LAST WEEK, LIVE

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
Mason Jar
June 19, 1994

Maybe it was when the topless woman with the purple body paint, blacked-out teeth and twisted fright wig stood on her head with her back to the audience and her legs spread, and a smaller, chubby girl painted orange and dressed as some kind of mutant bee came up behind her and began taking eggs from a huge Easter basket, displaying them to the audience at arms' length and then smashing them into the crack of the other woman's butt as gooey blobs of thick paint splattered out and into my hair that I knew I was really having a good time.

Or maybe it was right when the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black came onstage. Why pussyfoot around? In the sacred tradition of Kiss, the Tubes, Gwar and Alice Cooper, the music rides shotgun--if not, at times, back seat--to The Act in the world of TVHOKB.

The lights go down. First the band comes out. The guitarist is an Asian person with a dyed-blond pompadour, no shirt, vinyl chaps with his ass cheeks hanging out and platform saddle shoes. The bass player is dressed as a chef, and the drummer opts for nothing more than a black-thong-bikini bottom.

All of these are men, mind you, just the band, after all; now the real stars take the stage to complete the stunning TVHOKB visual juggernaut. Three women, led by one Kembra Pfahler, walk on trancelike. All are painted from head to toe in purple and black, wear wickedly lame dime-store wigs, sleazy Pocono honeymoon G-strings, and have multicolored streamers hanging from their extended arms. The band kicks into a metal groove, the ladies stare and snarl at the audience with their blacked-out teeth, it's Night of the Living Dead gone bad. Or gone good, depending on your point of view. And there is, of course, music; tight but not particularly original pop metal, sort of Thin Lizzy meets M”tley Cre meets the New York Dolls. But so what? This band from New York (nine people in all lurch on and offstage) is all about show biz. Which means props. For "Water Coffin," which Pfahler says is "all about what we do in New York, take baths and smoke cigarettes," a yellow-, red- and black-striped man comes on with a big cardboard bathtub that lovely Kembra steps into. She wails away as he, quite seriously, holds a rubber duckie out to the audience for ritual viewing.

TVHOKB also incorporates a bunch of foil stars hanging from a tree branch, huge, flapping wings with teeth, a brick wall with working Kleenex dispensers on it, big, pink glasses, and a ton of fake snow that ended up on the small, stunned audience, most of whom just stood there grinning throughout the set.

And then it was all over but the encore: Pfahler appeared with a box on her head topped with burning birthday candles. By this time, the tresses of her cheap black wig had rubbed off swaths of purple body paint from her breasts, creating a look of two squinting black eyes, but by that time, the fans were punch-drunk on spectacle. As one guy yelled repeatedly when TVHOKB left the stage, "Un-fucking-believable!"

The Eagles
Sun Devil Stadium
July 19, 1994

Three things to remember at every stadium show:
1. After five times, most people tire of doing "the wave."
2. Some jerk doesn't quite "get it" and keeps the communal beach ball.
3. Everybody eventually winds up looking at the big screens.

That last point certainly held true last Sunday. Most people ignored opening act Los Lobos in favor of watching the strong gale winds ripping one of the screens in half. At one point, it looked as if it would unhinge completely from the scaffolding and hang-glide over the audience. Both screens had to come down, leaving the folks in the cheap seats ($29.50?!) at a serious disadvantage.

The storm never materialized, but the Eagles brought one along with them just in case. After the flashing strobes and the taped thunder ushered the members onstage, the band warmed up the crowd with five songs from Hotel California. "We're ba-a-a-a-ack," uttered Glenn Frey, acting as a genial, low-key master of ceremonies for most of the night. Big fans of the Eagles' recorded sound certainly weren't disappointed by the group's first set; not a harmony, tambourine beat or castanet click was missing, and none were added where they weren't expected. These classic songs were expertly performed, but one wonders if every guitar solo really needed to be a note-for-note re-creation of what was on the record. There's more to live shows than merely meeting expectations.

The human jukebox syndrome seemed to bore Joe Walsh, who, for most of the first set, sulked like a dog who'd been yelled at for jumping on the couch. He only seemed to come to life after performing songs he'd written, like "Ordinary Average Guy," which he sang while wearing Cat in the Hat headgear and trying to balance a bowling pin on his head. Timothy B. Schmit's sole Eagles song, "I Can't Tell You Why," was rich and creamy enough to make you forget you weren't going to get to hear Randy Meisner's "Take It to the Limit." Schmit's new song, "Love Will Keep Us Alive," wasn't on the same level, and most people probably forgot it before the last bass note stopped vibrating. After a brief intermission, the band became stool-bound and things took a decidedly mellow turn. Don Henley stepped out from behind the drums to perform the first in a long procession of solo material. The band's "unplugged" version of "Heart of the Matter" was a nice twist and made you wish the Eagles pulled out the trademark harmonies to help Henley when he was visibly straining for the high notes on "The Boys of Summer." What was most puzzling about the show from here on in was the crowd jumping to its feet for the first time and clapping madly for songs like "You Belong to the City" and "Dirty Laundry." Maybe it was because the crew finally got one of the screens to work again, keeping the MTV boomers happy. Even so, it's shocking to think all these fans have been clamoring 13 years for an Eagles reunion just so they could hear the band perform "All She Wants to Do Is Dance." Stadium-proven material like the James Gang's "Funk #49" and Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" really got the audience going, while Henley's crowd-baiting new song, "Get Over It," tried doing the same, but came off more as a slogan than a credible rocker. "This is a song about the age we live in, the age of whining," said the Oprah/Donahue-hating drummer boy, questioning where anyone gets the people for those shows. Knee-jerk reactionary lyrics like "I'd like to find your inner child and kick him in the ass" will probably mean Rush Limbaugh fans will buy it by the truckload.

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