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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Death & Porno at the Hollywood Bowl (Tegan & Sara too!)



Sunday night I took in the next show in my summer concert series. This time it was The New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara and Death Cab for Cutie. I'm a fan of all three bands, so I was quite excited to hear them live and had high hopes for what they would bring to the bowl. Especially considering Death Cab would have the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra behind them for a set.

The New Pornographers kicked off the night, playing a lot of songs I both love and recognize. Having only heard 2 of their albums in the past, it doesn't really feel fair to write about them too much here. They played tunes I like, they had a great stage presence, and Neko Case was awesome. That being said however, the music wasn't balanced. They were far too loud for the bowl, often times reaching decibel levels so high I had to cover my ears (and I was 100 rows back!) Coupled with that, they only played 35 minutes making it hard to leave that much of a lasting impression.



Tegan and Sara followed with another short set, but they really killed it. Their sound is almost tailored to the bowl's acoustics. Both Tegan and Sara have such unique vocal timbres that they balanced perfectly. Even the songs that had distortion were turned down, almost as if they noticed The New Pornographers mistake and grew from it. It was sad to see them leave the stage as the sun was finally setting. They could have played another 45 minutes and still left me wanting more.



Then the main event came. Death Cab came out and did a short set without the orchestra followed by an even shorter one with them! I can safely say they played 85% of everything I have ever wanted to hear them do live, but they left a lot to be desired in the end. Again the instrumentation seemed unbalanced or unmixed. The subtle nuances of DCFC's studio work were completely lost in distortion and feedback from the stage. Worse yet, the band under-utilized the orchestra, only using them for only a handful of songs- many of which their presence was hard to even notice. It was a shame really, going to a show you think will have your "My So Called Life" moment of the summer, only to feel no magic at all. And I had seen Belle and Sebastian at the bowl 2 summers before. They took the LA Phil and made them a part of the band. People "oohed" and "ahhed" at their arrangements. I got goosebumps several times. It was almost like the strings had always been there, they fit that well. I heard similar things of the Decemberists/LA Phil show as well, though I wasn't there in person to witness it. Still, I had hoped DCFC would have taken a cue from these past successes and hired someone to determine which songs could be arranged best with an orchestra. Alas, it seemed like the band played a normal 'nothing out of the ordinary' set with a clunky orchestra behind them, struggling to keep up and be heard.

To be fair though, it was great to see them live. Their closer, Transatlanticism, was the highlight of the night, accompanied by fireworks and perfectly orchestrated strings. If only the rest of the night had been as good as that one song. Oh well. Onward and upward!

Up next: Andrew Bird at the Greek Theater. Expect a review early next week!

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