Back in March, after more than a decade since they first discussed working together, Karen O and Danger Mouse’s collaborative effort, Lux Prima, was finally released to great fan fair, while also making it onto my shortlist for top albums of 2019. Then in April the two presented a companion piece in the form of an immersive installation titled “An Encounter with Lux Prima” that had been in development for 18 months. Now some 6 months later the two came together for a 2-night stint at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, an awe inspiring venue befitting of such a special evening.
Originally built in the late 1920s as a movie theater, The Theatre was modelled after the gothic styling of the Segovia Cathedral in Spain. It would ironically go on to actually become a church in the 1990s before being completely restored by the Ace Hotel. Given that there was talk that these two nights would be the only live performances the act would ever partake in, I hoped on a plane and headed down to my native LA for the weekend.
Though previously unannounced, the LA-based Australian Molly Lewis with her backing band, collectively referred to as Café Molly, opened the show. With little to no online presence I had no idea what to expect and was truly blown away. Unlike most acts, Ms. Lewis doesn’t play any instruments or even sing for that matter, she whistles. I don’t know how on earth she does it, but she never once lost her pitch or misplaced a breath during the 30 minute set. Despite my initial surprise after realizing that there wouldn’t actually be any singing, I quickly found Lewis’ unique skill to actually be quite soothing and relaxing. There really are no words to really describe the performance. To be honest, the closest thing I could compare their sound to is Zamfir’s The Lonely Shepherd from the Kill Bill soundtrack and that doesn’t really do the act the justice they deserve. While her live performances might be sparse, I would gladly pay to see her again and recommend you do too if given the opportunity.
After a refresh on my drinks during the intermission it was time for the main event. The stage was set in an extremely minimal fashion surrounded with fluorescent light tubes while Danger Mouse was positioned center stage as if he were a conductor leading his choir. The 13 piece backing band was made up of some 3 violinists, 4 backing vocalists, a cellist, a drummer, a guitarist, a trumpeter and lastly a trombonist, giving the feeling as if we were here for an evening at the symphony. The show opened with Lux Prima and after several minutes of instrumentals, Karen O took to the stage in a jaw dropping sequin jumpsuit and cape, reminiscent of something Cher would have worn in her prime. The night was as much about the music as it was the visuals, helping to bring to life the lush, vivid world of Lux Prima to life.
You could definitely feel that Karen O was enjoying herself to the fullest as she danced and jumped around the stage, at one point inviting the audience to get up out of our seats so that she wasn’t the only one dancing up there. It was at this point that she launched into the album’s most intense and Yeah Yeah Yeahs-esque track, Woman. The entire theater jolted from their seats and began euphorically dancing around in the limited space we had. The act continued on, working its way through the entire tracklist, song-for-song, only stopping for a brief interlude while O changed into another futuristic, yet glamorous outfit. As the show was nearing its end, the group brought the tempo of the performance way down, almost as if we were being transported underwater, as they worked their way through Drown and Reveries. As the album’s closing track wrapped, Karen O and Danger Mouse, along with the entire band came to the front of the stage to take a final bow in front of the audience.
While each of the aspects of tonight’s show, from the album to venue to the performance itself, were amazing in their own right, the evening as a whole was truly greater than the sum of its parts. I am grateful that I was able to be part of the small group of people who were able to experience this magical evening.
Last but not least, who did I spot in the grand lobby as I was leaving? None other than Snob favorite Mac Demarco, complete with his retro N64 cap that he never seems to leave home without.