Ok, this is a preliminary review of tonight's Santa Barbara show at SoHo. I just drove an hour and a half back home and it's 1:44 am in the morning, so a more detailed musical review will have to wait. Right now, this is more of an open letter to Hope and the band. I'm also going to the Hollywood Forever show on Tuesday, so I'd appreciate it you guys would take this input in the spirit in which it is given and make the next show better. (Yes, there's always room for improvement.).
First, I had never seen Hope or Mazzy live before, so it was very interesting to have her standing there right before me. Musically, a lot of the new stuff seemed more Mazzy-esque than the first album. Not as soft, less not-in-you-face acoustic. We even had a little slide guitar going. The band had a really good sound and when the trance gets working, it's captivating. I especially got into the 10 minute trip-out song at the end of the regular set. Some of that great, dark groove we all love. (And no, I don't know the song's name. I'm not there to take notes.) You could tell the crowd liked the recognizable songs from the first album like Charlotte. But I'll cover the music itself in a future post.
Now for some technical notes to the band: Can you dial down the ridiculous amount of reverb on Hope's voice? How 'bout bringing it down 30-40%. She has a great voice, we like her voice, and we want to be able to make out the actual words she's singing. Yes, I know that's been her thing, the Mazzy stuff was infamous for reverb (or echo -- or whatever you want to call it). But in the past the vocals were still understandable, the words intelligible. Tonight we had reverb reverbing over the reverb. Too much! And look -- I like guitar distortion -- I'm Mr. Distortion -- but the lead guitar seemed to be pegging, overmodulating at time. The mix seemed off.
Maybe spend more time getting the sound right (hell, the show started so late, you had nothing but time).
I've never been to this club before so I can't exactly tell you how it measures up acoustically. (It didn't seem horrible.) But the sound for tonight's show was not great. It didn't quite reach the level of sucking, but it was getting close. (I noticed it did seem like you tweaked some things as you went along, so it was better towards the end. Hey, but isn't that what sound checks are supposed to be for? Fix it before the show.)
Some things were a little inexplicable. Hope had 2 vocal mics facing the audience, one appeared to be for her harmonica, but then she ended up blowing it into both mics. And the harmonica was buried at too low a volume. And really, would it have killed you to position the xylophone so Hope could face the audience when she's banging away? Half the time, I was looking at her back. I appreciated the retro-ness of the 16mm film projector shooting images at the backdrop/bedsheet behind the band. But that pinprick of intense bright light was obviously blinding to Hope and she used her hand to shield her eyes for a good part of the show. There's got to be a better way. (Mmmmm....or maybe she wants it that way so she can't see the audience at all?)
It was so dark on stage Hope struggled to read her set list. Some subtle diffuse soft light as a base would be good around her would be nice. You could make it still seem dark, but it wouldn't really be pitch dark.
The show time was listed at 8:00 pm. I don't remember there being any mention of an opening band on tonight's bill. Turns out there was sort of an opening band -- it was The Warm Inventions without Hope Sandoval. Hope finally took the stage at 10:40 pm. Yes, 10:40 pm. Remember, this is a weekday show -- a lot of people have go to work/school in the morning and its in freakin' Santa Barbara, so I'm guessing a good portion of the crowd make the trip up from L.A. They will face a looooong drive back, so the earlier it begins = the earlier it ends = the earlier they get home. So unless there was a really good excuse, the whole "Let's have Hope appear almost 3 hours AFTER the scheduled show time" is somewhat contemptuous of your fans. And I'm not a big fan of that.
BTW, the place was not full. Maybe 200 people. The audience were obviously all long time fans and had heard about "The Rules." No talking, no flash photography, etc and they pretty much obeyed.
The show was a little too short. It was an hour plus a 2-3 song encore.
It may sound like I'm ragging on the show, but I'm not. I enjoyed it. It was a unique experience. The musicality was great -- in a way, better than I expected; a more varied sound and tempo than you would think based on just the first album. But please: Pay more attention to what the audience is seeing and hearing. Get the audio right next time. And it's ok to be fashionably rock 'n rock late but please don't be so late it seems like you're spitting in the face of your very devoted, tolerant fans.