Herbie Hancock at Campbell Hall
By Zach Manzanetti

One sure indication that a jazz musician is reaching the status of legend is when Miles Davis describes said musician as “the step after Thelonious Monk.” And, pianist Herbie Hancock proved Davis’ praise right on Sunday night, as he performed a two and a half hour show at Campbell Hall.

Hancock opened right on time with a weirdly interesting, albeit a bit drawn out, synth-driven intro before inviting the audience to help him sing “Happy Birthday” to his daughter, Jessica. After that, it was all about Hancock’s performance – and, of course, the prowess of his terrific backing band.

Vinnie Colaiuta’s drumming was hard to get used to at first, as he played on everything and didn’t swing anything, but after 10 minutes, I began to get accustomed to it and it eventually seemed natural. Bassist Nathan East laid down some very, very funky bass lines and Lionel Loueke was an amazing guitarist, who played unaccompanied for one long number, which Herbie introduced as “International Soup.”

Although Hancock’s performance was consistently great throughout, the highlight of the evening had to be when the quartet was joined by Kenny Loggins for a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes to Town.” The whole crowd was pumped, and Campbell Hall was filled with energy. It was a testament to the quartet’s ability when the crowd – which was mostly over 40 -was clapping and swaying with an energy that matched the dynamic music.

The concert also had its calmer moments. Whenever Hancock took time to play the piano as a lead instrument it was phenomenal. “Brilliant” is the one word that can describe Hancock’s performance on the instrument, as he demonstrated why he is indeed one of the best living players around. The crowd agreed and, after the band left, a standing ovation brought them back for two more numbers. In the end, it was just amazing to be in the presence of such an adoring crowd getting to see a living legend right here on our very own campus.

Joanna Newsom at Walt Disney Concert Hall
By Cassie McGrath

“I wasn’t born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight,” Joanna Newsom cooed defiantly to a nearly full house at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday night. Backed by a full chamber orchestra, wearing a full-length black gown and plucking madly at her harp, Newsom embodied a fierce, whip-smart femininity and demonstrated why she is one of the most intelligent visionaries working in American music today. Newsom countered the notion that she is all waifish charm, proving that she has matured into her music and developed into a performer who is quickly becoming one of the most compelling musicians of our generation.

When Joanna Newsom, a mind-bogglingly creative singer-songwriter and classically trained harpist, sprung out on the music scene in 2004, the world didn’t really know what to do with her. Her album The Milk-Eyed Mender was trumpeted as the newest thing in indie music, but many were put off by her squeakily pure, untrained voice and dismissed her headily complex lyrics as dreamy songwriting nonsense. They were proven wrong in 2006, when Newsom released Ys, a sophomore album unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Comprised of five lengthy musical compositions, the album dwells on the personal and universal themes of mortality, isolation and rebirth. Joanna Newsom harkens back to the great folk songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s, in the tradition of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Just like these artists, Newsom is a personal storyteller who really hones her craft.

At Walt Disney Concert Hall, Newsom found her ideal venue. Her signature pop/classical hybrid is perfectly offset in the hall, a beautiful yet unconventional space with lush acoustics and a surreal, exploding organ as a backdrop. Backed by a chamber orchestra and Newsom’s own three-piece band, Newsom’s compositions were lyrical, shimmering and spot-on. Playing harp arpeggios at lightning speed, illuminated by a spotlight, Newsom had the magnetic appeal of an artist coming into her prime. Her voice has lost just enough of its squeak to retain a unique touch, while developing a palatable depth. A Newsom concert is both a literary and a musical event, and in concert, lyrics that could be considered loopy, such as, “When you ate, I saw your eyelashes / Saw them shake like wind on rushes,” were sung so honestly that they acquired a deeper context, provoking the need for re-examination and further study.

Newsom’s intelligence and lyricism cannot be easily dismissed. Like most rewarding forms of art, understanding her complexity takes time. It is impossible to think of another contemporary musician with such a singular artistic vision who challenges and rewards the listener to think on a higher level. In concert, Newsom proved that she is a truly captivating musical force, and everyone should start paying attention, because she is only going to get better.

Jens Lekman[[ok]] at the Troubadour[[ok]]
By Andy Sweat[[ok]]

Saturday night at the Troubadour meant music and dancing with Jens Lekman, as he performed in support of his brilliant new album, Night Falls Over Kortedala[[ok]]. For those who don’t know Jens Lekman, he is, of course, an adorable Swedish musician[[ok]] who creates masterful pop songs with lushly melodic arrangements. His lyrics are smart and funny, but his arrangements and vocals are heartfelt. Basically, if Jonathan Richman[[ok]], Stephin Merritt[[ok]], and [[Jim]] Morrissey[[ok]] had a group orgy, Jens Lekman would be the product of their thrusting.

On Saturday night, Leckman kicked things off with “The Opposite of Hallelujah”[[ok]] and “Sipping on the “[[no quote here]] Sweet Nectar,”[[ok]] from his new album, and the spirited yet sensitive crooner’s music inspired the audience to dance in the most charmingly spastic ways possible.

Jens[[Jens’]] backing band was made up of six Swedish girls in long white Dutch skirts, and a DJ named Victor Sjöberg[[ok]], dressed in a white jump suit[[one word]] and sailor cap with dance moves like a hybrid between David Byrne[[ok]] and Kraftwerk[[ok]]. Jens, Victor, and the girls mixed the night away, blending the acoustic with the electronic while crossing over all sorts of genres[[,]] from indie pop to disco to hip hop.
[[indent]] A big crowd favorite was “A Postcard to Nina,”[[ok]]- a seven and half minute[[oko]] story about his awkward trip to Berlin where he had to pretend to be his lesbian friend Nina’s fiancé at a dinner with her father[[ok]]. Jens also played a few classics from his catalogue, including “Black Cab”[[ok]] and “Maple Leaves”[[ok]] and some sweet ballads like “The Cold Swedish Winter”[[ok]] and “Shirin.”[[ok]]

But,[[no comma]] he always brought it back to dancing[[,]] being sure to include songs like “Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo”[[ok]] and “A Sweet Summers[[Summer’s]] Night On Hammer Hill”[[ok]] in his performance.

He closed up the show with the song, “You Can Call Me Al,”[[ok]] a rendition of the classic Paul Simon[[ok]] song. Jens admitted to hating the song in his childhood because of Chevy Chase[[ok]] making “silly faces in the video,” but he found some meaning in it later in his life. From his lips, it was simply enchanting.[[“simply enchanting.”]]