‘HE SPOKE OF
LOVE’S SWEETER DAYS…’
Gig Review of:
LOVE WITH ARTHUR LEE
at ‘The City Varieties’, Leeds
‘This show is going to be dope. You know what I’m saying?’ announces Arthur Lee. Well no, not exactly. But then, of course, this is not exactly Love. Not the same Love that began recording ‘Da Capo’ on 27th September 1966. Nor the Love that recorded ‘Forever Changes’ on a budget of just $2,257. In fact it’s LA band Baby Lemonade, who have almost served as a Love tribute-band since early 1998, their dexterity and precision supernaturally honed to an eerie magic in replicating those antique time-lost select-Electra grooves. But then again, the tall lanky guy with the bandana round his head, his black hat and dark shades, cream shirt hung loose outside his grey pants, is Arthur Lee – the only credible survivor of the psychedelic era. The guiding intelligence and deranged genius behind those albums, the guy who inked quotable lyrics about ‘the news for today is the movies for tomorrow’ – and they are, they are, or anthemic slogans urging ‘write the rules in the sky, ask your leaders why’, which still need saying today. And Love was always a fluid concept anyway. Names like ‘Snoopy’ Pfisterer, Johnny Echols, Bryan MacLean, then Jay Donnellan and Frank Fayad drifting in and out. Yet as soon as he opens “Live And Let Live” with ‘the snot has caked against my pants, it has turned into crystal’, arching from low acoustic strum to violent electric scream, all doubts dissolve like a sugar-cube on the tongue. The hauntingly surreal “Alone Again Or” follows, then “Seven And Seven Is” with its full-tilt crackling acid colours flickering, so tightly compressed that it’s warping and buckling time-space, updrafting towards that explosive count-down, only to emerge back out the other side, into stillness again. Next, the complex collage that is “Your Mind And We Belong Together”, then “Signed DC” – an explicit drug-song with its cellular ache still intact, all following in its immaculate dayglo train. You could say, whatever line-up Arthur Lee happens to be fronting becomes, by definition, Love. Even though this Arthur is separated from that original oddball visionary Arthur Lee by long wilderness decades of narcotic craziness, and even a five-and-a-half year prison-spell on .44 Magnum firearms charges. But hey, we’re all different people too. That past is gone forever. And – like Brian Wilson recreating ‘Pet Sounds’ or ‘Smile’ on stage in 2004, this is something we’ve never seen before. The original Love never toured outside California. It occurs to me – a thought, in my head, I think – that just possibly those original acid-pilots would have been nowhere near as good as this one either, too stoned all-over-the-place ego-driven and problematic to pick out all the little intricacies and inflections you pick up on here tonight. This is the Love that played last year’s Glastonbury, did the Jools Holland ‘Later’, and have a live CD of much of the music they played tonight. I delayed a long time. This, after all, is a band I’ve loved since Arthur was 22, and I was 18. How could it possibly live up to all that? How could this deliver on all those power-to-amaze expectations? But this Love delivers. A brilliant night, no dope, you know what I’m saying…?
Song-by-song it goes like this, all from
‘Forever Changes’ (recorded from 11th August 1967 on)
except where specified:
“Live And Let Live” Mike, guitarist with white dreads and a big white Gibson unspools the solo as Arthur finger-snipes gun-shots at the audience, close proximity only emphasising its strangeness, an everlasting first
“Alone Again Or” Arthur plays crystalline white guitar break, no Tijuana horns, but still hauntingly surreal… covered by others as diverse as the Damned and UFO, yet this remains the definitive take
“Andmoreagain” Wistful whimsy, the first album had a track called “And More”, this is the sequel, now a guitarist with check tie, glasses and a big red Rickenbacker shivers and ripples out all those precise nuances
“Bummer In The Summer” Garage Folk-Rock, with Arthur dropping into a frenzied knee-crouch for the charged riff-rhythmic Bo Diddley middle-eight bridge sequence
“Old Man” Originally a Bryan Maclean song and vocal (he died of a heart-attack 25th December 1998), so Arthur uses a music-stand to read the evocatively mystic lyrics
“Orange Skies” (from ‘Da Capo’) Arthur’s shimmering red maracas punctuate its acid-baked fluidity, you wonder where such ectoplasmic other-world sound-images come from, and to reside in what sort of mind?
“A House Is Not A Motel” Dazed guitars and blood-soaked imagery, Arthur punches out the ‘you can call my name’ with white tambourine, Mike’s solo is piercingly expressive
“Signed DC” (from ‘Love’) A drug-song that still hurts, an incorrigibly strange epistle of explicit addiction, losing elements of its acoustic fragility live, but compensating with Arthur’s razor-edged wailing harmonica. The ‘DC’ is usually taken to refer to early-Love drummer Don Conka, but an elsewhere Arthurly quote credits the ‘District of Columbia’
“My Flash On You” (from ‘Love’) A molten, Byrds/Stones energy-blast that’s sharp and acid-punk short
“Your Mind And We Belong Together” (1968 single, now part of the expanded ‘Forever Changes’) It took 44 takes to perfect this single, tonight it’s full time-change jump-cut collage and harmonies are recreated in 3:30 minutes of compressed liquidity
“The Red Telephone” A skewed stand-out in a set of stand-outs, acting out the ‘I don’t know if the 3rd or the 4th or if the 5th is to fix’ line with a hypodermic mime, lifting his shades for the ‘look in my eyes’ lines, inhabiting an exultation close to fear, from moribund despair and social paranoia to surreal ecstasy – this, remember, comes from the time of nightly-TV Vietnam-atrocity with nuclear annihilation a button-push away, as the chanted ‘they’re locking them up today’ refrain delivers its appropriately dark menace
“Message To Pretty” (from ‘Love’) ‘As unprofessional as this might seem – wrong song’ he comments, sounds right to me, volume, flaring colour, movement, catching light and electric sparks...
“Rainbow In The Storm” (new song) ‘This may not be special to you, but it’s special to me, after all the shit I’ve been through’ he comments, and it has all the familiar Lee mannerisms, even opening with the ‘Alone Again Or’ “yeah”, into lyrics that run ‘does it matter that you are born, do you have to be right or wrong...?’ ‘Rainbow In The Storm’ is also the title of Arthur’s projected autobiography
“Seven And Seven Is” (from ‘Da Capo’) The closest Love ever got to a US hit single, as Electra 45605 it peaked on ‘Billboard’ at no.33 – 10th Sept 1966, later collected onto Lenny Kaye’s vital ‘Nuggets’ box-set where it resides alongside Electric Prunes, Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Chocolate Watch Band gems
“You Set The Scene” ‘At my request, I ask for nothing’. Another set stand-out
“Singing Cowboy” (from the disappointing new line-up 1969 ‘Love: Four Sail’) Full late-vision ‘unedited version’ elongating into an extended ‘coming after you’ call-and-response, allowing band-member solos and introductions, until ‘have you enjoyed tonight?’ spake the spontaneous good-humour-man ‘I’ve enjoyed tonight’, then he go slip-slip away…
“Maybe The People Would Be The Times, Or Between Clark And Hilldale” Back in black-shirt, Jazz-slippery, dropped-lyrics, saved for the encore… worth the wait
‘SONGBOOK no.3 (Spring)’ (UK – May 2004)
Full version featured on the website:
www.song-book.co.uk/extra (UK – May 2004)
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