Show Review: Live 105 Not So Silent Night with Smashing Pumpkins, My Chemical Romance, Phoenix, The Black Keys and Broken Bells at HP Pavillion 12/10/10

by Marie Carney on December 11, 2010

My Chemical Romance poses for the cameras

Not So Silent Night really lived up to its name this year.  It was loud and booming in the half empty HP Pavillion in San Jose.  Unfortunately this made for some pretty bad sound, especially from the back of the room.  Why it was so empty I have no idea as the line up of Broken Bells, The Black Keys, Phoenix and My Chemical Romance seemed like they could draw a crowd (yes I’m leaving Smashing Pumpkins out on purpose).  Or was this a case of just too many disparate bands?

Part of the problem may have been the choice of venue in San Jose’s HP Pavillion.  As east bay workers, we all left early from work, but still didn’t make it in to the venue until about 6:10, and that was without having a chance to pick up food.  If you live in the south bay I’m sure the six o’clock start time for the show wasn’t difficult but for us, with Friday traffic, it was next to impossible. 

Because of the traffic we ended up missing most of the opening act, a band from Alameda called Finish Ticket.  From the two songs we did catch I heard a fun band on the dancy pop side of rock.  They were interesting to watch and had their faces painted.  The sparse audience was into it enough for the frontman to make a noble attempt at getting the crowd to clap along to their last song.  It even almost worked.

Next up was Broken Bells.  I have a lot of opinions on this band and basically none of them are positive.  I was really hoping their live show would give me an insight into why other people like them.  Nope.  It left me even more confused.  Don’t get me wrong, Broken Bells isn’t awful.  But they certainly aren’t great.  They exist somewhere between not awful and not great making them pleasant but kind of boring, which is probably about the worst thing I could say about a band.  Only two of the band members really moved or danced at all, the bassist, who was like a hipster ragdoll and quite enjoyable, and the guitarist next to him who occasionally picked up his moves.  Other than that it was mid-tempo song after mid-tempo Shins-a-like song on into sleepiness.  Blech.

So when The Black Keys started playing it breathed some energy into the place and the audience finally started to respond to the performers on the stage.  The Black Keys played the best set of the night rounding out their blues infused rock sound with two additional members on bass and keyboards.  It gave the band a much more polished sound so that they were able to basically re-create their new, and excellent, album Brothers on stage, but with more dynamic energy.  At the end of the set though they got rid of the extra musicians and just rocked out hard on their older material. 

What I really loved about The Black Keys though was that they had such a strong personality on stage.  Drummer Patrick Carney made excellent faces while sweat poured off of him as he pounded out the beat.  Singer/Guitarist Dan Auerbach was in great voice, singing better and with more depth than on record and ripping it up on the guitar.  They talked just enough to let you know that if you watched a full set of theirs it would be even more entertaining.  And for the first time I was sad for the tight festival schedule where after exactly 45 minutes The Black Keys left the stage.

The Black Keys setlist:

Everlasting Light
Next Girl
Chop and Change
Howlin’ For You
Tighten Up
She’s Long Gone
Ten Cent Pistol
Your Touch
I Got Mine

Phoenix was in a different position than every other band on the bill being that they are at the end of their tour for last year’s album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and the other bands are all at the beginning or middle of their tours.  You really could tell that the band has been playing these songs regularly for a year and a half.  Of course, they are spot on with the performance, but there is a certain amount of passion that is missing from their performance.  But the repetitiveness of touring was just part of the problem.  The real problem was a lackluster response from the audience.  Lead singer Thomas Mars kept asking us to clap and scream and jump and it ended up making me feel sorry for them instead of making me give them more energy. 

I’m going to admit up front, that though My Chemical Romance is not my favourite band; they are my favourite band right now.  So when they came on stage I might have lost it a little and started pogo-ing like a madwoman.  For a little while everyone else around me did too.  But I don’t know what’s up with these modern lazy teenagers.  Do they not know how to pogo?  Have they not been to enough shows?  Do they still need to earn their punk rock badges?  Whatever it is, I was terribly sad when the band ripped into “Helena” and it was obviously going to be the last big song and I was literally the only person jumping up and down.  And I am no spring chicken.  Anyway, hopefully there will be a good pit going when they come back for their spring tour.

More objectively, when I put down my I love Gerard Way in a thousand ways blinders, it was not the best show.  I’m pretty sure the band hates San Jose precisely for their lackluster crowds (when I saw them here on the Black Parade tour there was a lot of swearing and flipping off the crowd).  Per Gordon, Gerard’s voice was off, though I couldn’t tell from me and new temporary show friends singing along the entire time.  And the entire band, though playing excellently, just seemed almost bored.  Now almost bored and looking pretty is bassist Mikey Way’s thing, so that was fine, but I expected more from (rythym) Guitarist Frank Iero.  I picked his side of the stage for a reason!  I still had fun though, and the band did a good mix of older songs and new ones.  Though I was very sad they left out the excellent closing song off their new album Danger Days “Vampire Money” with its fierce lyrics and intense punk attitude it could have been a song to get the crowd jumping.  Instead the set stayed on the mellower side, closing with a spotlight on Gerard and the touching song “Cancer.”  Not exactly an uplifting end, but a meaningful one.

My Chemical Romance setlist:

Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
Thank You For the Venom
Planetary (GO!)
I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Welcome to the Black Parade
The Only Hope for Me is You

Then it was Smashing Pumpkins’ turn to close out the evening.  I honestly thought a lot of the people were going to leave but apparently the Pumpkins are still popular enough to hold people’s attention.  For me though there was a lot to be desired.  Since I had to sit down after my mad pogo-fest I was in back, and the sound was like a muddy river of bass.  I couldn’t hear anything melodic in the music and the songs were hard to recognize.  They got halfway through “Ava Adore” before I even realized it was a song I knew!  Also, Billy’s voice seemed in bad shape.  Maybe he is sick, or maybe just old, but he was avoiding his higher range when possible.  This, of course, made “Today” a bit of a sad mess.  Billy’s usual vocal acrobatics were not available and the song really suffered.

We only made it through five Pumpkins songs before we decided to get out before the evening felt like punishment instead of entertainment.  Once I was out of the arena all the pleasant memories of the evening came back, and we had a fun drive home full of caffeine and talk of music.  Overall a successful night.

Thanks to Gordon Elgart for providing the pictures

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

MCRFan December 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm

The sound for My Chemical Romance (whom we went to see) was so bad we left … I was in 112 HP sux


Marie Carney December 15, 2010 at 5:29 am

I’m really glad I was close enough to listen from the monitors instead the crap that was being blasted at everyone else. HP does suck.
At least they’re coming back on March 31st to play the Fox. It should be a far superior show all around.


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