Saturday, July 28, 2007

Maximo Park w/ The Oohlas, Monsters Are Waiting on 7.27.07

I'd put off seeing Maximo Park the last couple of times they'd come to the US, so after hearing about their phenomenal live show from a number of people, it seemed only fair to give them a chance this time around. As with the aforementioned Nice Boys show, I suppose, the opening acts seemed an odd fit for the angular Britpoppers, both the Oohlas and Monsters Are Waiting offering very slinky, dark pop-rock that is distinctly Los Angeles as of late.

I was torn on the Oohlas for female vocalist/guitarist Olivia Stone, who appeared to be having a blast living out the rock star dream and smiled heartily when a girl in the audience yelled “That's the sickest dress I've ever seen!” It was nice to see a band fronted by someone who relished the attention, but she also had the rock frontwoman act down pat – pose, smile, hair flips, shake hips, etcetera. She also spat on stage in the name of rock 'n' roll, pointed out the fact in a cutesy voice, then hiked up her dress so we could see where her glittery tights ended and crotch began. In fact, at least two male photographers made sure to get crotch shots.

Supporting act and fellow L.A. natives Monsters Are Waiting admittedly put on a quality set, opened with the breathy “Ha Ha” and did a pretty spot-on Stone Roses cover; “I Wanna Be Adored” sounded quite tight, and Annalee Fery's limited voice actually followed the form of Ian Brown's distant, dreamy pleas quite decently. Fery also obliged to the bunny dance – it is what it sounds like – and stepped out for a quick bow or three after nearly every song. Most interesting of all to watch, though, was the special effect that allowed Fery to be projected in negative on the large screen behind the band. The live, negative images were sort of reminiscent of heat sensors, or what someone wearing a bit of green looks like disappearing slowly into a green screen. Or any music video from the 1960s, for that matter. However, Fery also donned fishnets and heels, which brings me to a major (Andy Rooney-style) gripe.

Major gripe being: women's stage outfits. Don't get me wrong, I'll readily admit that being a girl is fun, even if only because cleavage is awesome and skirts are comfortable. But why do so many women feel the need to flaunt it on stage? Sure, a performance is a prime time to show off your great legs and great dress, but for every Regine Chassagne, Kristin Hersh or Michelle Mae, a woman who simply performs as part of a band, there are about five women in lesser known bands who feel the need to pull off this sweetly seductive “watch me play cute in a minidress” act. PJ Harvey's performed in her bra before, but she's also written some brilliant songs and sings like a queen in command (no 50-foot jokes, please). Same with Beth Ditto – say what you will about the Gossip, whether you like them or not, but the woman can sing her ass off to back up that strut. I don't instantly take issue with women in short skirts, nor do I expect women to dress like men on stage, but when the “sexy chick in heels” look becomes a stronger memory than someone's musicianship, I question whether said sexy chick is directing the focus in an effort to compensate. For anything, really. While neither band in recorded form is necessarily my cup of tea, both the Oohlas and Monsters Are Waiting really do put on tight shows if music is the sole factor being measured. But their camera-ready frontwomen, using hair as props, make me wonder if there'll be any female rock icons in thirty years.

Still, it's wrong to dote on the negative, so to play the game of equal opportunity by turning a man into meat, it turns out that Paul Smith of Maximo Park is equally as fit as the night's female counterparts. I suppose it doesn't help that for a moment, he stood in front of my face and all but handed me the evening's second crotch view (way to put a cap on the review of a sexually charged show, eh?). That aside, it was apparent one song into the headliner's set that there are bands who cannot be fairly judged until seen live, and Maximo Park certainly falls under this category. Smith is all over the place, dramatically gesturing with hands and fists, jumping off the drummer's platform for every other song, running about like a hybrid of Pelle Almqvist and Malcolm McDowell (see Tyrannosaurus Hives-ready outfit and bowler hat, respectively). Impossibly energetic keyboardist Lukas Wooller nearly competes with him, doing keyboard jumping jacks and furiously pointing his finger under the umbrella of a new wave haircut.

It was also impressive to see how loyal and loving Maximo Park's fans are – the mostly-young audience (and the parents of a few) raised fists and fingers on cue alongside Smith and Wooller, proving one of the more thoroughly enthusiastic audiences to show up to a Los Angeles performance in recent days. The majority cheered for each moment that bassist Archis Tiku stepped forward and knew every word of every song, giving the greatest attention to “Apply Some Pressure” and “Our Velocity.” And to some of the other ladies up front, Smith was, in all fairness, a snazzily-dressed piece of man meat.

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