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The Arizona Daily Wildcat features staff will keep you updated with reviews from all the latest concerts in Tucson.

August 2004

September 2004

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August 22, 2004 ::  Ben Kweller @ City Limits

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ben Kweller points at another underage girl picked up by her mom at Sunday's show at City Limits. Bubbly rockers and really, really tight pants were the order of the evening. The ladies were pleased.

Kweller weird but engaging

Is he high, or is he just like that? I ponder this question every time he plays, and I believe the answer will remain a mystery.

But when it comes down to it, it's Ben Kweller's ability to make a bad day turn into a get-up-and-dance day that's important.

And for me, his show, held Sunday night at City Limits, was the perfect cure for the back-to-school blues.

Although the intimate setting was much more inviting than his previous show at The Marquee Theater in Tempe, he seemed to lack the intensity he had before.

His attempt to duplicate the raw, explosive jam session on repeated closer "No Reason" was valiant but not quite up to par compared to the Marquee show-not to mention his lack of interaction with fellow band mates on stage.

My favorite live music moments come when a musician gives you a taste of who he or she is as a person and not just as a musician. 

Quite frankly, this moment ruined the mood of one of my favorites, "Lizzy." Kweller abruptly stopped the blusey intro to make a curfew- related comment to a front row audience member who was leaving. He then went on to admit that he was a freshman high school drop-out (explaining later that he did get his GED).

Kweller never waivers from solid vocal and musical delivery, but something was off with the sound that night. Either the vocals weren't high enough or everything else was overbearingly loud, but Kweller's rough yet melodic voice was almost always drowned out.

Kweller did a nice job of balancing new material with old, but I would personally have preferred more old. He even mixed it up with his unreleased but well-known cover of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," which he appropriately renamed "BK Baby."

Despite technical problems, Kweller put on a unique and memorable show. He even played an old request from the front row, "Problems." It's quite refreshing to watch a musician who allows the audience to create some variety in the show.

But my biggest complaint goes out to the somewhat lifeless audience in attendance. Whatever happened to a little body movement?

It's becoming rare to find a rock act that makes danceable music. Grab the person next to you and take advantage of the mood Kweller creates for you next time.

Not only is his music boogie-compatible, his lyrics are honest and simple. Kweller's music is so simple it crosses over to brilliance. Whether it's an acoustic ballad or a blasting, distorted rock melody, Kweller never ceases to deliver a fun and comforting package of solid music.

- posted by Lauren Hillery, 8.26.04

August 22, 2004 ::  The Unicorns @ City Limits

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Canadian indie rockers the Unicorns opened for Ben Kweller at City Limits last Sunday. Digressive stage banter and pink clothing disturbed and delighted Kweller and Unicorns fans respectively.
Unicorns open with quirky rock

A good band is hard to find. A good opening band is more rare still.

When Canadian indie rockers the Unicorns stumbled onstage to warm the crowd up for headliner Ben Kweller on August 22, the mostly high school age crowd were treated to a good band. Unfortunately they seemed a bit out of place.

If it weren't for the fact that they play smart, funny, complex and catchy music, the opening slot might have been a total loss for the Unicorns, Kweller and the crowd alike. The opener, "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" is the perfect intro song: self-referential, boasting at least three melodic hooks, and short. Well, it's short on their album (this year's "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?"). 

In performance, the Unicorns let the beat ride as singer/bassist/guitarist Nicholas "Niels" Diamond began telling a story about Tucson that had no apparent ending. In the middle of his story he interrupted with comments about the youth of the crowd. Eventually they made it back into the song.

This sort of humor seemed to bewilder the crowd. Between flawless versions of the dark, churning synthesizer forest of "Tuff Ghost" and the brilliantly segmented pop schizophrenia of "Jellybones," the band would joke cryptically with a crowd who seemed more prepared for the head-bobbing rock of Ben Kweller than ironic, esoteric stage banter.

While the Unicorns on their own have a hilarious, sophisticated stage presence (as evidenced by their appearance last March at Solar Culture Gallery), they don't mix well with the teeny-bopper crowd.

The whole affair may in fact have been a prank manufactured by Ben Kweller, who is too popular for the indie crowd, but clearly draws from that sensibility. The Unicorns have developed a reputation for fucking with pretty much everybody from interviewers to their audiences. It's nice to be in on the joke.

- posted by Mark Sussman, 8.26.04


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