Johnette Napolitano, David J

Club Congress, Thursday, Nov. 29

Back in 1990, seemingly innocent phrases like "¡Aye Carumba!" and "Gulf War" entered our lexicon while underdog alternative bands like Love and Rockets and Concrete Blonde scored Top 40 hits--and last Thursday, Club Congress hosted singer-songwriters from each band on solo tours.

Former Love and Rockets (and Bauhaus) bassist and singer David J opened with The Clash's anti-nation-building "Straight to Hell," reminding us that J was Love and Rockets' Lennon to Daniel Ash's McCartney--or, their Dylan. J performed L&R classics "No New Tale to Tell," "Rain Bird" and "The Dog-End of a Day Gone By," showcasing his ability to turn a phrase on its end within a catchy hook. Later, major J fans geeked out while he played the Jazz Butcher's "Walk With the Devil." (J was briefly a member during the '90s.)

Currently a Los Angeles resident and looking dapper and tanned in a black blazer and Tee, J peppered his set with solo numbers, including 1990's "I'll Be Your Chauffeur," and selections off the yet-to-be-released rarities and outtakes collection, Tracks From the Attic, which are more acoustic-Bowie and Velvet Underground-influenced. During a post-show convo, J also revealed a forthcoming project with DJs from the Tijuana-based Nortec Collective.

Dressed in a sparkling gold gown more fitting for the red carpet than the scarlet-draped Congress stage, former Concrete Blonde frontwoman Johnette Napolitano was in a feisty mood, spending a lot of time showing off her acerbic wit (including an overenthusiastic-flight-attendant bit that outdid Seinfeld with the line, "It's none of your fucking business where this little kid is going!").

Though her contribution to the Wicker Park soundtrack was Coldplay's "The Scientist," Napolitano made it her own tonight, with her trademark soft-yet-raspy voice, bitter and sweet like a kiwi full of hidden razor blades. The standard "Ghost Riders in the Sky" incited spontaneous "yee-haws"; a bilingual version of the title track off Concrete Blonde's 1993's Mexican Moon got a warm Old Pueblo welcome, as did the surprise, wailing finish of "Souvenir."

Napolitano's biggest hit, "Joey"--her "Love Me Tender"--did not disappoint, though an a cappella version of "Tomorrow, Wendy"--in which she changed the dark lyrics to reflect the war in Iraq--cut deepest, once again reminding us of what year it is. In the words of Bart Simpson, "Bummer, man."


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