Okay, Friday... we work out, then go out, I get introduced to the Michelle's cycling brethren at a local brew pub before showing everyone just what the true meaning of "Bad Bowling" really is. Michelle kept saying "You need to bend over more!" and I'm like "With a score like that, I couldn't get that much more bent over!" Then the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" theme played and the credits rolled.
Saturday... Michelle gets her hair done (meaning she's seated) and I go to the gym... by myself. We go searching for food, end up spending fifty bucks on a bowl of fucking soup (you know, they give that stuff to homeless people for free, right?), then go searching for a pool table. We found several empty pool tables... and there was still a waiting list... so we killed some zombies instead, then hit the road looking for Coffee, found that (no waiting list) along with a three hundred pound African American gentleman with tattoos, an acoustic guitar and the voice of the most angelic male folk singers you could imagine.
On the way home I reached into my jacket pocket and found a pair of women's earrings. And I am FREAKED. So I look at Michelle and I'm like "Lady, am I like cheating on my wife with some chick and I like forgot?" and she's all "Dude, maybe so! You BASTARD!" The shock caused me to leave my Gym Bag (still filled with an ass load of wet cloth) in Michelle's car along with my complete Fifth Season of Tales from the Crypt! So I go home to confess to that which I can't remember to save my lobes and guess what? They're totally my wife's earrings, man! She gave them to me when we were at The Damned concert! And she's actually a little pissed that I don't remember. So... I'm cheating on my wife... with my wife. And I'm STILL in the Snoopy Shack?
Moving on! Sunday... it's hot... as I hit church and the usual Sunday stuff, the bag sits in the back of Michelle's car. Little would I realize the horror teeming therein thanks to the greenhouse effect and my unique and terrible body chemistry.
Ready? Wait for it... Wait for it... Sunday Night we went to the House of Blues Anaheim! Yeah, that's right Loyal Readers and Coital Breeders, again! I don't know how I keep getting back into that place! Maybe that new "Adventures of J.C. and Michelle" insurance that All State has been Hawking has them feeling a little comfier lately. While the past few weeks may suggest a certain sameness, hell, we had a good reason, right? Frank Black was playing!
Yeah, Frank Black... The man I've seen in concert more times than any other artist, I-... oh, there's that sameness again, huh? Okay... well, this time instead of limping to the HOBA from our little Texican paradise, we instead partied Italian style consuming mass quantities of Pinot Noir instead of Margaritas, so there, damn it, there!
After stopping for supplies (nunuvyerbeezwax) the now familiar Hans Blix strip search, coupled with security guard resignations and bartender high-fives commenced and we boggarted not stairs but chairs along the balcony, for the best viewpoint of what we hoped would be the most kick-ass opening act this side of the Mississippi: Kentucky Prophet! But that didn't happen. Oh, Kentucky Prophet came out all right, but "kick-ass" wouldn't really apply. Instead, Kentucky Prophet gave Michelle and I plenty of opportunities to kick our philosophical sides into high gear... mostly on the subject of just how Kentucky Prophet got the gig to open for Frank Black. Was he there to show how much thinner Frank Black had gotten? Was he there representing the "king of karaoke" from Frank Black's "Calistan" song? Was he Frank Black's cousin? Did Frank Black lose a bet to K.P.'s cousin? The world may never know, nor, I would wager, will the world quite "get" Kentucky Prophet.
He was a large man (a subject he couldn't stop commenting on himself) with short hair and a T-Shirt that could house a M*A*S*H unit, provided triage was done outside. His band... consisted of a small MP3 player (which he described as looking like a "pregnancy test", but we couldn't see the damned thing) hooked up to a couple of RCA Cables. K.P. started... with a rap (after he found the music he wished to quasi-rap over) that introduced himself to we, the unsuspecting public he had meted himself upon. From there he sang (not just rapped) on a variety of subjects, such as Star Wars, vulgar names for body parts, tiny little birds, women, sweat and mostly... himself.
There is a certain naive charm to Kentucky Prophet, even I will admit. His avant-garde approach to performing (to say the least) and his completely bizarre and irreverent comedic style might appeal to a lot of people out there (Tom Green, for one). He is most certainly off the beaten path, I'll give him that, and rarely, if ever, do we see an act quite like his. On the other hand, K.P. mostly seemed to be a vanity act, courageously performing a self-effacing set of "songs", fumbling with his MP3 player (skipping about so each song change was heralded by the opening sounds of three or four other songs he didn't want to sing over) and delivering a show that was, essentially, a karaoke evening with only one guy on the list. It takes a certain somethin'-somethin' in the balls category to brave such an attempt... but I'm afraid I'm still gonna have to give the big N-O to Kentucky Prophet. YY
I managed to piss off another security guard, so next visit should be interesting... but on the way to do that, I passed by the Kentucky Prophet walking up the stairs. To my credit, I didn't beat the crap out of him, but instead simply said "Hey, K.P.!" I'm less violent lately, true, but having seen some of the off-the-beaten-wrath choices Frank Black has made for his opening shows, I can only think that he must be a Kentucky Prophet fan, and thus, to dis this dude would be to Piss Off that crazy Pixie.
This is (if I'm still counting right), the seventh time I've seen Frank Black live, and every show is different as a hyperion from a satyr. Sometimes he comes out with his acoustic and fills the time with no accompaniment to speak of, sometimes he's brought out the entire Frank Black and the Catholics band to rock the house for a full set. One time, amazingly, he was with The Pixies. Those out there who remember "Black Francis" as "the lead singer from the Pixies" probably should check their heads before going to see Frank Black live. He's released more albums with "Frank Black and the Catholics" than with the Pixies by now. Hell, he's released more albums completely solo as "Frank Black" than he did with the Pixies. He's evolved, evolving and revolving.
That's not to say he shouldn't be seen. In fact, he's one act I truly consider a "must see". His experimental mix of Punk, Metal, Folk, Rock, Blues and even Country (to varying degrees in varying songs) makes for a more-than-diverse evening of fantastic and ever changing music. Further, as singer and guitarist, he has few that come close to him. Lastly, in any incarnation, there is no other musician quite like him!
The curtains opened and some guy named Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV (yeah, that's Frank Black's real name, kids) walked out on stage in dark sunglasses (prescription he said) and a relaxed and kicked-back denim look under a dark T-Shirt. The man had indeed knocked off a few pounds, but maintained that serious look he's been sporting. Beginning with a solo acoustic version of "Nimrod's Son", Frank Black launched the pre-show entertainment. His voice and strumming worked very well over the Pixies Classic, but it was further proof that those there only to hear Pixies Songs might be leaving early. Black has evolved his classic songs (he wrote 'em, let him do it) along with his solo work, offering up new versions of both quality and originality (and with a raw, demo sound).
He apologized in advance for screwing up "I Gotta Move", the Single from his first album with The Catholics. In spite of the multi-layered approach of the song, he didn't screw it up, even solo. The echoing vocals were supplied by his own voice in a cat-calling falsetto, or provided by the enthusiastic audience. I was the only one who shouted back the word "Prophet" from the second verse, and from the corner of my eye I saw K.P. stand up and say "What?"
A few numbers later and Frank Black's latest backing band joined him. This back-to-basics approach (which we've seen on his last two releases, Honeycomb and the double disc Fast Man Raider Man) dispenses with the Keyboard and Slide Guitar-rich work of The Catholics in favor of a Four-Man (Singer/ Guitarist, Lead Guitarist, Bass, Drums) ensemble. This is good, maybe even "better" on many of his cuts (especially since erstwhile collaborator and piano-player Eric Drew Feldman is his current Bass Player), however, on others there was a dimension missing. The band filled in these roles with aplomb, but there was still a little left wanting.
However, that's not to imply that Frank was "lacking". The beauty of Frank Black (in every incarnation) is that he plays what he wants to play, how he wants to play it. Those attending in the hopes for a verbatim recital of the Singles will probably go home disappointed. Those of us who showed up wanting to see a Frank Black show with a truly inventive musician working his magic (and that of his favorite artists) will hopefully be pleased. I was.
Does this mean he doesn't care about his fans? Shouldn't musicians play the "hits" the public has been buying? Well, no. To my mind such invention and experimental revision shows more of a respect to the fans. Frank Black may never burn out and fans like me, who have seen him repeatedly, will never tire of going to his shows. The rest? Well, hit Tower Records before their last minute liquidation sale ends... Buy as many Pixies, Catholics and Frank Black albums as you want and play them in a stair well, let it echo like mad, cheer a lot and smoke a joint. Happy?
But I digress... anybody still here? Okay, moving on. The representative set carried on with new songs from Fast Man Raider Man such as "Johnny Barleycorn", "My Terrible Ways", "In the Time of my Ruin" and the ironic and hilarious song "I'm Not Dead (I'm in Pittsburgh)". Admittedly, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between Pittsburgh and the Afterlife.
Somewhere along the way, Frank tore the set list, taped to the floor and gave a brief "woe is me" on that score. Then the Roadie taped a fresh one to the same place, which Frank promptly tore with his foot again. "I fucking hate Set Lists!" he said, launching into another tune he felt like playing.
Luckily, that (now fictional) set list didn't include only his new songs (though the new ones are excellent). Pistolero was well represented by "Western Star", complete with the Spanish lyrics and the threat-laced declaration of possession of a certain celestial body! The wildly reverberating "Nadine" shook the walls, "Manitoba" provided a melancholy saga and "Horrible Day" summed up the depression of the Show Me Your Tears album.
Working backwards, "Six-Sixty-Six", "Dog Gone" and "All My Ghosts" gave a cool nod to Frank Black and the Catholics, even though "Solid Gold" was missing from the set. There's a good reason for that, however, that being... Frank Black didn't feel like playing that tune just then. Deal with it, Pink Boy!
Frank threw Dog in the Sand a few bones in the form of a great, yet Keyboard-devoid, rendition of "I'll Be Blue" (not the best I've heard it, but I mean "great" still). "Bullet" and "The Swimmer" were likewise killer, with or without the Keys. The Tom Waits Rock-Opera number "Black Rider" got a scary, original twisting (more resembling the first track from Black Letter Days than the last).
On the flip side, a strange (but welcome) inclusion was "Ten Percenter" from the first (solo) album. However, "Calistan", from the second solo record Teenager of the Year made perfect sense after Kentucky Prophet's show.
I don't remember any songs from The Cult of Ray, though... hmm...
Throughout the show, more and more people were opting to leave early. The Fools! Michelle and I were exhausted and weren't feeling great (there is some evidence that within the last week we were abducted by Aliens and our memories were rearranged to make this fuzzy and painful to recall clearly) but even we wouldn't dare move! Again, for those expecting a frozen-in-time Pixies tribute, this wasn't their show. Frank played more cover tunes (from the likes of Freddy Fender, for example) than all his Pixies tunes put together, yet even those didn't touch the number of Catholics and solo-solo tunes.
There is an honor and artistic integrity to performing as he did and does, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Are the fans responsible for getting an artist to their fame? Obviously to an extent, that could be argued. However, that implies that Fandom is an arbitrary thing as if there are legions of people out there who are just waiting to latch on to SOMETHING, ANYTHING, and if a musician comes along at the right place or time, those legions will latch on to them and will therefore be able to boss them around for life. Yes, we buy tickets, we buy albums... yes we're fans. But it's the Artists themselves who are responsible for getting to where they are. Frank Black isn't arrogant or uncaring about his own music. He's an evolving artist who has created more incredible songs than most musicians can claim even with a lot of help. I'm going to see him as often as possible because he's different every time and he's always great. If I want the same old thing, hell, I've got all his albums, I'll just set them on an infinite iPod loop (and some days... I do!).
Michelle agreed with my assessment (before absconding with my iPod the next day). Having seen the Pixies with me a little over two years ago (and loving them), Michelle actually preferred this show, saying there were more songs that appealed to her in this set. Interesting... this is Musician's Music... We gotta get this lady a guitar! Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Frank Black Live at the House of Blues Anaheim (11/19/06). This isn't the best show I've seen him perform (this show did make me miss the piano-work he's so often sported)... but I've seen him a hell of a lot, and any show of his holds the potential to take the proverbial cake from any given other artist out there.
Boils, Ghouls, Roiling Fools, the evening had closed and I was cool. Very cool. So cool I wasn't even sweating profusely. And I didn't even get a thank you. We "wise-cracked", more than "walked", back to the car, sailing on a sea of Molten Irony back to Long Beach and Tustin, respectively, incanting verbose prose from our nose to our toes. This time, I remembered my DVDs and gym bag, though I was so sleepy I rather combined them mentally as my Tales from the Gypped Bag. (I'm not that clever, folks, I just have moments of clarity!)
So another great night of rock and roll and sarcastic, off the cuff comedy has come to an end. So home again I staggered, this time with the Gym Bag in hand. I was tired... it was late (or Early, as the case may be). I sighed, opened the laundry room door and placed the strangely warm gym bag down and opened it with a skillful unzipping, the likes of which could scarcely be beaten by the Danish Olympic Unzipping Team, should one ever be created. But then a huge, green, reptilian hand arose from the bag, prompting my intense, loud and blood curdling (yet undeniably masculine) scream! I was grabbed by the forehead, the beasts strong fingers wrapping around my cranium, tightly, and I was pulled lightening-fast into the bag, which zipped itself back up on its own. Ah, the horror, the horror.
(Don't question how I was able to type this review in spite of my horrid, violent end! I mean, questions like that could only result in my answering them. See you in the next reel, assuming that reel is somewhere within my vinyl Bally prison.)
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Oh, by the way, "Frank Black" isn't "that guy from Millennium" either.