My ex-boyfriend A did "have the music" and in 1987 introduced me to 2 groups I'd never heard of (and most of my friends still haven't heard of): Crowded House (Australia/NZ) and Level 42 (UK). Coincidentally, both these groups played here this week. Crowded House was at the Bowery Ballroom 3 nights, unfortunately all sold out. I've never been to that venue and wasn't sure I'd feel comfortable going alone anyway. Level 42 was at the Nokia last night, their first North American tour in 23 years. I've worn out Rhapsody and YouTube listening to and watching them, and it looked like they were great live (videos from this month indicated they were still in good shape), so this was a must and I bought a (very reasonably priced) ticket.
I'd been to the Nokia for the Woodstock concert as well as 2 others I haven't talked about. Herb Alpert and Lani Hall (December 2009) had assigned seating, and a civilized (*cough* older) audience. I had never heard of Lani Hall, but it turned out she was the smooth voice on the Sergio Mendes Brasil '66 hits. She's now married to Herb Alpert, and he remarked that he gets to hear that voice in the shower. This is no young chippie; they've been married over 30 years. They did mostly "new" material (though many songs were old standards) and almost no Tijuana Brass stuff (though there were occasional riffs). Though the music wasn't really my taste, I was impressed with Hall's voice (as good as Streisand) and Alpert's musicianship. Extra points for comfortable sound volume, and no smoky smells.
In May, L asked if I knew of any discount tickets for the Neville Brothers at the Nokia and it turned out I did, so we went. Seating was general admission, and we found decent seats in the back area. The opening act Rubblebucket were not bad, but too loud. I kept my earplugs in for the Nevilles, who put on a very entertaining show. They are no spring chickens, but still can funk (is that a verb?). I occasionally smelled smoke but it quickly disappeared so either the air conditioning was good, or security was doing its job. A blogger details this concert much better than I could, complete with videos.
Back to Level 42. J was in town, and there was a dinner for her at Ollie's the same night. I wanted to see everyone, so had appetizers and then left. Even though there was an opening act and ample seating in the back, I wanted to get there early to make sure I didn't have to stand. I stopped at the Nokia bathroom (surprisingly nice) before entering the auditorium... and finding the back section curtained off! Apparently not enough Americans have heard of Level 42 (none of my 15 dinner companions had) and they were not using the full space. There were chairs set up in the middle section, which was filling rapidly even as I arrived around 7:20 for an 8pm start. I saw a great seat in the third row in direct view of the center, and grabbed it. The people next to me had come all the way from Toronto - they saw the group in 1987, and were very excited about this tour, as we all were.
The opening act, the Crash Moderns, were young and really loud. In went the earplugs. I looked around at one point and everyone down the row had their fingers in their ears and the woman next to me was stuffing in tissues. The kids seemed nice and the music itself was OK, but not the same style as the group we'd all come to see.
Finally Level 42 took the stage. "It's really us," said lead singer Mark King of the distinctive voice and distinctive bass technique, who with Mike Lindup (great keyboards/vocals) are original members. The rest of the group is fine (energetic young drummer, King's adept brother on guitar, and a grooving saxophonist), and while I needed to keep the earplugs in I got into the music immediately, "dancing" in my seat. No smoky smells, but the spilled beer odor from the people in front - who were very apologetic and tried to clean it up - lingered. The set flew by (13 songs + 2-song encore), with no surprises after my recent YouTube binge (would have liked to hear "Leaving Me Now" but I guess it's too similar to "It's Over"). My favorite song of the night was "Love Games" (video from recent Swiss show). The only videos so far of my actual show have bad sound, but my memories will be of a great concert. Wow, that was really them.
I'll definitely see them again if they come back here, and you might want to check them out if they're playing near you.
UPDATE: There are now some good videos of my actual show, taken very close to the stage.
UPDATE: Setlist and more comments here
UPDATE: Careful listening to videos reveals Mark King said, "It's us!" without the "really"