As the beautiful Los Angeles summer continues, KCRW held one more event to celebrate the opening of the Who Shot Rock & Roll photo exhibit at The Annenberg Space for Photography. Those with us regularly might remember that we previously covered Portugal. The Man’s headlining performance at the space and a few weeks before that the opening kick-off event featuring a double-header from Moby. For this final event Band of Skulls and Raphael Saadiq rocked the stage backed by KCRW DJ Anne Litt spinning in between sets. Notably, Band of Skulls made this headlining performance flying in directly from Lollapalooza in Chicago, performing there the previous night. The whole event was billed as “A night of music celebrating Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,” a massive benefit album for Amnesty International which both bands contributed a Bob Dylan cover for.
All photos by Richard Saethang
Interesting to point out for this installment of the concert series, it seemed as if the beautiful space nestled in between the skyscrapers of Century City was less packed and chaotic than previous weeks. Where before every food eatery and beer garden boasted a line of patrons, now the attendees comfortably found their space or moved around the descending tiers of the park. The double-edged sword was that the free event reached capacity several hours before either band took the stage, netting fans either turned away or being told via Twitter not even to head to the event. Good rule of thumb for free concert enthusiasts in a metropolitan area: always arrive early.
We’ve covered the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit extensively in our previous stories on this concert series. We’ll simply say that if you haven’t seen the exhibit already, head down to Century City and check it out. If you’re a serious fan of music, photography or both, you’re in for a real treat. It could quite possibly be one of the best collections of rock photography ever assembled.
As resident KCRW DJ and music supervisor Anne Litt spun for the crowd, they got comfortable on blankets in the park’s grassy tiers. Raphael Saadiq–who some of you might remember as a member of the extremely talented band Tony! Toni! Toné! in the early 90’s–was up first tonight. Saadiq owned the stage right from the beginning of his first song, “Stone Rollin’.” Flanked by two backing singers (Erika Jerry and BJ Kemp) Saadiq coolly strummed an electric guitar and sang with all the confidence and soul power of the late 60’s greats. The energy continued on “Heart Attack” and “Radio,” prompting the crowd to dance along happily. Curiously, Saadiq made the evening’s one reference to the stated Chimes of Freedom theme, performing his cover of “Leopard Skin Pill Box.” Saadiq delivered in a short set on par with the modern greats Janelle Monae, Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. For having just over thirty minutes to play, that’s an accomplishment and it appeared as though both Saadiq and the crowd would have liked this set to go on way longer. His closing number was a jammed-out take on early solo career number, “Skyy Can You Feel Me.”
Band of Skulls followed Saadiq’s set after a short interlude. While no less technically competent, in comparison to the rambunctious spirit of Saadiq’s set this lacked a degree of pizzazz. Where during the previous set the crowd on hand was visibly dancing and enjoying themselves, during Band of Skulls it was more the standard stationary, polite toe tapping. Twin vocalists of the band Emma Richardson (also on bass) and Russell Marsden (also on guitar) both sing well, yet their vocal interplay seems to follow the same melody and occupy the same octave range. Their trick is more of a chant than a harmony, and it’s hard not to wish they would trade off vocal phrases more. Still, “Sweet Sour,” “Patterns” and “I Know What I Am” (with it’s catchy chorus of “But it’s alright / It’s okay / I got the time / But the time don’t pay”) are all rocking fun and “Devil Takes Care of His Own” featured excellent pummeling drumming from Matt Hayward. Band of Skulls sound good, but there’s just something missing. They need something to make them jump off the page, whether it needs to be a stellar single or something more energetic in their performance. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it just doesn’t grab the listener the way it should, demanding attention and enthusiasm.
It’s hard to complain on a free summer event backed by a one-of-a-kind exhibit though. This was the place to be in Los Angeles this summer. Hopefully, this is the first of many events held in this space over the next several years.
Raphael Saadiq Setlist:
100 Yard Dash
Leopard Skin Pill Box
Moving Down The Line
Skyy Can You Feel Me
Band of Skulls Setlist:
I Know What I Am
Devil Takes Care of His Own
You’re Not Pretty But You’ve Got it Going On
Light of the Morning
Death by Diamonds and Pearls