Goldfrapp, Orchestra Buena Vista Social Club, tUnE-yArDs at Hollywood Bowl, June 27, 2010 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Goldfrapp, Orchestra Buena Vista Social Club, tUnE-yArDs at Hollywood Bowl, June 27, 2010, June 27th, 2010

Jun 28, 2010
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The annual KCRW World Festival had its second 2010 event at the Hollywood Bowl last night and it was an eclectic mix music from around the world. Without any sort of introduction, Oakland's Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs) walked onto the stage and suddenly started yodeling and playing a ukulele. She then looped her voice using a digital voice recorder, added drums to the mix and became a one-woman music machine. The sound was rhythmic and sometimes abrasive, but never not compelling, even when her live backing band seamlessly joined her for an all-too-brief five-song set that also showcased reggae, R&B, and folk influences.

Up next was the massive assemblage of Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club, featuring Omara Portuondo. The 15-person group is a mix of members from previous incarnations of the upbeat and energetic Cuban collective. The nearly 80-year old Portuondo was billed as the special guest, but the whole band shone, especially new lead vocalist Carlos Calunga, who has the near-impossible task of filling the void left by the late Ibrahim Ferrer. Day moved into night during their long set and towards the end, you could see gyrating bodies all the way to the back of the Bowl.

After a lengthy break and a long overdue word from KCRW host Tom Schnabel, Goldfrapp hit the stage. Notably absent was her musical collaborator Will Gregory, who's really one half of the band. In his place were performers who looked like they were cast for looks (early '80s beards, frizzy hair) instead of musicianship. Unfortunately, England's very own Alison Goldfrapp played mostly songs from her most recent and most disappointing album, the largely vapid '80s pop pastiche Head First. Adding to the disappointment was the clear use of a backing track for her vocals that allowed her to reach high notes one minute and coast and take a breather the next. This fakeout technique extended to her band, which included a limp drummer and two ridiculous keytar players who may not have been playing at all. Of course, this façade wouldn't be complete without elaborate lights, smoke and wind machines blowing all over the band, making the performance truly all about smoke and mirrors.

The corny Kate Bush-aping setup did provide a few good numbers; opener "Utopia" from her debut album Felt Mountain stood out, as did "Strict Machine" and "Train" from Black Cherry, as well as "Ooh La La" from Supernature. Much of the crowd delighted to the disco-like scenario, dancing in the aisles, but this longtime Goldfrapp fan was severely let down, especially after having seen the band perform spectacularly in much more modest (and live) settings for their first two tours. Here's hoping that the other announced Hollywood Bowl acts like Vampire Weekend, Pavement, Beach House, Sonic Youth, and others are able to play without massive backing assistance or wind machines blowing their hair. Okay, maybe Pavement can have a wind machine...


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June 29th 2010

What a review.. I agree with most of it except I found the Buena Vista Social Club a bit past it. I have seen them 3 times over the last 10 years and I love them.  I really wish they would re-badge the band and add some new blood. I loved Omara Portuondo and as soon as she joined the band it felt as though the vibe changed.
I also loved the set from Merrill Garbus…
Great Review
Thank you..