Tuesday, April 20, 2004

THE RETURN OF THE BAMBOO REVIEW: It seems like ages since we had a review from Becky Bamboo... let's put that right, right now:

The last time I saw Paula Frazer, she played for less than a half hour at the beginning of a packed Noisepop bill. Last Saturday night she got some time to stretch out and show us what she could do. I recognized her backing band as guys from various local acts (including Oranger and The Court & Spark) which either means we have a cool, supportive group of Bay Area musicians, or that the same 5 people play in every single local band. Anyway. Greg Dulli requested her specifically to open for him, telling us later during his set that she's a "jewel in our midst" (presumably not in the snaggle-toothed blonde yodeler kinda way, but in the undiscovered gem kinda way) and that she "sounds like motherfucking Kitty Wells." While I can't speculate on Ms. Wells and her sexual proclivities, I do agree that Paula Frazer is awesome. Her songs are mostly alt.country and blues, with some more poppier tunes sneaking in here and there. Her voice gets a little thin when she goes into her higher register, but that's just my nitpicky pet peeve from years of voice lessons and she sticks with her nice warm alto for most of her songs so it's not that big a deal.

The Twilight Singers (who were billed on all the notices as "The Twilight Singers featuring Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs" which makes it sound like he was, like, the bass player in a hugely popular band who is now going around trading on that bit of fame) were the headliners and the venue was pretty packed by the time all the incense had been lit and placed on the monitors and Greg's special mic stand with its ashtray and drink holder attached was positioned just right. I missed them last fall when I was out of town, and I've only recently discovered just how genius "Gentleman" is, so I was pretty excited to see them. They came out to big applause and jumped right in, getting the crowd excited and moving. You can tell Greg has been playing shows for years in the way he worked the audience ("Clap! Even the cool people. I'm cool too and I'm clapping") and the good-natured abuse he'd dish out ("Take your fingers out of your ears, sister, or get some toilet paper. I can't be lookin' at that shit all night"). His rough howl of a voice, combined with the style and tone of the songs, makes them all sound vaguely menacing. They toss in lines and verses from other artists, incorporating them into their own songs, making "All You Need is Love," for example, sound like a threat. Or segueing from the fantastic "Papillon" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." They tossed out "Teenage Wristband" toward the beginning of the set, with an almost dismissive comment. It did receive a big response, but so did older, Afghan Whigs songs.

The liquor flowed freely on stage as Greg drank and chain-smoked his way through the show, at one point lighting a joint and going around exhaling smoke into each band member's mouth. And I must say, he has frighteningly good aim with a champagne cork (he nailed the roadie in the balls from across the stage). The first encore was almost entirely made up of cover songs ranging from Bjork ("Hyperballad") to Outkast ("Roses") to ABBA ("Dancing Queen") to Billie Holliday ("Strange Fruit"), the latter of which had Mark Lanegan come out to join with the band on vocals. They played for about two hours and it was one of those shows that sends you out into the night with more energy than you had going in. Awesome.

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