Everyone I talked to leaving the Orpheum Theatre last night named a different artist as their favorite performer of the evening, which says everything about KCRW’s holiday show – there was something for everyone.
It was a night of real togetherness that could be seen in many different ways. Instead of hiding away backstage, the artists mingled among the attendees, saying hello and signing autographs. KCRW DJs gathered in a booth above the stage and introduced bands throughout the evening. The bands enjoyed each other’s music, particularly Zee Avi, who could be seen dancing stageside for all of Jimmy Cliff’s set.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Cliff showed everyone how it’s done with the most energetic performance of the night. Before the last song of his solo acoustic set, Brett Dennen commented that his nerves were finally starting to calm down after the daunting task of following Cliff on stage. The Reggae legend returned to sing ”Johnny Too Bad” with Iron and Wine to close out the evening and it was one of those pinch yourself moments when you realize you’re witnessing something truly special. Sam Beam brought a 10-piece band with him, including a horn section and back up singers, Swell Season’s Marketa Irglova among them. Their closing set was simply gorgeous and a real treat.
Earlier in the evening we were treated to the bright Americana of the Belle Brigade, the sweetness of the Secret Sisters and a full on rock show from White Denim. Anna Calvi had a fiery guitar solo toward the end of her set that wowed the crowd and Zee Avi was as charming as charming can be.
Many people discovered Other Lives for the first time and were — not surprisingly – impressed. DJ Aaron Byrd commented that whoever thought to pair them up with Radiohead on their upcoming tour is a genius because they have a “similar sensibility and approach to orchestration.” As good a compliment as you can ask for.
The other major player in the evening was the Orpheum itself, as beautiful a venue as you could ask for to enjoy this special night of music. It’s a piece of Los Angeles history and I like to think we made a little of our own last night.