Live Shots

Dave Alvin
The Fabulous Satellite Lounge
Friday, September 30

In 1982, in the wake of the second British invasion, American rock was in the doldrums. Exene Cervenka and John Doe of X had to plead in song: "The last American band to get played on the radio, please bring the flag."

At the time, it seemed that L.A.'s Blasters would end up carrying that flag as the last and truest American band, but the industry passed them by; co-lead Blaster Phil Alvin now teaches math in the University of California system.

So Phil's brother Dave is left carrying the torch. Touring to promote King of California, Alvin played a steady, sweaty two-hour set. Still treating roots rock as a mine to be worked rather than a model to be copied, he led his tight band on a trek through Blasters' highlights, some cover tunes and his own fine solo compositions. The set's openers, "King of California" and "Barn Burning," were well-served by Alvin's rich baritone and the stripped-down arrangements he featured on the new album. The crowd-pleasing rave "Long White Cadillac" and Alvin's signature "Fourth of July" still sounded as if they were written 30 years ago, or just yesterday. And his dedication of the tandem "American Music" and "Marie, Marie" to the late, legendary Houston music writer Bob Claypool treated the respectfully enthusiastic, slightly beer-buzzed crowd to a tribute that, much like Alvin himself, was both touchingly heartfelt and blistering.

-- Peter Kelly

The Summit
Friday, September 30

Crack wise, if you like, about the geezers in their gauzy cock-rock costumes, but Aerosmith -- especially vocalist Steven Tyler -- hasn't gone limp with age. At a time when fellow over-the-hill vets like the Rolling Stones have to invent ever-larger "stadium spectaculars" to justify their lumbering treks across the countryside, Aerosmith has pared down its live show to the bare essentials. The band's Summit stop featured no shortage of lights trained on the stars, but the energy came not from some multimillion-dollar metaphor of a stage set, but from Tyler's pouty strut and manhandling of his scarf-wrapped microphone stand. The day you see him take the stage with a headset microphone, you can safely say it's over.

Not that the show was perfect. Tyler turned his attention away from the crowd and toward a camera for a live video shoot, which was annoying as hell, and in the show's early going, the band's newer, borderline ballad material made me wonder if maybe they weren't playing the same song over and over. But the boys from Boston still managed to get it up for "Sweet Emotion," and "Love in an Elevator" proved that the band's spark for writing classics hasn't been entirely extinguished. Joe Perry's solo guitar turn reached back into the blues that gave birth to Aerosmith. It probably would have made the show a rave for me, except that it never quite dispelled the ugly specter of that fat-assed video director telling the audience to wear those stupid sunglasses they passed out at the door.

-- Brad Tyer


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