Monday, August 2, 2010

Fishbone @ Teatro Colegiales

After two years of living in Argentina, I have made it to scant few concerts. There's a local scene, but it's hardly thriving these days. We're so far away, and the peso is worth so little that only the most popular of bands bother to make the trip. Rather than sit through The Killers or Coldplay, I've chosen to simply wait for better options. I couldn't have been more surprised when I saw that Fishbone was coming to town. I wasn't sure if I should be excited or concerned. Does touring the world mean that their popularity has finally dried up in the US? Seriously, Stryper is going to be here in August.

Would anyone here even know who the heck they are? And would they understand what to do? Sadly, I couldn't even get anyone to go with me to check 'em out. The last time I saw Fishbone was at Subterranean in Chicago under similar circumstances when they were trying out a new lineup. Norwood got drunk and the show was a complete disaster. But that didn't deter me at all. Were I to miss this show, I would consider my time here a failure, or at least consider myself a failure.

When the curtain went up, the band tore into "Unyielding Conditioning." My overwhelming first reaction was to note that Dirty Walt was back (and skinny as hell). The band has been through nothing but turmoil over its 25+ year history, and seeing Walt onstage at least helps regain some continuity. After the first song, they tried talking to the crowd. This did not work. Perhaps their accents were hard to understand. Three songs in, I was really worried that I would be the only person jumping around, and furthermore that the band would simply give up.

How foolish of me. Angelo Moore dove headlong into the audience and it changed the entire room. A real pit erupted and churned for the rest of the evening, and those who remained outside jumped up and down, singing along as best they could. Later this year, Angelo will turn 45 years old. Watching him perform, it seems impossible. He's easily the best frontman I've witnessed, bringing wild energy, comedy, and all manner of entertainment to each night's show. I can't help but believe that behind his often clownish exterior he takes himself extremely seriously. Even in a half-full smallish club in a country where nobody is buying their records, he's six times the entertainer Mick Jagger could ever hope to be. Of course, that stage dive would hardly be his last of the evening.

Furthermore, I swear his voice has more velvety soul than ever. Crooning on "Forever Moore," it's clear he really means every note. And aside from Dirty Walt, who seemed disinterested in the entire event, the rest of the band gave it their best, too. My only complaint was that I wanted to hear more songs, but when your catalogue features 8 superb albums, that's to be expected. No band can be all things to all people, but Fishbone is clearly all things to me. They play every kind of music I love, and always play it red hot.

I came away with the same mixed feelings I always do after seeing them... Awed: How lucky I am to have been here for this! Torqued up: I can't wait to see them again! Sad: Why is this band not bigger? They should be superstars!

But this time there was a new profundity - how this band has persevered. Their first record came out in 1985. They have nearly broken up countless times. Their namesake left the band. Their guitarist joined a cult. Their major label dropped them, leaving them close to broke. After that embarrassing display in Chicago, I was sure they were done. But here they are, still one of the best live bands in the world.

In the middle of "Alcoholic," the band riffed Sabbath's "Iron Man" as Moore and keyboardist Dre Gipson raced each other to the back of the main floor on the heads and hands of just enough Porteños to get them there. I couldn't think of a more fitting jam for them to appropriate. They are survivors. I will see them again, maybe even back here in Buenos Aires. As the curtain fell and the Argentines changed "Ole, ole ole ole, Feeshbooone, Feeshboooooone," I came away certain that nobody from the crowd will miss another opportunity if the band does us the favor of returning. Maybe I can even convince some of my friends to come next time. I know the experience would serve them well, and that the band will sound as young as ever.

Show setlist:
Unyielding Conditioning
Everyday Sunshine
A Selection
Ma and Pa
Date Rape
Give It Up
Bonin' in the Boneyard
Behind Closed Doors
I Wish I Had a Date
Forever Moore
Skankin to the Beat
Lyin Ass Bitch
Party at Ground Zero

Simon Says The Kingpin
Let Dem Ho's Fight
Freddy's Dead

PS - Fishbone is the subject of a new documentary currently touring the festival circuit. Link to the website here. Below you will find a brief taste...

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