LIVE REVIEW: Not So Silent Night @ HP Pavilion 12/10/10
This year’s Not So Silent Night (NSSN) lineup looked too good to be true. And in some ways, it was, but it mostly lived up to its hype. The crowd was an exact dichotomy of two different factions: one being the elder, sophisticated Smashing Pumpkins fan, and the other being the perfectly pruned 12-year-old punk princesses right outta the Hot Topic catalog (read: My Chemical Romance fans).
Unfortunately the sets started early, and with commuter traffic down to San Jose, we clear-cut missed Broken Bells and the local band winner (even though the tickets said start time was 7pm, curious). Bummer. We showed up just in time for Black Keys. Although the crowd wasn’t too enthused, there were several hundred of us dripping sweat, screaming the lyrics, and head-bopping the hell outta the Ohio duo’s grungy rock n’ roll. And it really doesn’t get much better than these guys. Dan Auerbach has a stage presence that most singers would kill for, and Patrick Carney is quite simply one of my all-time rock heroes. The man works his kit like noneother.
Following Black Keys was 2010’s breakout stars, Phoenix. To my delight, they played mostly older tracks from albums like 2004’s Alphabetical, and 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That. It was pretty obvious that everyone was looking around with blank stares on their faces wondering where “1901” was, but I didn’t really care. This particular set was way different than any other I’ve seen from them. More like hanging out in their practice space while they jammed than being at a huge arena show.
Next up was half of what everyone was waiting for, and not that there’s anything wrong with My Chemical Romance, but, well, yeah there is. Not to be harsh, but they were easily the worst band I’ve ever seen live. It was like painful torture sitting through 45+ minutes of their nonsense. What I did learn, however, was that apparently if you dye your hair red, and wear skeleton gloves, anything can be alternative! The poppy, energetic beats, and don’t-slit-your-wrists lyrics confused the hell out of me. Not to mention the mass exodus of teeny boppers after their set was beyond obnoxious (I imagined the lines of mini-vans outside the HP Pavilion scurrying away before Smashing Pumpkins). Whatever happened to real angsty tunes? I’m talking The Cure angst, that’s what I was hoping to see, but I digress.
Although Billy Corgan is really the only one left from the original Smashing Pumpkins, the new SP was just as impressive and demanding of your respect. Blending hits with new tunes, the set was unpredictable, but delightful with its mosaic mirror pinwheels reflecting beautiful shades of light, and minimal special effects, but just enough to keep you intrigued. At the end of the night I felt like I had seen a legend, although not during their peak, it was good enough for me.
Photos by Richard Haick