Live Review: Locksley, Butch Walker…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 10:10 am May 5, 2010

First, an apology. Last night’s Locksley/Butch Walker show at The Waiting Room started at 8 p.m., not 9 p.m. as I stated in yesterday’s blog. When it comes to details, like the times shows begin, you can generally count on me, but occasionally I forget to double-check, like yesterday. So, sorry to anyone who missed the opener… like I did.

Luckily, pro writer (and pro surfer?) Steve Gates was smart enough to double-check the start times. He graciously provides this review of the Locksley portion of the show:

A Blind Date With Locksley (a special report to Lazy-i correspondent Steve Gates).

I first became aware of Locksley about six months ago from some regular play of a few of their songs on the XM/Sirius station Little Steven’s Underground Garage.  A few of their tracks we’re even named “Little Steven’s Coolest Song in the World this Week”…so that has to count for some garage rock cred…right?

In all fairness as a reviewer of their show Tuesday night at the Waiting Room, I was immediately hooked on their stuff the second I heard it last fall.  The last band I can honestly say that about is The Ramones, so that is some of the highest praise I can offer.

But, seeing a band live for the first time that you love via the Internet and satellite radio is the equivalent of trying to meet a soul mate on  Sure everything seems perfect from a distance, but how will this new-found admiration translate to the first meeting in person?  As it turns, this blind date with Locksley had me go from hoping I would not be disappointed at the end of the night to thinking I could marry them on the spot (OK, enough with the analogies).

How do you sum up their music?  If you read their press materials, they consider themselves doo-wop punk…now there’s a first.  As I stood right next to the stage watching the show, several generations of music instantly popped into my head.  Locksley brings the tight vocal harmonies of the Four Seasons, the musical sense of the Raspberries, the 10,000 rpm drive of The Knack, and the geek chic look and feel of Wheezer. Not to mention that singer Jesse Laz has, by far, the best on-key scream since John Lennon.

For more than 60 minutes, they never took their foot off the throttle as they blew though some of their best songs (all of which I highly recommend checking out if you get the chance), including “Darling It’s True,” “Don’t Make Me Wait,” “All Over Again” and crowd pleaser “The Whip.”

What impressed me most in watching the set is how band members — including Laz’s brother Jordan and other Locksley frontman Kai Kennedy — all have pitch-perfect rock voices and share the lead vocal duties.  Any of these guys easily could be the only lead singer in the band. But then add in flawless musicianship, plus a machine of a drummer in Sam Bair, and you have one of the most accomplished bands I’ve ever seen play live.  And unlike an entire generation of bands who stand on stage barely moving, Locksley is all over the stage in Tasmanian Devil-like fashion.

In talking with another Locksley fan after the show, I presented him with the question: “How do you sum up the show in one word?” His answer was “unclassifiable.”  While I had a hard time disagreeing with the sentiment, I thought that Tim would get mad at me for sending him a one word review…even though the comment was right on the money.

Locksley might be the Best Unsigned Band in the World.  Ultimately, when you have the musical ability to turn a song from the 1950s (the Del Rios’ “There’s a Love”) into something that would have sounded like a perfect fit in any decade over the last 50 years…you just might be unclassifiable.  Or, maybe you’re just Locksley. — Steve Gates

My, my… Sorry I missed it. As for Butch Walker…

He went on stage at around 9:15 to an (estimated) crowd of 200 crazy, suburban fans. That’s right, I said fans, which brings up the unsolved mystery of the evening: Where did all these people hear Butch Walker’s music? Certainly not on the radio. While Walker is a genius at creating FM-safe ’80s-style rock ballads, to the best of my knowledge he’s never had a hit. So how did a sizable portion of the crowd know the words well enough to sing along throughout most of his set? I’m not kidding — it was the largest sing-along crowd I’ve seen at TWR in a long time. Who were these people; where did they come from?

As for Walker, the pencil-mustachioed Bryan Adams look-alike played nearly two hours of swashbuckling power ballads backed by a five-piece band of very seasoned musicians. After watching more than my share of lifeless, slumped-shouldered, arthritic-looking indie bands mumble through their sets, it was refreshing to see someone who knew how to perform on stage. Perform, as in he’s an ENTERTAINER. Walker’s ’90s arena-rock flamboyance translates into a Vegas act when confined to a club environment, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It meant he was into the audience, doing everything he could to get them to connect with his rock persona, and from what I saw, he succeeded despite the fact that I only recognized one song from his catalog (“Bethamphetamine (Pretty, Pretty)” from The Rise and Fall…), while a majority of the songs strangely resembled more familiar hits from other artists (One song was the spitting image of “All the Young Dudes.” When asked by a fellow patron if he knew the name of the song, wingman Steve Gates quipped, “It’s an old Mott the Hoople track, or at least it might as well be”).

It is a testament to his vocal prowess that after playing well over an hour, Walker could pull out a cover of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” and sing it flawlessly — no easy task. His knack for writing and producing power ballads is legendary, but despite that — and the fact that he really is a first-rate performer — I doubt that he’ll ever break through to a wider audience. His style of music appeals to those of us who grew up listening FM Rock on Z-92 blaring from our Spark-o-Matic car stereos with the 6×9’s mounted on the hatchback deck. We remember it, and we like it. But time has moved on, despite everything Walker is doing to hold it back. To a younger generation that has moved on to hip-hop, to electronic, to indie, to death metal, to modern Americana, his style of pre-cellphone, pre-iPod music will always sound dated and alien, even if it’s better than whatever it is they’re listening to now. As for Walker, as long as he has crowds like he had last night, he could care less.  For the final song, he turned on the house lights and dived into a sing-along ballad (that I, again, didn’t recognize) and turned the floor in front of the stage into his own private choir, directing the audience as it sang a repeated chorus long after the rest of the band had headed to the green room, slowly bringing it down, down, down to a whisper before saying goodnight.

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Later today: Column 269 — Battle of the Blahs… come back.