The English rock band The The brought their melancholy music to Hollywood California during their first U.S. tour in 18 years, the Comeback Special Tour. The group, which was the brainchild of Matt Johnson was one of the first English post-punk rock bands to emerge from the New Wave Movement. The 57-year-old Johnson grew up in East London hanging out at The Two Puddings Pub, which his family owned. The young music lover experimented with a wide range of sounds, producing volumes of music, some of which were funneled into albums that were never released. Although he could and did play all the instruments necessary to make his own rock album, the moody singer was also a sort of Svengali of music employing countless musicians over the year to collaborate with him. Many of these other musicians were famous in their own rite like guitarist Johnny Marr who is also currently on tour. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Johnson released six distinctive albums under the moniker, The The. The brilliant musical composer then went on a 14-year concert hiatus, successfully recording a variety of musical soundtracks all across Europe. The The which was a widely popular band especially in England, with 15 charting singles in their heyday, returned with a 2017 recording, “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming,” which again featured guitarist Johnny Marr.
The rare concert tour by Johnson with his latest version of the band made two stops in Hollywood, fittingly ushering in the fall season in tinsel town. The first was a sold-out show at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater, followed by the show at the larger Palladium. The evening began with a truly eerie set by the Danish singer and keyboardist from Berlin, Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel. The singer ushered in visions of the singing sirens of Ulysses fame, with her high pitched classically tinged vocals. Obel fronted a quartet featuring a pair of cello and double bass violin players and a rock-oriented drummer. It was a fitting opening for the haunting sounds to come from The The.
Johnson opened his setlist with “Global Eyes,” from the 2000 album “Naked Self,” the last album from the band before Johnson’s film scoring hiatus. In addition to Johnson, the current band features, Barrie Cadogan on lead guitar, Earl Harvin on drums, DC Collard on keyboards, and James Eller on bass. Next came "Sweet Bird of Truth,” from the bands most successful album “Infected,” released in 1986. Johnson noted that “the song was more relevant than ever,” since it was about war in the Middle East, although it was released years before the first Gulf War. The stoic Johnson bantered with the crowd throughout the set, commenting on Los Angeles, “I see they have torn down many of the ornate old buildings, leaving giant holes in the cityscape.” “They want to build larger ones. We are doing the same thing to old London.” There are several colossal reconstruction projects surrounding the old Palladium on Sunset Boulevard. The Palladium itself has survived, an art deco building erected in 1940 as a dancehall. The dingy 4000 seat theater has seen nearly every major pop music star of the last 7 decades perform there at one time or another.
The dark cavernous venue with its ornate decor seemed a fitting backdrop to the dark tone of The The as they careened through decades of musical laments. The band ended their set of 15 songs with a Hank Williams cover, “I Saw The Light,” followed by “Helpline Operator” from the 1993 album “Dusk.”
After the raucous crowd created a thunderous roar for an encore, the band reemerged to play a six-song encore featuring many of the group’s biggest hits. The crowd was elated.