band fused together into a singular unit. Each song was a world of its own, a point driven home by curtain-call-closing-lights-out after each and every song, followed by bows from each member of the band. PJ’s back-and-forth between sporadic spoken word, angelic coo and primal scream worked particularly well with the current band setup, and especially with the backing music of John Parish. Thirteen years after their last collaboration, the pair took on a separate-but-equal approach to the recently released A Woman A Man Walked By, with Parish composing all the music and Harvey writing all lyrics. Even the weakest moments on the album — the unsexy barking of “I want your fucking ass!” on “April,” the meandering melody of “Cracks in the Canvas” — commanded full attention in live form. The stellar standout performances of “Black Hearted Love,” “The Chair” and “Leaving California” solidified that the pair’s collaboration works best live.

—Linda Rapka

Brazilian Girls @ the Wiltern 10/31/06

I spent Halloween at the Wiltern to see experimental electropopsters the Brazilian Girls. Contrary to the band’s name, they’re from New York, and all but the lead singer are of the male persuasion. They cover a broad range of genres – neo-tango, bossa nova, lounge, electronica – blending in seductive lyrics with sublte sophistication.

I managed to wrangle a free ticket to the show (thank you, Craigslist!) and met up with some buddies to carpool. Upon my arrival at the designated meet-up station, I was ambushed by costume-wearing nazis whom I used to call friends and was forced by gun and sword to put on a pirate wench costume two sizes too small.

I was surprised to see that we were not the only ones filled with the Halloween spirit: a good 45% of the crowd was donning a costume, and happily for me I was not the sluttiest one there. Openers Under the Influence of Giants blew me away. I had only previously heard their radio hit “Mama’s Room” and was pleasantly surprised by the eclectic mix of genre-spanning, highly danceable and funky tunes in their set.

Headliners Brazilian Girls had every single person in the audience end up drenched in their own sweat after dancing the night away to their hypersexified electropop/d&b/funkysoulful stylings – “Pussy” and “Don’t Stop” being just a couple the evening’s highlights.

In an extremely rare and unexpected turn of events, I ended up being the only one sober enough to drive home. The ride back with a belligerent group comprised of a knight, cat burglar, cowgirl and drag queen was another matter altogether…