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Ghost of the Robot at El Rey - Report
By Patti B.
jeudi 2 octobre 2003
GHOST OF THE ROBOT ROCKS THE EL REY September 27, 2003
(PART 1 : Overall Show Review)
OK, OK, I know, I always say that and, granted, I’m not the most objective ’reviewer’ around, but in this case, that title doesn’t begin to cover it ! The El Rey show now ranks as one of my 3 favorite shows ever—and I’ve been to 15 ! The fact that it was twice as long as any previous show—90 minutes of GotR goodness—helps immensely ! Twice as much GotR music in one night ! Twice as long to stare at the vision that was James... Sigh. I’m still consumed with the joy of it 3 days later ! And when I say joy, I mean that literally. The band was the most focused and ’together’ I have ever seen them, and seemed really comfortable in a way I’ve never seen them display before, despite the new venue. They were totally in tune with each other and the audience the whole night, displaying a complete delight in being right where they were, doing just what they were doing. It made for a heady experience !
The venue was OK—a spacious, beautifully restored Art Deco theater with crystal chandeliers and lots of plush red chairs lining the side walls—but not my favorite ; Knitting Factory still ranks as the best GotR venue ever. The room was very long, but the floor space in front of the stage was kind of narrow, making everyone want to crowd even more. IMO, the band is best served with a wide room and stage, so more people can get closer to the stage without squashing the people in front ! Not that being squashed in the front will every stop, no matter how big the stage is, I’m thoroughly convinced ! We have learned to deal. :) The sound seemed to be really good for a change, as far as I can tell, but being right at the stage makes for an interesting sound mixture, I’ve discovered—the music itself is LOUD but the singing is often barely audible, despite being so close to the monitors (or perhaps because of it). I assume the mix of both is best heard from further back in the room, but I am not about to give up my front row spot any time soon to find out ! :)
The exception, if it can be called one, was Charlie, who seemed unusually quiet and subdued, not his normal ebullient self. He played with great focus and excellence as always, but lacked his usual playfulness onstage.
Oddly enough, Steve was *more* animated than usual, not staying in his usual corner turned half away from the crowd, but more open to the crowd and even wandering around to the other side of the stage to play ; just generally getting into the moment. This could have something to do with the beautiful woman he had with him ! ;)
I didn’t get the playlist—Charlie handed them out after the show before anyone could grab them. So, I can’t tell you what they did in what order, Except "Liar" was first as always and "Vehicles Shock Me" was last as always. :) I can tell you that, literally, the only song they didn’t do was "Angel" ("Smile" doesn’t count, it has never been a GotR song). The band also did two brand new songs I’ve never heard before, and I really liked both, especially the second one, during the encore. I’m not sure who wrote them, they didn’t say, but I’d be willing to bet James did. The encore song had words about TV and how everything is not as golden and lovely it seems, so it sounds like something out of his life right now. He sang it with a lot of emotion, as well, and it sank straight into my heart. :) I heard a rumor they want to do an EP kind of CD, with 5 songs on it, before Aaron leaves. With the two new songs, "Over Now", "Katie" and "New Man (insert number here)" :) they have 5. Crossing fingers strenuously that they manage to get it done ! Also hoping someone with a playlist posts it, so I can find out the names of the songs ! (I have not read any other reports yet, I wanted mine to be uncontaminated by others’ opinions on it).
For the first time in close to a year, Charlie did "Sounds Like a Personal Problem" (SLAPP) which he dedicated—if I remember correctly---to everyone who had had similar experiences at some time. His performance was the best I’ve seen him do.
But the big event of the night was Steve’s debut ! For the first time, Steve took the spotlight, performing "Mefiant" live ! It was really great to finally hear Steve sing live. If it takes 90 minute shows to allow Steve to perform, I say bring it on ! (OK, yeah, that is such a gimmie, wanting longer shows all the time ! So, sue me !) He did a fantastic job and looked like he enjoyed his moment to shine !
One side note about James, something I think deserves mentioning. Whenever James is not singing, he always steps back and sits down on the drum riser. It’s his way of removing the focus from himself and making sure it goes to the guy who is singing. This also holds true whenever one of them has a solo—he turns to them and watches, points, whatever he can to refocus the attention on them, and cheers them on. I think this more than anything demonstrates without words the true heart of James, his giving personality. He is quite willing to set aside his ego to let others shine.
Overall, James sounded great, and you could tell he was enjoying himself to the fullest, often flirting outrageously with some of the girls in the audience. It wasn’t the most perfect show technically speaking, but it was one of the most exuberant and fun shows ever and considering how long it was, he did a fabulous job of it. OK, so James started singing the wrong song once, started singing the second verse too soon on one of the new songs, and started in the wrong key on David Letterman. Who cares ! That’s what live music is all about to me—the real, raw, aliveness of it, the ’clinkers’ included. Perfection is highly overrated and, frankly, boring—give me raw emotion and the sheer joy in performing he displayed over perfection any day ! He still has the most problems with "Good Night Sweet Girl"—it’s his ’challenge’ song, I think because it has such a wide range and so much emotional vocal power needs to go into it. They usually hold it until close to the end, which, IMO, doesn’t help. I think they should consider moving it closer to the beginning. I heard him do it early in a show once and he did it beautifully. But I so admire him for getting out there and giving it his best every time, because he knows how much we all love it. It has to be difficult in the extreme to metaphorically strip yourself that naked before an audience that way. He may do it all the time as an actor, but there he has a character to hide behind. At conventions, it’s very public and while James is pretty real at all times, he is still projecting his best public persona. But, as front man to Ghost of the Robot, he makes himself the most vulnerable of anything he does, because it’s pure James out there, just this real guy and his real emotions being displayed through the music for everyone to see, with no facade at all.
James played guitar on two songs, a different one on each. One guitar he announced was called ’Gabriel’ ( ? ?). He said it was also a safety word, whatever that meant, band- wise ! He used it to play "Over Now" and then switched to the other one for the first of the two new songs (which is why I think he wrote that one also, he generally plays only on his own songs). He did a great job of it, you could tell he was really loving it (I think part of him misses playing guitar all the time the way he used to) and it was fun to see him play again.
Overall, they looked good and sounded great and the show was fun and very satisfying. The 45 minute shows always blink by, all the anticipation and then they just seem to be over before you know it. This 90 minute show, while still not nearly long enough—*4* hours wouldn’t be long enough :) —was at least less of a blink-by ! It was very well organized and the band had some fun with the crowd, but I will write about that in the second part of this report, where I’m going to give a run down of the events of the day itself.
If you didn’t catch the E ! TV piece Monday, and if you blinked, you wouldn’t have, they did a very quick announcement about the band having played, the first such airwave time for the band to my knowledge (YAY, national notice for GotR !). At the end of the maybe 10 second clip, James said "Thanks for the love. We’ll give it back tonight." Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever ? and you know what ? It’s exactly what they did !
To be continued...
GHOST OF THE ROBOT ROCKS THE EL REY September 27, 2003 Report by Patti B.
(PART 2 : A Diary of the day...of sorts)
So, we, being the way we are, (OK, it was me who made the decision, OK, I admit it !) decided to get to the El Rey very early, just to ensure we would be first in line (and good thing as will unfold later !). [We do this, not because we get front-center of the stage—someone somehow always manages to get in ahead of us one way or another to take that coveted spot—but to avoid the Knitting Factory fiasco of having two people ahead of us, who tell you they will be a group of six people that suddenly become a group of 30 people just before doors open. We always keep our group small and tight and never let more in line with us than we promise others behind us, and never over 8, all of whom arrive by 3 at the latest. We feel it’s not fair to the rest of the line who get there early, too, only to be forced to be even further back because someone who is a friend of a friend of an acquaintance of their dog came at 7 and wanted to get up front too. Grrr. Sorry, I will get off my soapbox now !] I mean, why not go early ? It isn’t like we plan anything else on concert day, anyway, who can think about other things when GotR is going to be playing ! The fact that the majority of our group—Julie, Sandy, Charlotte—didn’t get in from the 6 hour drive from Northern California until after midnight after working all day and slept maybe 4 hours tops... OK, yeah, we are nuts ! :D
We hung out, reading, looking at pictures, playing music and vegging out, enjoying catching up with the other regulars and meeting newbies. The rest of our usual gang, Pam and Kathleen, arrived by 2. By 3 PM there were about 20 people there, when the first vehicle pulls up bearing Charlie, Kevin and Aaron. As they came by, Aaron and Kevin both said "Hi Patti" which always makes me grin, since I’m usually the first one they greet and I seldom hear them greet anyone else by name. It’s cute.
As they unloaded the SUV, they chatted with the girls in line off and on. Kevin announced to us that Aaron had a new drum kit as he was carrying it in. We also gave Aaron a card to wish him well on his mission. He told me he had applied but had not heard back yet about where and when but said he would be sure to let everyone know.
Then out of the blue, on one of his passes, Kevin suddenly stopped and turned back, and says to me, in a near-serious voice, "Hey, Patti, why aren’t you first in line ?" (we had just plopped lawn chairs wherever and I was sitting 4th at the time). I was about to say, ’huh ? I am’, when I looked over at Charlotte sitting literally first ; the arrangement in which we were sitting hadn’t occurred to me, I was first to me because the group was. So, I said instead, with a languid waft of the hand at the others that had everything to do with lack of sleep and nothing to do with any delusions of Empress-ness :) "Oh, they’re with me" (like I have some kind of entourage !) Kevin kind of pondered that for a moment, then nodded with a satisfied "Ah, OK" and continued inside. So, now, you see, I gather it is EXPECTED that I am first in line. :D
After the three of them had finished the unloading of that vehicle, the Boys (sorry, they are younger than my daughter, I can’t think help it if I think of them that way !) took off down the street. About 20 minutes later they returned...wearing a really bad Halloween beard (Aaron) and mustaches (Kevin’s was drooping down around his mouth, Charlie’s was just straight across the upper lip) ! They were all playing around like they were totally not who they were, and as they went by they said "Hey, is this where Ghost of the Robot is playing ? We heard they were going to be here..." and went inside. They were quite funny, actually. During one pass by unloading (below), I called out fairly loudly, "Hey, that looks like Brigham Young !" (a Mormon reference) as Aaron went by, who whipped his head back around a bit startled and then smiled.
Steve arrived about 3 :30 with more equipment and they helped finish the unloading (in the false facial hair, which Steve got a kick out of, I think) and about 20 minutes or so later, James arrived. He came walking up REALLY briskly and ducked inside almost before anyone knew he was there ! He stayed inside until the band all left around 6 PM. We all tried to compare notes as to what James was wearing but not one of us could remember ! Dazzled, the lot of us ! He was carrying 2 guitars and a duffel bag, so he was pretty obscured, too.
The band started rehearsing and it was fairly audible right by the door. We could hear the new songs float out a bit, so we got pretty excited about that. Then, shortly after 4, E ! TV reporter and crew arrived. They went inside and apparently did a lot of filming of the band rehearsing and interviewed James alone as well. They came out and interviewed the two women from Europe, and then wanted to interview us because we had gotten there so early just to see the band and James. Virtually none of it made it to air, except that few seconds of the band doing "David Letterman" and that one line from James, albeit a lovely line (see part 1). Sigh. Oh well. I sort of hope James (and the band) got to see what was said by all of us.
So, the band left together at about 6, except James, who left separately with his publicist. We got in at 7, I landed just right of center about 5 feet (James’ left) in front of Charlie’s spot, all in all a great location, with the only break in the monitors on that side of the stage directly in front of me. This is a distinct advantage, as I had a place to put my purse and leaning room, plus being a bit open to the stage, an advantage that came into play later. The show started at 8, with Automatic Hotel on first. They had played at the House of Blues show last month and it was a pleasant surprise to get to see them again (the promoter never announced who would be on before GotR only that there were two other bands before them) ; they are a great, energetic and fun band. LOL—they had three songs in a row, "Sunnydale", "Firefly" and "Gone", and claimed all were a coincidence... From the sound of it, they were at least aware of all things Joss, maybe even fans. The second band was musically excellent, but the lead singer had the oddest cadence to his singing that made it impossible to understand a word he gulped out. He was pretty nice on the eyes though, very cute. :)
GotR was schedule to come on at 10, as usual they were a little late. :) There was no curtain at the venue, so they had to come on and set up in full view of the crowd, who were vocally appreciative of this fact ! there’s Steve busily setting up the keyboard and checking his guitar, Aaron setting up his new drum kit, Charlie and Kevin checking guitars and amps. Finally James comes out—many wild cheers—trying to be all casual and not look at the crowd yet (it isn’t showtime yet, must pretend we aren’t there and be all business). :) He crosses to his mike, squats down and plays with his guitar cord a few moments. It was so funny—everyone else is so busy with instruments and tuning and such, and James has just this cord to play with for like 5 seconds. Pam couldn’t resist and made some comment about how hot he was, which made him grin THAT grin, though he still didn’t look up. Then, they went off stage again (presumably to do whatever it is they do just before a show to psyche themselves into it).
The announcer announced them, there was a moment of stillness and then James came wandering out alone. He comes up to the mike and says all innocent eyes and everything, "Some of the band members couldn’t be here tonight, but don’t worry, we found some guys at a truck stop to fill in. They’re really good !" Out comes the rest of the band, the Boys in their fake beard and mustaches, with hats on to make them look really redneck. It was really funny, even having seen them beforehand ! They kept them on for several songs, but eventually they took them off as the heat of playing got to them.
Let me pause a moment here to describe how absolutely scrumptious James looked ! I was sure he would show up in the yellow T-shirt he’s lately been sporting (sorry, but, ew ! not a good color on him) but was secretly hoping he would come in the famous maroon one I am so in love with. The most pleasant surprise was, he came in a REAL shirt ! With buttons and everything ! A fabulous deep blue one with "The Ramones" printed on the back, that set off his very Blonde hair and gorgeous Blue Eyes to fabulous perfection. And our guy must be watching "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (or someone around him is) because he had ’dressed’ the short sleeves (rolled the edges up a couple times for neatness) and had one end tucked in while the other was hanging out, just as QEFTSG insists is a must ! :D The sleeves showed off his muscled arms perfectly, and the tucked edge came out almost immediately, providing tantalizing glimpses of belly every so often and allowing him easy hands-in-pockets access. :) And of course, the usual jeans and running shoes.... His hair was shorter than last month (early in the filming season, new haircut short) and he had kind of spiked it up a little here and there. He looked absolutely amazing (and if you saw E !, you KNOW what I mean !). In the immortal words of Pepe LePew, "Le pant, le pant !" :)
OK, so during the show, James was a total flirt. He commented at least three times on how many hot girls there were in the audience and how pleasantly distracting it was. He especially seemed to be enamored of one almost center of him about 8 or 10 people back (I couldn’t see her from my vantage point). At one point, in his seemingly never- ending search for more to drink—the man seemed to be absolutely parched !—she tossed him her water bottle and got the most intensely sexy look in thanks, then he made this huge show of preparing to take a sip, even saying "ready ?" to her, then took what in my mind has to be the most sensually explicit sip of water I have ever witnessed ! ! ! :0 It was very hot ! Whew : : :fanning myself just thinking about it : : : :
The thirst thing was a definite theme for James. The El Rey needs to take better care of their bands and give them more to drink. Charlie actually had to beg for water at one point. James at least had a bottle of water, which he wound up sharing with the begging Charlie. James stole a sip of Steve’s beer (Becks ? maybe, small squat green bottle), plus he had a McDonalds cup of coke (which I now have, thanks to Sandy) :) OK, I have to admit that one cracked me up—he’s so buff and gorgeous and presumably has all this money...and he eats at McDonalds ? ! :D Anyway, at one point, he’s getting ready to do the next song and he looked over at me right about then and smiles— SIGH ! ! !—and then somehow he notices a Red Bull can in front of me, sitting in that little gap, where the German girl next to me had put it when she finished it. He gets all animated and says over the mike to me "Is that for me ? !" I had no clue what he was asking about and I gave him the "What ?" look. I had a GotR balloon (who’s were those and how do we get more ?) but I didn’t’ think he meant that His smile gets even brighter as he comes over to me, still looking right in my eyes, and says again "Is that for me ? !" and as he reaches for the Red Bull can, I realize what he’s after, and I said, "oh, no, it’s empty, Hon !" just as he picks it up and realizes it for himself. He made this pouty-lip face that was totally adorable and I laughed and he smiled and went back to work. Is that man hooked on his Red Bull or what ! I felt all kinda bad about it, even though it wasn’t mine, but there was no way to get out of the press and get one from the bar for him or I would have !
Late into the show this rather rude person shoved through us and pushed her two young daughters to the front. We were fairly annoyed—she was very rude about it, but at least she waited until the show was nearly over—but couldn’t resist the children, of course. Sandy and I tried to get James attention to point to them, and finally, being tall and obvious, I managed to get his attention, pointed and looked at the girls pointedly and looked back at him to make sure he saw them. He did, and got all excited and stopped what he was about to do and announced something about the youngest audience members in the mike and then came over (again, in my ’gap’) and shook hands with them. She told him it was her birthday, and he shook her hand again and congratulated her, then went back to his mike and announced it to everyone. The littlest girl was in ecstasy ! He was so priceless with them, it’s easy to see how much he loves kids and must make a great dad to his 2 charges. I saw the little girl leaving after the show and said "This must have been the best birthday ever, huh ? !" and she just smiled really huge and nodded. I don’t think she had regained her power of speech yet !
I think my favorite part happened at the very end of the show. They were doing "Vehicles Shock Me" and I was enthusiastically ’dancing’ (if you can call bouncing around in a 6" space while trying not to knock the camera out of Char’s hand dancing) and singing along as always (the majority of the audience—those who are regular band fans, especially—sings along to everything). James suddenly looks right at me, smiles this huge smile, long-arm points at me, and then leans into the mike as the song ends and says "all the cool people know the words !" Hey ! I have been certified "Cool" by the one and only James Marsters ! THE James Marsters, who epitomizes coolness as "Spike" ! Wheeee ! ! ! ! ! :D
After the show stuff :
We happened to be parked right out in front of the El Rey (how convenient is that ?—the advantage of being early and knowing ahead of time !) so we hung out there after the show for while waiting for James to leave. You know, just to see him walk...mmmm. :) The poor Boys had car trouble—the SUV they were driving wouldn’t turn over, it just kept revving, but wouldn’t kick. They got someone to jump them (although I could have told them that wouldn’t work, there wasn’t anything wrong with the battery. I wasn’t in my car, or I would have tried it for them, being parked right in front of them), but it still didn’t start. I don’t know what happened after we left, but we were just so tired and hungry (I am diabetic and I hadn’t eaten almost anything all day, bad me) we finally left (after James left that is !). There were a lot of people around helping them, so I’m sure they got taken care of one way or another.
James came out eventually. They tend to keep him inside until most of the crowd has gone so he doesn’t get mobbed, and often let him slip out an unused side door no one knows about at other venues. The El Rey had only the one entrance in front, so they had no secret escape door anywhere. It was really funny to watch (though we all felt sorry that he has to endure all this after giving his all inside already). James comes out the door, with the promoter’s guy acting as bodyguard (Rezin, who was so sweet and a great guy !), so to speak, walking at a brisk pace yet again, never stopping. There are maybe a half dozen girls trailing them. As we watch, from about 50 feet away, a few more latch onto the trailing girls, and a few more. By the time they get even with our car, there are like 20 girls behind them. By the time they reach the end of the block 2 cars further down, there are maybe 35 ! James and his Estrogen trail.... :D As he passed by our car, I called out "Goodnight James" and he responded with "Goodnight Baby" as he smiled at Julie, Sandy and Charlotte, then seeing me last, gave me a huge grin and a head-up nod. Sigh ! he must have parked several blocks up the street, because we lost track of him after he kept going up the next block, even with all those girls following him ! Smart move, actually. He only had a few people to deal with after he got to his car, and could easily escape in it quickly, plus bonus, they’re all on foot so no one can follow him !
All in all, a fabulous and fun night I won’t soon forget ! Thanks to Ghost of the Robot for their talent, joy in sharing and for giving us all that love in return ! Love you Guys !
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