Glasvegas – Ida Maria – at The Music Box a the Fonda Theater – Hollywood, CA – July 28, 2009
July 28, 2009
If you are a reader of SPIN magazine you may have caught their recent “Top 20 Albums of 2009…So Far”. On the chance you caught the article the names of the two artists I caught on Tuesday at The Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, Glasvegas and Ida Maria, should be familiar ones. If you haven’t read it these are two artists that are going to be getting some major press this year and I am here to give you an inside look of their performances.
The doors opened at 8pm but, in typical Hollywood fashion, the lines didn’t start moving until closer to 8:15. The 15 minutes isn’t a big deal but the one huge problem with any show at this venue is that most people pick up their tickets at will call and there is only one window with two people behind it. It took me, who arrived minutes before 8, almost 35 minutes just to get into the venue. While I was prepared for this there were plenty of others that got their closer to 9 and still had a 30 minute wait to pick up their ticket, thus missing the first half of the Norwegian known as Ida Maria.
Opening up to a half filled audience, which did not seem to fluster her in the least bit. In a golden metallic dress and skull guitar strap she welcomed the crowd and explained she was from Norway and happy to be in California before breaking off into the start of her set which was almost all songs from her current release “Fortress Around Your Heart”.
I’m sure I am not the first, or will be the last, to say she is the Kate Nash of 2009 but that wouldn’t really be fair to her. The music she has crafted isn’t that of the piano variety, its more poppy and gritty than anything Nash has done. Each faced paced song just oozes alternative/indie rock radio.
Between the twirling around on stage, causing her dress to poof out, to the mid set break with her taking off her boots and socks it was hard to ever look away from her during the set.
“If you haven’t got a boyfriend or girlfriend, now is the time. So take the persons hand that is next to you.”
This was her intro to the only ballad of the set, “Keep Me Warm”. The song started off slow and her voice just had a feeling of a Feist song. Everything changed the moment the entire backing band stopped and it was just her. The struggle and cracking of her voice at this moment is one that I will not forget. It was so emotional and strained that you could feel her passion to the words she has written.
“This next song is about a stupid boy…the lyrics will explain it,” and with that the group went into “Forgive Me”.
I really love when a band or artist takes the time out to chat about why songs were written and Ida really has the banter down. Sure, her music may not be anything that hasn’t been done before but I do think that a ton of people are going to latch onto her like they did in recent years with women from over the pond like Lilly Allen, Lykke Li and Kate Nash.
With songs about stupid boys, whiskey and beer it is hard not to find something that any person can relate to. Even her voice changes from song to song, from smooth and silky, to loud snarled screams, there is something that is going to connect with everyone and something that can cross various generes.
The song highlight, and one that I assume will be played on MTV all year long, is “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.” The audience, which had finally filled in midway through her set, was all waiting for this song. When it got to the chorus and she was screaming, “I like me so much better when your naked” it became a huge sing-a-long with guys and girls alike throwing their collective hands in the air and shouting along.
When you hear that many people screaming along with a song you know this is going to be the big radio single that is going to make her a sensation. Its fast, its fun, and who doesn’t like someone so much better when they’re naked. I know I do.
It was a solid 40 minutes before the houselights would dim back down and the band trying to bring back the shoegaze, Glasvegas would be ready to thrill the crowd.
By this time in the evening it seemed like not that many more people had joined the crowd on the floor. This tour was to have two nights at the Fonda but, due to poor ticket sales, was dropped to just this one night. At first this was a little bit of a shocker cause of all the press and media attention on both groups, but let me continue with the review.
The curtains came up and Glasvegas walked onto the stage and went right into “Geraldine”, the first single off their self-titled album. The layered guitars and wall of sound was one that can simply be compared to My Bloody Valentine, just with less substance and uniqueness.
Singer James Allen, complete with black Ray Bans (which he would never take off the whole evening) and a white scarf, would be one of the few good things about this group. From bending around the mic to going on his knees singing it was a captivating to see what he was doing.
He even took the time after the third song to run over to “drummer” Caroline McKay to plop a kiss on her mouth. Not sure if they are an item or anything but she started laughing uncontrollably. The reason for quotes around drummer is that she does not use a full kit. Only two drums and a single cymbal to her kit which she plays standing up.
With only 3 possible things to hit you would think she would have had an easy time.
She would speed up or slow down on every song just making them sound atrocious if that wasn’t bad enough, the way the drums were mic-ed up also made them sound like practice drum pads you would play in an apartment to not bother the neighbors. To make matters even worse they were so loud it was hard not to cringe each time she slammed a drumstick onto a drum.
Maybe it wasn’t just me that wasn’t feeling their playing. By the third song of the set people started to clear out, which has to be disappointing to a band, especially one that had such an interesting light show.
An amazing set of light bursts of a variety of colors would fill the stage and then drop off. From complete darkness to a stage filled with oranges and blues you could tell this group is and has been playing stadium shows in the UK. They even had a huge black and white movie that would be playing on the back screen the entire time which would turn red and blue and made some amazing moments to capture in pictures.
Sure they have been billed way high on the European summer festival circuit, hence the video and lights, but having a great stage show isn’t going to save sloppy playing.
I almost never saying negative things about a band I review, especially one that I would recommend to anyone on album, but sometimes I just have to tell it like it is. The vocals were subpar and strained, the drummer was terribly offbeat and needs to be replaced, and would it kill them to have atleast a few interesting words to fill in the gaps between songs?
The main problem I had with them as a headliner, a top billed band, was the set time. When you pay $20 for a ticket you expect to get a full set, something that is at least an hour, right? Well guess what, as they finished their last song, and my personal favorite off their album “Go, Square, Go”, they still hadn’t hit that mark. In reality they barely cracked half of that.
They did come back for a couple more songs, but it would have taken a whole ‘nother setlist to break the hour mark. Hell, Ida Maria with the opening spot, played 40 minutes and didn’t even encore. I mean there were some highlights for Glasvegas but Ida really stole the show and the spotlight away from them, even if she didn’t have a crazy video and blazing lights the whole set.
I would recommend anyone, even if you don’t like her album or the songs you have heard, to check out an Ida Maria live performance. Just her presence onstage and banter is worth the price of admission.
I can’t say the same about Glasvegas who, while having a great front man with huge energy, had nothing interesting to say and just sounded amateurish because of poor musicianship. I will still vouch that their album is one of the best I have heard in a while but sometimes what you do on an album just can’t be replicated live, and Glasvegas really proved this.
Some may bitch and say you just caught them at a bad time, but guess what, this was my third time seeing them this year, and I caught them at two other venues as well and each time I was very under whelmed.
Check out some tunes by Ida Maria at: myspace.com/idamaria
Check out some tunes Glasvegas at: myspace.com/glasvegas
Big Wheel Music Scene Reporter
More photos of the show can be seen HERE
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