Silversun Pickups @ Gibson Amphitheatre 11/03/09
You've got to really, really want to see a band if you go to the Gibson Amphitheatre. You can't just drop by casually and check it out. One has to commit themselves mentally, physically, and financially for such a trip. By the time you've shelled out an exorbitant sum for parking, had your senses assaulted from all sides by the glowing hell scape that is Universal Citywalk and are finally sitting in the murky, oppressive gloom of the amphitheater, most of us are grumpy as hell and in desperate need of a stiff drink.
Fortunately for everyone at that venue The Silversun Pickups are so good that they managed to erase all of those bad memories after the first couple notes. Even the depressing ambiance of the venue was lifted immediately as front man, Brian Aubert couldn't contain his joy at being home, "Forgive us if it’s a little cheeseball, but we’ve been waiting so long to say these three little words: Hello, Los Angeles!” The crowd roared in welcome, and Aubert asked that the house lights be turned on so he could see his adoring fans. After soaking up some of the hometown love, the triumphant Pickups set about the task of blowing everyone's mind (and eardrums).
Anyone who's seen the Pickups live will tell you that their sound isn't pretty like on the record. It's not neat or clean or polished, but instead takes the form of something savage and unhinged. Aubert's voice is the stuff of nightmares. It's the kind of high pitched whisper one can imagine for a psycho killer in a slasher movie. And I mean that with love. Because no one can sing like him. That voice crawls up the back of your spine and will give you the shivers, but hot damn it's beautiful. It's the kind of vocals that makes the Silversun Pickups instantly identifiable and nearly impossible to cover.
But if Aubert's voice is the first Pickups identifier then a close second is Chris Guanlao's monster drums. Perched high above his band on an elevated stage with a glowing spotlight on him for the whole show, Guanlao tore it up. Wild hair flowing, he moved his arms at what appeared to be light speed, half the time fully extended above his head almost in some sort of holy surrender. I still can't figure out how he managed to stay on beat with one arm always raised above his head.
The Silversun Pickups played a blistering 90 minute set in what felt like ten minutes that included every song off of their latest disk, Swoon, as well as crowd favorites from Carnavas including "Lazy Eye" and "Well Thought Out Twinkles." It was the first actual hometown show since their sophomore release in April and you could see that the long time on the road had done them good. They started huge on the first number, "Growing Old Is Getting Old" and didn't let up until the last distorted notes of the encore "Common Reactor." There was absolutely no breathing space or chance to think during that show. You just climbed aboard and let it take you. It's such a joy to see such a promising band reach it's full potential. They are no longer just a good band live, but a band that people have to go see.
The one thing that they didn't seem to have down is the flow of the show. The last song they did in the set was "Lazy Eye" which was tremendous and for the encore they ended with "Common Reactor." Encores are a chance to play either something no one's heard before like a cover song or a chance to hear everyone in the place belt out one of your best known songs. "Common Reactor" just doesn't fit either of those descriptions and so fell a little short as a grand finale. Compared to the red hot reception "Lazy Eye" got, it felt a little lukewarm for a last number.