Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Motels... thirty years later

My wife and I went to see the Motels (band web page) in August at the Tupelo Music Hall.  The last time we saw the Motels (wikipedia) it was over thirty years ago, and was at the Hampton Beach Casino.  I was looking for something a bit special for my lovely and talented wife on her birthday.  I was hoping to do something which harkened back to when we were dating or just before we got married, as this year was our 30th anniversary.  Our first big date was the Motels concert at the Casino, and around our anniversary I had even looked into seeing if the Motels were still around, to see if they were playing anywhere.  Serendipitous, a few months later there they are right near home.  Sweet.

Flash back a little over thirty years ago.  My wife and I had met and gotten together a few times, but had not had any special big date yet.  Around comes a band I had seen a year or two earlier in a Boston club by the name of the Motels.  They were an LA style new wave band with a notable sound, a crisp delivery, and were led by a very charismatic woman by the name of Martha Davis.  They were coming around again, I got tickets, the show was terrific and we had a memorable first big date.

So, here we are over thirty years later, having our first big date again.  Sort of.  The band is now called Martha Davis and the Motels.  Martha, my wife and I are all thirty years older.  However Martha has a band full of young guys half her age none of which are original.  We enter the venue and sit down.  As we look over the crowd, there are very few people in the room who were not around to see the original Motels thirty years ago, and those who were not look to be the children of those who were.  Not a few people in the room dressed in clothes you might expect new wave fans thirty years to dress... except it does not look like costumes if you get my drift.

The band comes out.  Martha seems a bit out of sorts and flashes a bottle of wine she was carrying under her arm, "Why try to hide it."  The crowd hollars and hoots in approval.  I am not so sure this is a good sign.   We have a treat tonight, the original sax/keyboard player for the incarnation of the Motels with which I was familiar is travelling with the band.  So, we have two legacy Motels members instead of one - promising.

The jump right to it, playing songs from most of the bands early albums.  If I had met Marth on the street I may not have recognized her with the weight of thirty years on her - - but as soon as she started singing there was no question this was The Martha Davis of Motels fame.  Sure, here voice was a little deeper and more scratchy than it was three decades ago, but she still had feeling in her voice and those unique inflections which made those songs unique and compelling.  The new band was pretty good, though the sound mix was not up to the caliber of a band which was once top 40 material.  The sax player was as good as I remembered him, and I was glad he was touring with them.

Random thoughts

  • The band was not as tight as I thought it should have been, Martha seemed nervous at times, and there might have been some dissapointment in her glances at some of the band members at times.
  • Martha has not translated her previous fame to a new generation yet.  Everybody there was there because they knew the Motels of old
  • Most of the crowd was very adoring of Martha.  She could have screwed up royally and they would have still applauded.  She didn't though.
  • If you listen to the words of some of her songs you might think she has some issues.  There are lots of songs about a woman being abused, feeling powerless, striking out, etc.  Given how she behaves on stage, it might be true.
  • There was a big difference on how she looked at her current band, and her old sax player.  The later gets looks like those of an old dear friend.
  • Martha's stage presence was not as charismatic as I remember it from years ago.  
  • I learned later this was the first night of the tour.  It may explain the jitters.

Overall, we had a great time.  The tickets were very reasonably prices, and it is small intimate venue.  Even not at the peak of her former dynamic self, Martha is still a talented and entertaining performer.  A dance down memory lane was very welcome, though our memories might be through rose colored glasses or whatever the equivalent is for ears.

If you have never heard the Motels, give them a listen.  It is worth it.

Only the Lonely

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