Gang of Four, February 21, 2011, Music Box Theatre, Los Angeles

Posted on March 4, 2011 by

The Music Box Theatre is another 1920s architectural gem which seem to abound in LA, thankfully.   I approached this show with a mixture of curiosity, excitement and, truth told, a sense of duty.   Duty bound to see these seminal, proto-punk practitioners of melodic angularity, white middle class funk and left leaning sentiments (among other things, of course).  Which, in their time, was something newish and ban worthy (as the BBC obliged).  The first thing I was struck by, upon entering the venue, besides a sinister, out-scaled Hieronymus Bosch mural, was that I was, yet again, at a “rock show” outnumbered by men, something like 15 to 1.

Gang of Four opened with the new “You’ll Never Pay for the Farm”, which seemed to please the crowd, though I have a feeling anything would.  You can feel it in a room when fans want the object of their fandom to be better than they actually are and almost will it so.   The band and the crowd really hit their stride with “Ether”.   The energy level of the band was high and a bit aggressive with an almost enforced intensity.  There seemed to be a tongue in cheek military vibe to it,  I could use a term like Ironic Fascism, but I dare not.   Andy Gill defiantly wielded his guitar, not unlike a machine gun.  And at times with the sonic range of one, though mostly showcasing his talent for amazingly singular guitar riffs.  Truly off kilter, geometric jewels.   He struck many a campy pose with it.  Glaring and staring, like a an angry schoolmaster.  Dave King,  chaotically roamed about the stage shout-singing.   He was pulling dance moves that even Ann-Margret (in any era) would shy away from.  Though, Michael Flatley, of Riverdance, might not.  Pelvic thrusts and arms overhead with wrists crossed, in an almost liturgical gesture, though to which God, I cannot say. Probably one with a keen sense of humor.

The set seemed messy at times, in spite of the noble efforts of the rhythm section, who really held it down, though it must have felt like keeping a glass of water from spilling in an earthquake.  “Love Like Anthrax”  was splendid and the crowd went nuts.   “It was Never Gonna Turn Out Good”  made me feel that I was watching a sub-par Pink Floyd tribute band, it must be said.   There was an element of pretension throughout this show.  Almost a self conscious, cultivated avant gardenism, but in spite of that they still looked like they were having fun.  Which is probably as they intended.

I was disappointed not to hear “Damaged Goods” and “Essence Rare”.  Perhaps, such  omissions were a  statement on their part.  They did “I Love A Man in Uniform” as an encore and it was fantastic.   By then, I was in the back of the theatre, in front of one Clem Burke, who seemed to be enjoying himself.  Remind me to interview him next time I see him.   Elijah Wood of The Lord of The Rings, was also dancing in attendance.  He looked every bit the sartorially sharp “new wave” Dandy and completely entranced by the show.  Must give him props for that, amid the denizens of faded denim, the default SoCal attire, whatever the occasion.

All in all, a show worth seeing, well beyond the call of duty.

Gang of Four’s Content on Amazon

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One Response to “Gang of Four, February 21, 2011, Music Box Theatre, Los Angeles”

  1. Mike Elias says:

    I wonder what Verity Wells would say about the show.

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