Luscious Jackson Brings Mom Funk to L.A. After 14-Year Absence: Concert Review
El Rey Theatre
(Friday, May 30)
Prior to reuniting a few years back, Luscious Jackson was destined for the annals of rock history as a footnote, primarily known as a one-hit, Beastie Boys-affiliated white-girl funk outfit that made a series of solid albums before disbanding to start families. Now, it seems with their children out of their crucial formative years, singer/bassist Jill Cunniff, singer/guitarist Gabby Glaser and drummer Kate Schellenbach reunited in 2011 to record Magic Hour, a fan-funded comeback album. A tour to support that effort, released late last year, brought them back to Los Angeles for the first time in 14 years.
Of course, a lot of bands and trends have come and gone in their nearly decade-and-half absence. For one, the Beastie Boys, their one-time mentors who signed them to their now long-defunct Grand Royal label, are no more, following the 2012 death of Adam Yauch from cancer. Despite their lengthy absence, the trio -- augmented by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Jones, keyboardist/vocalist Leila Adu as well as DJ ADW Young -- delivered a solid hour-and-15-minute at the El Rey Friday night to an adoring, but less-than-capacity crowd.
"Dad rock" is a somewhat derogatory term hipsters use to describe middle-age musicians who deliver middle-of-the-road rock, lacking in intensity and edginess. By once again picking up their instruments and returning to the road, the members of Luscious Jackson may have invented "Mom funk," a term that we don't throw around disparagingly, but as a triumphant tag for three women who have experienced the joys of motherhood and have now returned to their youthful passion without losing a step. In other words, at the El Rey these mothers showed they can still bring it.
Back in the '90s, Luscious Jackson's mix of laid-back funk, hip-hop and white-girl soul sounded fresh on the alt-rock airwaves sandwiched between Pearl Jam and its sound-alikes and the mild mannered Lilith Fair acts. More than a decade later, they still sounded strikingly original live, with their hip-hop beats and Cunniff and Glaser's alternating singing and rapping. While they may not have had the impact as fellow East Coasters, Luscious Jackson's sound is as unique to them as is the Ramones three-chord attack or the Feelies amped-up melodicism, but that can be a double-edge sword. While the grooves didn't let up, there was a certain sameness to much of their material.
Still, Luscious Jackson showed confidence and chutzpah, rolling out its biggest hit, 1997's "Naked Eye," a mere four songs into the set. Drawing from their catalog, as well as their new album, the band was able to sustain the energy throughout the evening, but it was most interesting when they switched gears and took a page from their mentors. Midway through the set, the band delivered an old-school punk number that seemed like a nod to their Beastie roots (Schellenbach played drums for the Beasties in their pre-hip-hop days). "#1 Bum," a track from Magic Hour, also recalled the Boys' early efforts dabbling in reggae, but here Luscious Jackson flipped the script, focusing on the backsides of men. To emphasize the point, they invited five guys from the crowd on stage to shake their moneymakers as they played the song.
Proving they weren't favoring one sex, late in the set they invited a couple dozen of mostly female fans and friends to the stage to shake their groove things as the blasted out "City Song," a minor hit from a decade ago.
During the encore Cunniff sang her ballad "Why Do I Lie," a should-have-been-hit that sounded so good it could have easily been mistaken for a classic '70s soul side, reminding the crowd Luscious Jackson were more than a one-trick pony. Still, at this point, it isn't likely they'll rewrite their chapter in rock history. Nonetheless, it is nice to have you back, ladies.
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