ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Monday, September 22, 2003


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Flashback to alt-rock's future

A packed Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion sees mixed results at KROQ's old-school Inland Invasion.

By GEORGE A. PAUL
Special to the Register

Sometimes all it takes is a woman's touch.

Despite the presence of a dozen acclaimed and far more successful male-led bands at Saturday's sold-out KROQ (106.7 FM) Inland Invasion III, Bow Wow Wow's Annabella Lwin stole the show.

The exotic Burmese singer possessed an infectious, cheerleader-style charm that made concert-goers forget the sweltering afternoon heat. She danced around the stage and constantly engaged the crowd. Bow Wow Wow's Burundi rhythms sounded tighter than ever on "I Want Candy," "Do You Wanna Hold Me" and "C30, C60, C90, Go!" thanks to guest drummer Adrian Young from No Doubt.

For anyone who used to count the time until the station did its next Flashback Weekend back in the day, this 11-hour, 16-act "Flashback to the Future" extravaganza was a long time coming. While some modern bands were on hand (Hot Hot Heat, Kings of Leon, Jet), old school alt-rock (Dramarama, Berlin, Psychedelic Furs) was all that mattered for the 50,000 people crammed into the Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion in Devore.

KROQ morning team Kevin & Bean were notably absent. The duo criticize the Inland Empire ad nauseum and likely didn't want to show their faces in the 909 area code.

Here's a quick rundown:

The Cure's difficult 24-song, two-hour-plus set was geared toward die-hard fans. It lasted well past midnight and seemed to drag on forever. Robert Smith concentrated on the mostly bleak "Pornography/Disintegration/Bloodflowers" album trilogy and was appeared determined to do as few of the band's hits as possible. He relented with solid takes on "Just Like Heaven," "In Between Days," "Let's Go to Bed" and "Lovesong." Yet some people in my section were clearly frustrated; many had left by the 90-minute mark.

Duran Duran - back with all original members in tow - turned in a satisfying, well-paced 65-minute performance. Fans bopped around and screamed at deafening levels. Simon Le Bon hit most of the high notes (except on "Ordinary World"). Highlights included an exuberant "The Reflex," a Latin-tinged "Notorious" featuring John Taylor's funky bass work plus a snatch of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," and the tribal rocker "Wild Boys," where guitarist Andy Taylor proved he had been sorely missed.

Echo & the Bunnymen was in top form, with frontman Ian McCulloch providing his usual amount of detached coolness and arrogance ("We're the best band in the world"), while guitarist Will Sergeant dazzled with special effects. Two gorgeous gems, "The Killing Moon" and "Nothing Lasts Forever" (which transitioned into "Walk on the Wild Side"), were standouts, along with spiraling rocker "Lips Like Sugar."

Violent Femmes still have the ability to drive old and young crowds bonkers during warped folk-rock tunes such as "Kiss Off" and "Blister in the Sun." Interpol put out one of last year's best debuts, but its dark, enrapturing tunes don't play well in daylight or outdoors. Ditto Dashboard Confessional, whose leader Chris Carrabba looked like he'd rather be anywhere else. The band's heartfelt emo-rock just didn't work in a large venue.

Marc Almond was in fine dramatic voice but favored obscure solo numbers over Soft Cell faves ("Bedsitter," "Tainted Love"). And Fountains of Wayne served up its blissful power pop to great effect on "Denise," "Red Dragon Tattoo," "Stacy's Mom" and "Radiation Vibe" - where the band did a cool classic-rock riff medley that encompassed Joe Walsh, Foreigner, the Cars and Bad Company.