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Reviews

31 Jan 2015
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Although he’s 88 years old, Tony Bennett is still the consummate showman—a fact he proved at Fantasy Springs on Friday night, Jan. 30. Before Tony Bennett came out, his daughter, Antonia Bennett, performed for about 20 minutes, singing standards such as “Teach Me Tonight,” “Taking a Chance on Love” and “Always on My Mind.” She dedicated her performance of “Thank Your Lucky Stars” to her father before introducing him. A vintage audio clip of Frank Sinatra introducing Tony Bennett played before he walked across the stage, waving and smiling. He began with “Watch What Happens,” and then followed with “They All Laughed,” a song that mentions great scientists and inventors who were laughed at before their moments of triumph. During the song, Bennett even offered a bit of a dance move. Bennett’s voice isn’t as powerful as it once was, although his power and range are still strong enough, as…
21 Jan 2015
Hanni El Khatib opened his Pappy and Harriet’s show on Friday, Jan. 16, with “Melt Me,” from his new release Moonlight. It was a great way to start the show: The song got the Pappy and Harriet’s audience dancing to the beat while doppelgangers of Jesus Christ and Macaulay Culkin tried to ram through to the front of the stage, breaking the strict no-mosh rule. As a result, they made friends with no one: Everyone else just wanted to party to the reverberating Gibson held confidently in the hands of El Khatib. El Khatib followed up with “Build. Destroy. Rebuild.” a strong tune with great emotive complexity from his debut 2011 release, Will the Guns Come Out. A hot admirer, wearing her best vampire look, looked on as her companion—wearing comic-book spaghetti-Western wear—absorbed every moment of the show. The packed floor got wild as “You Rascal You” required everyone to…
27 Nov 2014
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It was on a gorgeous night last September at the Los Angeles County Arboretum that I first heard Patti Austin sing live. A friend had invited my partner and me to the Pasadena Pops’ summer-season closer, and she was one of conductor Michael Feinstein’s guest vocalists. Although I had heard of Patti Austin before, I didn’t know a thing about her or her music. Well, on that lovely night, we learned one thing about Ms. Austin: Man, can she sing. After she knocked our figurative socks off that night, we wanted to see more of Patti Austin, so we made a point to check out her show at the McCallum Theatre last Saturday night. We expected a night of great vocals—and we certainly got just that. The 64-year-old R&B/pop/jazz singer was simply stunning as she took the too-sparse audience on a journey through the life of Ella Fitzgerald, backed by…
17 Nov 2014
I have a confession to make: I am a big fan of “girl bands.” The show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Nov. 15, was not my first Dum Dum Girls gig. I arrived early at Pappy and Harriet’s and sat down at my table. The Dum Dum Girls were wrapping up their sound check, refining their sound for this acoustically unique venue. A few diners had perplexed looks on their faces; they obviously did not catch the Dum Dum Girls at Coachella earlier this year, and were actually present just to have dinner. Fans trickled in and started staking claims on front-and-center spaces three hours before the show started. The bolero hat count was low, offset by trucker caps and the practical knit beanie, which was prevalent on this chilly desert evening. I was standing next to a neatly dressed, gray-haired gentleman who came from North Hollywood to see…
23 Oct 2014
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Ray LaMontagne is often referred to as a folk-rock artist, but on Tuesday night at the McCallum Theatre, he brought a psychedelic element to his live show, playing edgier material from his new album, Supernova. The opening band, the Belle Brigade—a four-piece led by Barbara Gruska (drums, vocals) and her little brother, Ethan Gruska (guitar, vocals)—put on a fantastic performance, displaying an indie-rock-meets-country sound. The siblings sang incredible harmonies, and Barbara’s drumming was excellent. At one point, Barbara was telling a story about how they were staying in a hotel on Frank Sinatra Boulevard. Someone interrupted by screaming: “DRIVE!” She chuckled as she corrected herself and then mentioned that Frank Sinatra was kind of “sketchy”—just like the song they were about to play. After a 40-minute set, the Belle Brigade received a standing ovation. When Ray LaMontagne took the stage shortly after 9 p.m., Barbara Gruska and Ethan Gruska joined…
20 Oct 2014
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In the late 1960s and early 1970s. Creedence Clearwater Revival produced what would become legendary rock anthems—and even headlined Woodstock in 1969. On Friday night, Oct. 17, Creedence Clearwater Revisited—the current incarnation of the band, notably without Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty—stopped by The Show at Agua Caliente, and gave one remarkable performance. The only Creedence Clearwater Revival member currently playing in Creedence Clearwater Revisited is bassist Stu Cook. The band is fronted by former People! guitarist Johnny “Bulldog” Tristao and includes Steve “The Captain” Gunner on guitar/keyboards/percussion, and World Classic Rockers guitarist Kurt Griffey. CCR drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, a usual member of Creedence Clearwater Revisited, is not participating in the current tour. The group walked onstage and began to tune their instruments as an intro track played. When the instrumental track stopped, the band got down to business, opening with “Born on the Bayou.” Johnny “Bulldog” Tristao…
06 Oct 2014
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The Rebel Noise just released new album I Hear You via Soundcloud, offering fans higher-quality versions of the songs the band has been playing for local audiences since the group moved to Palm Springs from Paso Robles in 2011. It’s hard to believe that frontman Leo Rodriquez has only been playing guitar for about three years. His ability to front a band seems to have come naturally to him, a fact proven by the quality of I Hear You. The album starts off in the same way as many of The Rebel Noise’s shows: “Possessed” begins with feedback, guitar buildup and then Rodriquez screaming—before he soulfully hums and sings about the one who possess his soul. Then, of course, he returns to full-blown screaming. The band had a recording of this track posted on the Soundcloud page before, but this newer version definitely sounds tighter and more intense. A highlight…
29 Sep 2014
Shelton Hank Williams III—you may know him as Hank 3—walked on to the Pappy and Harriet’s outdoor stage approximately an hour later than scheduled. “Is it going to be one of those kind of nights?” he asked—a question which was met with a cheer from the raucous crowd. With that, the pride of Tennessee kicked off a three-hour plus set of country, punk and metal on Sunday night, Sept. 28. Hank 3 was backed by a rhythm section with an upright bass, a banjo-player, a fiddle-player and a drummer (partially hidden by a wall of amps). The Pappy’s audience recited almost every word to every song during the country set. When Hank 3 sprang into “Gutter Town,” good ol’ boys and gals began to form a circle pit about 15 feet from the barrier which had been erected between the stage and the audience. Two security staffers guarded the stage…