Joseph Arthur 03/01/11
Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
While millions sat glued to their television sets on a Tuesday night, I once again found myself entering the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, CA. Sure, perhaps Charlie Sheen was WINNING the ratings war for ABC, but for those tightly packed into the warehouse turned music venue, the real victory was watching Joseph Arthur close his triumphant month long run.
I actually entered the venue about 62 minutes before Sheen took the airwaves on the West coast. For those who read my first two reviews from this run, I have good news. The guy(s) who plays each week before the show is supposed to start are named Y. The bad news is that any respect I had for the guy(s) was lost as Y made the unfortunate decision to wear a Journey t-shirt. Anyone who knows me knows I fucking hate Journey more than Charlie Sheen hates Chuck Lorre. That said; each week I saw Y, the duos confidence grew and their songs are coming along nicely despite the fact they belong on Mr. Blackwell’s worst dressed list.
The actual opening act was a band called Line and Circle. Apparently one of the dudes grew up across the street from Joseph Arthur. The best way to describe the bands sound is VaginaCore. It’s pop-rock with an indie edge for gals who wear moccasins, leggings and scarves. While I am not opposed to the soft flowing sounds of VaginaCore, there is a fine line between pulling it off and being dull and boring. I wish I could say that Line and Circle pulled it off, however that is not the case. The riffs lacked depth, the band looked stiff and the only thing that managed to excite me during the 30 minute set was the outro jam of the bands second song. Now, before you accuse me of being the angry metal head without an open mind to this form of music take note that I surveyed three females who saw the performance. Two of the three informed me that they were bored by Line and Circle. Who knows, maybe it was a bad night, maybe they just flat out suck? Regardless, of the three acts I saw open for Arthur over the past month, this is the only one I plan to avoid in the future.
After a lengthy tear down, Arthur took the Bootleg stage for the final Tuesday of his residency at just past 10:30pm Had it not been for his white Strat being out of tune, we would have witnessed an opening run of “You Are Free>A Smile That Explodes>Vacancy.” However, with the guitar too far gone out of tune, Arthur had no choice but to stop seconds into “Vacancy.” It what would become a reoccurring theme throughout the evening (mic stands falling, monitors not working), gremlins overtook Arthur’s pedal board mid-way through “Vacancy” causing him to loose his vast collection of loops. This had no effect on Arthur as he continued on with the song despite the bump in the road.
When not leading the crowd in OMMMM chants or begging Mexican Coke-a-cola for a sponsorship, Arthur was showcasing songs that are expected to be on his upcoming solo album. After performing the finger picked “Out On A Limb” by himself, Arthur invited fellow Lonely Astronaut Sibyl Buck to the stage. Buck added just the right amount of vocal melody to lush and mellow numbers such as “Love Never Asks You To Lie” & “This Is Still My World.” When not joking with the venues sound man or various friends and family in the audience, Arthur was having a laugh with Buck, informing the crowd that “This Is Still My World” is without a doubt her favorite pop song in the universe. When the duo finally began the song, the audience was hypnotized by its soft and soothing sounds.
I had actually put my camera away for a second when Arthur invited vocalist C.C. White and sax player Helga (last name unknown) to join him and Buck upon the stage. Looking right me Arthur joked that this one should be placed onto YouTube. As others rushed to reach their cameras, the four-some (especially Helga) took his song “Faith” and made it feel more New Orleans then Los Angeles. Outer space by way of Bonnaroo poetry tent jam “I Missed The Zoo” followed and with that Arthur thanked the crowd before leaving the stage. Looking at my phone (the cell phone is the new watch for those keeping score at home) I assumed we would get a brief encore and our wonderful month would be over. Thankfully I was wrong.
As it turns out, Arthur essentially came back for a second set. Things got underway with Arthur creating loops on a drum before hitting up the venues piano for “Eyes On My Back.” From there, Arthur performed songs he promised friends that he would play for them. Melding pure Rock ‘n Roll instinct with layers of distorted melodies; one could close their eyes and imagine they were listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performing “Black Lexus.” Obligated to keep his word, Arthur dusted off “Can’t Exist” at the request of someone named Kenny. Yet what happened next is the hands down highlight of any Joseph Arthur show I have ever seen.
Our catch phrase here at Concert Confessions is Live Music Reviews By Fans For Fans. I take great pride in this website, and what sets us apart from Rolling Stone or Pitchfork is the fact that we are real music fans sharing our experience with the addiction known as live music. So you can imagine the shockwaves that went through my body when Arthur stopped strumming the opening chords of “Slide Away “ and told the crowd “Hey that’s the Concert Confession guy right there.” My heart started pounding, my knees almost buckled and a the smile on my face probably looked as if I was a 13 year old girl who had just met Justin Bieber. Arthur is easily one of the top 10 live acts I have seen in my life, so for him to give us a shout out is a moment I hope I get to re-live if my life ever flashes in front of me.
I actually had to watch the video of “Slide Away” to remember what went down after the shout out. In watching the replay, all I have to say is Go Helga! With the encore now close to 45 minutes in length, it was clear that Arthur had no desire to exit stage. It was actually well past midnight when Arthur informed us the final number would be “Lack A Vision.” The loop heavy song gave the multi-tasking artist the opportunity to finish his on stage painting before calling it a night (or so we thought). As he exited the stage, Arthur paused, picked up his acoustic guitar before basically sitting in the laps myself, Rock is a Girl’s Best Friend and a few other lucky fans. Despite having turned down a request for his biggest hit earlier in the night, Arthur launched into “In The Sun.” All who left early missed a truly inspiring moment. There wasn’t a single person inside the Bootleg who didn’t join in on vocals. In fact the only thing that was missing was a campfire. It truly was the perfect ending to an incredible run with Joseph Arthur. I really truly feel blessed to have witnessed and even slightly become a part of such a powerful experience and I can’t wait to do it again something.