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The love affair between art and music in Los Angeles lives on. The city’s museums have been showcasing music events for a number of years now. This provides a unique and complementary setting in which to experience live performances and DJ sets. In keeping with this tradition, the Annenberg Space For Photography teams up with KCRW to present the "Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll Live" free summer concert series.
The Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll exhibit at the Annenbeg, which runs from June through to the first week of October, features both print and video items. Numerous rock ‘n’ roll photographs line the winding hallways of the Annenberg—most of them recognizable, timeless images. Spanning the musical spectrum from U2 to Michael Jackson, Sly Stone to the Rolling Stones, Eminem to KISS, these pictures document rock ‘n’ roll from 1955 to the present. Among the familiar names behind the lens of these iconic stills are Diane Arbus, Anton Corbijn, Jill Furmanovsky, Bob Gruen, Rob Halfin, David LaChappelle, and Annie Leibovitz. Accompanying these prints is a short documentary playing in the heart of the exhibit on two large screens. This film includes interviews with both the photographers and the subjects talking about the art, as well as the feeling, behind rock ‘n’ roll photography. The film focuses on particular symbolic images that have become part of the fabric of popular culture, think John Lennon in the round shades and the New York City shirt. The exhibit is open five days a week Wednesday through Sunday. Suggestion to everyone: check out the exhibit at a non-KCRW-related time.
If you combine all the weekday activity of the numerous high rises in Century City, it wouldn’t add up to the thousands of attendees on the first evening of Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll Live with Moby. The eateries around the Space have probably never been so overrun by business. Queuing for the purchase of food and drink took up a good portion of the evening. No matter which queue you were planted in, however, it was a good stage vantage point and you didn’t miss any of the activity—unless you were waiting in line for the exhibit.
With people arriving relatively early, the music portion of the evening, taking place in the grassy plaza adjacent to the gallery got a head start. KCRW stalwart Jason Bentley kept the audience warmed up with an extended set of sundown appropriate happy tunes that made the queuing far less of a punishing experience than it could have been.
The focus of the evening was Moby’s acoustic set. Acoustic is a contradiction in terms for an artist known for making electronic, studio-based music. But when you have four eye-catching ladies flanking you: three vocalists and a cellist, you can be Moby and sit in the middle with an acoustic guitar and make it work. Wearing the same white t-shirt with the word “void” emblazoned on it that he has been wearing for quite a few of his live appearances (does he have a closet full of these or is he washing and wearing over and over?), Moby charmed the crowd with his friendly and open repartee. Drawing songs from two particular albums, Play and 18, Moby strummed elegantly while the ladies took turns tearing the hell out of the tracks. These stripped down renditions laid bare the soul of these numbers. “Porcelain,” the track responsible for putting Moby on the mainstream map, was delivered inside out while “Natural Blues” tugged insistently at your inner diva. Covers of “Me and Bobby McGee” and Neil Young’s “Helpless” broke up the set with a dose of fun. The cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” during the encore brought the place down with the ladies’ borderline pornographic performance that would have made both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page blush with approval. Suggestion to Moby: release an “unplugged” album.
Doing a 180-degree turn, literally and figuratively, Moby stepped to the back of the stage and behind the DJ set-up. At this point, the clock went back two decades. Even though his choices were current, Moby’s selection of melodic techno was as unadulterated and fresh as it was in 1992—and the evening felt like it was 1992 all over again. The feeling generated by his set was one of youthful enthusiasm, no matter what your age. Although brief, and missing his essential first single, “Go,” Moby’s DJing had everyone throwing some classic shapes, making the ground tremor like a perpetual earthquake. Suggestion to Moby: release a DJ mix (include “Go”).
Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll Live continues on July 21st with the release party for KCRW vs. T. Rex Sounclash EP featuring remixes by KCRW’s Gary Calamar, Dan Wilcox, Liza Richardson, as well as Chuck P and a cover by Portugal. The Man. The first 500 attendees on this evening will receive a free copy of the EP. All attendees will enjoy Portugal. The Man’s performance and Calamar’s and Wilcox’s DJing. The last installment is on August 4th with the fabulous Raphael Saadiq and Bank Of Skulls celebrating the Chimes Of Freedom benefit album of Bob Dylan covers. Suggestion to everyone: arrive very early to guarantee parking, catch the exhibit, time to get refreshments, and not to miss a moment of the music.