Last night, Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch ventured once more into the Hollywood Bowl, for the Katy Perry We Can Survive breast cancer benefit concert. It was truly the night of a thousand women. Well, OK, seven — Bonnie McKee, Kacey Musgraves, Tegan and Sara, Sara Bareilles, Ellie Goulding, and the lilac-lipsticked "Roar"-meister herself. We wondered how the Katy experience would measure up to the fine evening we spent at the Bowl with her boyfriend, John Mayer, earlier this month, and we traveled up several flights of stairless escalators to survey the Katycat scene.
Molly Lambert: It was another gorgeous night in the most beautiful venue in L.A., but with a totally different demographic than the Mayer concert. For one, there were children. Lots of them, everywhere, in tutus and glitter and rainbow-colored wigs. It was like being at a baby rave. Plus, instead of last time's garlic mayo–and–weed smoke vibe, Katy Perry's curated night smelled like caramel popcorn.
Tess Lynch: A kid fell onto our feet on the escalator, and we realized that instead of the drunk couples roaming around at the Mayer concert, this crowd was super-buzzed on Mountain Dew and Swedish Fish. The energy was crazy, plus all the musicians kept thanking everyone for buying tickets in support of the Young Survival Coalition, so in addition to the sugar and caffeine, everyone was feeling pretty good about themselves. Katy Perry handpicked the other artists, too, and was pretty candid.
Lambert: It was an inspiring night. Is it OK to say that? That I felt uplifted and inspired?
Kanye West's Yeezus tour is live. It launched Saturday in Seattle, and variouscornersof the Internet have it pegged as a spectacle gigantic enough to possibly overshadow the Watch the Throne tour in arena hip-hop history. Collected here is a brief dossier to allow you to fool acquaintances into believing you were hard-core enough to fly to Washington state over the weekend for a sold-out concert. Practice in the mirror first.
1. Kanye's Grandiosity Generator Is Running in High Gear
The tour's very first moment? A pack of white-robed citizens of Kanye's imagination bowing down to Yeezus. Then there's the giant white mountain, the world-size projector screen up above, the fake snowflakes, the yeti. A dozen backup dancers conjure religious imagery throughout the show and call Kanye's SNL mini-ballet to mind. Christian icon Jesus Christ appears; KW and JC have a chat ("White Jesus, is that you? Oh, shit!") before "Jesus Walks" kicks in.
Fiona Apple kicked off a new tour Thursday, and it ended gruesomely enough to make her Texas hash bust look like a game of Candy Land. By a couple of accounts, the duration of the evening at Portland’s Newmark Theatre was sensational. "Apple, who canceled a run of dates last November to be with her dying dog, seemed giddy to be back on stage," writes The Oregonian. "Beyond giddy, perhaps: between songs, her banter was rushed, sometimes fragmented, and peppered with profanity. … When she sang, though, it was like nothing else in the world existed for her: just the song and the microphone, a relationship she has mastered. … [Apple] made light of past blow-ups: 'People come see me to see the crash,' she said early on, and fell to the floor in a knowing pratfall." Stereogum corroborates the night’s generally wonderful nature, reporting that the crowd "cheered as [Apple] bent her body into all manner of uncomfortable looking shapes, and shouted the occasional word of encouragement and love. But they otherwise they kept mum out of respect or a simple fear that they could frighten the fragile 36-year-old away at any moment."
Then the respect/simple fear bubble burst. Close to the end of the show, a woman's voice cut through some between-songs silence, shouting from the balcony: “Fiona! Get healthy! We want to see you in 10 years!”
On Monday night, the AmEx Sync Show Presenting Jay-Z took place in Austin, Texas. The star of the show, Shawn Carter, not only performed a phenomenally intimate set in front of a capacity crowd of less than 3,000 at Austin City Limits, but also for those watching the live stream on YouTube and VEVO. Halfway through the concert, once I realized this wasn't a typical concert experience — just in the sense that it wasn't private for simply those of us in attendance — it became clear that a typical writeup was also not in the cards. Writing about the chronology of the concert, the genius transition from "Glory" to "Hard Knock Life," hearing Jay-Z say "all the parents in the house, make some noise," or Hov's mulligan on "U Don't Know" because he messed up the lyrics is interesting, but that doesn't shed any real light into the unique experience of being there.
Full disclosure: I hate live music. Too loud, too crowded, too hard to have a conversation, and just generally too much yelling for my taste. However, my love of all things Wu-Tang so surpasses my distaste for live music that when I heard that the Clan was bringing their Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game to a venue mere yards from Grantland HQ, I had to attend. OK, fine, I didn’t have to. I planned on attending, then didn’t feel like it, then only came around when I considered how livid 17-Year-Old Me would be if he knew that he would grow up to be Now Me.
Van Halen performed at Café Wha? last night. It’s possible you’ve already heard reports of this, since Café Wha? only holds 250 people and just about every single person inside the venue was a journalist, an industry bozo, or a former Wimbledon champion (John McEnroe was there). This event was partially the result of Café Wha? being previously owned by David Lee Roth’s 92-year-old uncle, but it mostly happened because Van Halen assumed unfathomable intimacy would be an easy way to remind the media that they’re still awesome. The stage was about 15 feet long and eight feet deep; in 1981, it’s possible Roth could have touched the ceiling with his foot, or at least with his samurai sword. It was a little like watching Darryl Dawkins dunk over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on a Nerf hoop in your grandparents' basement.