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Mike Randle


Review: Arthur Lee & Love Henry Fonda Theatre, Hollywood
Sept 27, 2002


M. Greenwald

I don’t want to get too optimistic here, but some great things are happening amongst some of the surviving veteran rockers from the psychedelic era. Between the David Crosby’s, Brian Wilson’s, Rolling Stones’ and Who’s of this world who have somehow survived seemingly devastating personnel changes, imprisonment, and even key band member deaths as we head into the 21st Century, there is still somehow a wonderful wave of re-birth. The greatest of all stories just may be Arthur Lee, the leader of perhaps the most progressive group to come out of the 1960’s musical underground, Love. Lee’s been counted out of the game countless times, most recently from 1996 to 2001, when he was in prison on a weapons charge.
Aside from legal and personal problems, Lee also eschewed touring throughout his long career, only venturing out on rare occasions, usually to play local L.A. club shows. However now, at the beginning of autumn 2002, Lee and his re-tooled Love (all members of former L.A. pop/rockers, Baby Lemonade) performed their 51st show this year at the Henry Fonda Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., and it was an inspiring show for several reasons.

First off, the near-capacity crowd that came to see the show literally spanned generations. Prior to the show and during intermission, I spoke with several older fans who saw Lee and Love in their glory days at Bito Lido’s, The Whiskey, etc. who spoke reverently and rolled their eyes when remembering the band in their 1965-7 heyday. As well, there were a lot of retro-rockers, music freaks and musicians such as myself in their late 30’s/early 40’s. But what was most interesting were the large number of younger fans, who ranged from pre-teens to early-mid-20’s; all stone Love fanatics, and most of whom had never seen Lee before.

After an opening band (The Tyde) and a lengthy intermission, Lee and the band stepped unto the stage. Lee, resplendent in jeans, a white cowboy shirt, hat and an American flag head bandana looked in great physical condition. The band ripped into the classic “7&7 Is” and proved – in the very first song – that Lee hadn’t lost a step. Aside from the quality of his voice – which remains exquisite – Lee still projected an edgy element of danger and menace when delivering the song, and this alone went a long way in demonstrating that his rock & roll heart and soul are still firmly intact. Quickly shifting gears into the pop/Latin/soul masterpiece, “Orange Skies” – which ended up sounding like Stevie Wonder fronting a rock & roll band – delivering a pure, unspoiled message of…well, love.

Aside from performing all of the ‘hits’ such as “My Little Red Book”, “Alone Again Or” and “Andmoreagain”, among others, Lee and his band reached far back into the catalogue for some unexpected delights, such as “Your Mind And We Belong Together”, the original band’s final single from early 1968. A daunting, multi-section suite, it’s doubtful that the original band even attempted it on stage back when it was released. However, Lee has a group of respectful, sympathetic players that were willing to take the song to the wall with him, and it succeeded beyond anyone’s imagination. From Lee’s straining, almost operatic-meets-Latin psychedelic vocal acrobatics to lead guitarist Mike Randle’s virtual wall-of-metal white noise solo, it was one of the finest musical accomplishments I’ve witnessed in a live setting by a five-piece band, and was undoubtedly one of the show’s many highlights.

Aside from two songs, Lee and Love tackled all of the Forever Changes material, and did so with a combination of force and grace that was beyond admirable. The guitarists, Randle and Rusty Squeezebox were able to nail the elaborate string and horn lines perfectly, along with giving them a muscular rock edge that worked perfectly in this live setting. Late last year and over the summer, the band performed the album live in Europe, augmented by a seven-piece string and horn section. Plans to repeat these shows are set for Europe and the U.K. again in early 2003, as well possible stateside and Japanese shows. But, while that would indeed be a treat, this lineup does the material extreme justice.

And speaking of justice (and freedom), the performance of “The Red Telephone” was particularly appropriate at this show. With the closing section {‘they’re locking them up today/they’re throwing away the key…’) and ‘We’re all normal and we want our freedom was more than a little ironic and powerful, with Lee exalting the audience to scream the word ‘freedom’, and he meant it.
Aside from Lee, Randle and Squeezebox (who also handled the harmony vocals beautifully), the band (which also includes David Green on drums and David Chapple on bass) commanded such challenging material as “The Daily Planet” remarkably, especially the drum fills (originally played by Hal Blaine) on “Planet” and the bone-crunching Bossa Nova rock rhythm of “A House Is Not A Motel”. Lee himself also shone brightly on the bluesy harp solo of “Signed D.C.”, where he and Randle traded riffs like an acid-fried Butterfield/Bloomfiled combination.

One of the biggest suprises of the evening was the inclusion of “August” from 1969’s Four Sail. Since the late 70’s, I’m proud to say that I’ve rarely missed a Southland Love show (and they weren’t all great, friends) , yet I’d never seen him pull this one out. The song blends rock, jazz, Latin and near-metal influences together into one cohesive whole, and was probably meant to be performed live. On this evening, it reached its highest potential, with Randle, Chapple and Green trading multi-layered riffs to create some positively dizzying hights.
Following the obligatory “Everybody’s Gotta Live”, the audience – who weren’t about to let Lee leave the building without an encore – got the band back onstage for a blinding version of “My Flash On You”, a psychedelic, “Hey Joe”-styled rocker from the 1966 debut album, and this closing song neatly mirrored the analogous “7&7 Is”, which opened the show.

Aside from being an evening of great music, it was a hopeful night, and that’s what Lee and Love sent the audience home with: hope. Lee announced that a new Love album will be released in 2003, along with his autobiography. It would have been nice, actually, to hear a new song or two, or perhaps the elegant “Five String Serenade”, easily one of the finest songs he’s written in the last 20 years. But, these are minor criticisms in an evening that delivered some real music and an optimistic eye towards the future…which appears to be a wonderful thing. – Matthew Greenwald

©2002 M. Greenwald

7&7 Is
Orange Skies
My Little Red Book
Your Mind And We Belong Together
Alone Again Or
Bummer In The Summer
Between Clark & Hilldale
Live And Let Live
Signed D.C.
The Red Telephone
The Daily Planet
You Set The Scene
Everybody’s Gotta Live
Singing Cowboy
Stephanie Knows Who

My Flash On You

Mike Randle


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