Although Los Angeles is easy to complain about, at the very least, good musical moments come along every now and then. Last night's Amnesty International Music Benefit was one of those moments. First off, check out
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The venue is worth mentioning as it added to the ambiance of the night. With regards to rock shows, the John Anson Ford Theater is sorely under used. The large round space is a sonically pleasing hole in the side of a hill. The 1,200-seat, open air venue was pretty well full for the benefit which saw everyone's hard earned cash going towards a worthy cause. It was good to see that KCRW was a part of the evening as well.
Due to the joy of LA traffic, I managed to miss twenty minutes of Aimee Mann's set. We strolled to our seats during "No Choice In The Matter." What followed for me (and what seemed to be the entire crowd) was nothing short of brilliant. Having seen her through the years since the 'Til Tuesday days, I would say that Mann has finally found a skin to be comfortable in. She is no longer the girl from 'Til Tuesday; that just happens to be the band Aimee Mann was once in. Of the songs I heard, all were from her solo albums, covering titles going back as far as 1993. Dressed in tight jeans, a burgundy velvet jacket with tie to match and mustard yellow button down shirt, she self-assuredly rocks her hips back and forth with her songs while her voice rises out above her band. As self-confident and comfortable as she has become, Mann keeps a dry, self-depreciating sense of humor with her between-song banter. At one point she commented that she's not one of those performers that has charisma and added that she likes "fucked up quiet people." She then took the opportunity to introduce her band. Guffaw guffaw, good chuckle all the way around. "4th Of July," from her first solo album, went over quite well with a crowd who mostly know her work from Magnolia. Those same folks reacted very enthusiastically to a spot on version of "Save Me." With songs like "Humpty Dumpty," from her new album Lost In Space and her Melrose Place contribution "That's Just What You Are," aspects of almost 10 years of solo work were represented and responded to with loud cheers. Her performance is yet another example that in these troubled times we look to those we listen to and admire to help get us through the thought process, either by directly dealing with the issues to encourage some discussion or allowing us to leave reality for a short spell.
Admittedly, I'm a casual observer of Beth Orton. Dig her music, dig her vibe, just haven't over-analyzed the matter. This night she cemented what I was hoping to be the case: she's a fantastic performer and quite so the real deal. Decked out in pin-striped black pants, tank top and Chuck Taylors, Orton could pass for Mann's scrappy kid sister, just with a British accent. Both ladies are quite tall and in charge of their performance, although Beth admitted to being very nervous. No need for any nervousness, as this woman sings with passion from her belly. Again, like Mann, Orton uses a mild and humorous self-deprecation as her chatter between songs. Her band was an eclectic lot of musicians with solid chops and variety. They tore through her well-crafted songs as she maintained a commanding, yet restrained presence. Overall, Orton's set was fantastic. You don't need to be familiar to enjoy what she has to offer, but it seems those in the know have been ahead of the curve.
The buzz of the night was the last minute addition of an acoustic set from Coldplay. Head guy Chris Martin said his voice was shot so that day he recruited some help. Martin handled acoustic guitar and background vocal duties while Mos Def sang to beautiful heights. They covered Bill Withers' "A Lovely Day," Dylan's "Simple Twist Of Fate" and Coldplay drummer Will Champion assisting on back-up vocals for Bob Marley's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," which closed the brief interlude. It should be noted that Mos Def said he learned the Dylan song that afternoon and yet it was given a stunning interpretation. If this show was being recorded, someone really should put that out as a single. Three amazing songs later, everyone in the crowd were pretty well convinced that this was a special night indeed. Cause well served, amazing music made. A perfect way to kick off the Amnesty tour which will hopefully turn into something a bit more high profile both for the artists involved and Amnesty International itself.
Source: Matt Surrena, Beyond Music