Review: ‘Brian Jonestown Massacre’

In case the name isn't a give-away, L.A.-based band Brian Jonestown Massacre trades mostly in slightly twisted, guitar-based rock inspired by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and glam-era David Bowie, music that no longer fits into many radio programmers' plans, but music that nonetheless retains an ability to inspire when it's presented with the frivolous attitude of this odd lot.

In case the name isn’t a give-away, L.A.-based band Brian Jonestown Massacre trades mostly in slightly twisted, guitar-based rock inspired by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and glam-era David Bowie, music that no longer fits into many radio programmers’ plans, but music that nonetheless retains an ability to inspire when it’s presented with the frivolous attitude of this odd lot.

Guitarist-vocalist Anton Newcombe, whose gruff and melodic delivery is alternately comparable to that of Ray Davies, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan, is the songwriter and leader of the low-key psychedelic band, though he performs with little fanfare at the far right side of the stage.

Scruffy tambourine player Joel Gion (whose abundant sideburns have to be seen to be appreciated) stood front and center of the group (which adds a couple players for live perfs), stoically playing his simple instrument as if his were the musical lead, all the while distracting the listener from what was occasionally indistinct faux Brit-pop with his off-handed comedic manner.

At the almost-full Troubadour, the band which has released a half-dozen mostly obscure albums in the past three years, was most engaging when its slow, poppy songs of heartache and other human frailties, many taken from its new “Strung out in Heaven” (TVT) album, drifted into thick and intense guitar excursions featuring as many as four of the instruments. It created an impressive and unusual wall of sound.

There was very little positive energy evident between the players, or between the band and the audience, though, and once Gion lost his tambourine and began shoving his bandmates out of boredom, the players all seemed to lose their focus.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Troubadour; 450 seats; $10

Production

Presented inhouse. Reviewed Aug. 29, 1998.

Cast

Band: Anton Newcombe, Jeffrey Davies, Dean Taylor, Joel Gion, Charles Mehling, Adam LeBlanc, Billy Pleasant.
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