West Hollywood, CA June 24, 1999 reviewby Guy Demarco
I went to see Milla this last Thursday, June 24th at LunaPark in West Hollywood, CA. To summarize the set into one word: Wow! I left San Diego early to get there in time, since the show was slated to start at 10p.m. (and I had to drive 160 miles in SD/LA traffic). I actually arrived at nine, and when I went to the entrance, I was told, "Oh, she just started her set." Needless to say, I was quite annoyed, since I brought along some audio recording gear. The venue was a small back portion of a club with a stage along one wall and tables arranged in a U-shape around the rest of the walls. I didn't bring a camera because I figured the audio recording was more important, and I didn't want to get booted by the bouncer. Overall, the club was intimate and cozy, but not noted for acoustic qualities.
Milla was singing a slower tune, accompanied by a guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. A keyboardist joined them on stage for two numbers. She was wearing black slacks, a pleated shirt and a smart black suit-top, which she removed halfway through the set. She was stunning, and I'd like to say that if you can see or meet her, you should take the opportunity. All the myriad of pictures that are posted do not do her justice. Pictures cannot capture the energy, the little giggle behind the smile, or the presence that she commands.
I shuffled off to set up the recorder, and found a good node with less people chatting and no echoing. This area turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The bouncer/manager kept standing next to me because there was a door to a smoking area (the club was non-smoking). I began recording, and I captured about 15 minutes of audio. The set ended, and they started kicking the folks out. I asked one of the waitresses if Milla was returning, and she said yes, but after 10. I talked to the bouncer, told him I travelled from San Diego through traffic to see Milla, and he said it was OK to stay for the next set.
Milla's first set was played to a small crowd, I'd guess about 75 people. Partway through one of her songs, her guitar audio quit, but she kept on going with the band not missing a beat. Very professional, particularly for a newly-formed band. Her vocals were right on, but the club atmosphere and acoustics tended to muffle them. She has quite a vocal range, and I can say that she does not have a 'studio' voice that only sounds great after processing. It's sonic gold right out of the box. She also plays a mean guitar, which looked like a Fender or Ibanez-clone, yellow in colour. She was quite the performer.
After the first set was completed, I began replacing the disc so I'd have a fresh one (and in case it was confiscated, I'd have SOME audio). I look up and there she is, walking towards me. Turns out she needed a smoke, and popped out the door next to me. When she re-entered, I chatted with her. She's working on new material for an album. She didn't say when an album would be forthcoming, though. I shook her hand, thanked her for all of her hard work, and blurted through the 'how wonderful you are' speech that's ingrained into every male's genetic code. She was very charming (that breathy 'Thank you' will remain in my brain forevermore), and she had the most amazing smile, even though she was unhappy with the first set. She continued on to backstage, and the new crowd began to trickle in.
Crowd was the operative word. There were easily twice as many people for the last (advertised) set. There were many strange folks in attendance, including one older gent who introduced himself as an Isreali spy with a Russian accent. Actually, there were many folks for the second set who spoke Russian (and I hope I didn't get the shrill woman speaking during the second set..I wanted to give her the boot!) Odd costumes were the norm, and I looked unusual dressed in 'normal' clothes. I did meet one gent from the Milla-list who posted his picture. Hopefully the rest of you will have the chance to see Milla in your neck of the woods.
The curtains opened, and the response was extremely enthusiastic. She was clearly pleased with the larger crowd. She progressed through the same set of songs, but with more verve and vibrancy. The second set was clearly the best, and the crowd applauded and cheered after every song. The new tunes are very different from her other albums. They're more towards the harder rock/etherealistic genre. Portishead, Cocteau Twins and Hole is what popped into mind first when thinking of the style. Personally, I like the new direction, which may lead towards more actual airtime on alternative radio stations when it comes out. The vocals are polished, the songs are well written, and it's not predictable. This should prove to be a bitching album when it finally gets pressed.
Now, the question that you all have...How can you get copies of the audio? Well, fear not! I am going to do a bit of work on them, clean them up, break them into songs and give them to Colin (of UltiMilla fame) so he may post them on his site for your listening pleasure. I'll also have full versions available as a long concert (which will be marked set 1 and 2), in case you don't want the songs broken up individually. Now, don't expect perfect soundboard quality. I did my best, and it will give you an idea of the new music. I scanned through it quickly, and it appears to be pretty good for a bootleg. Please don't send me any emails asking for copies... wait until Colin has them posted. I expect to have them to Colin in MP3 format either Monday or Tuesday, and I'll be giving Colin master copies on CD in case he wants to add them to a collage of Milla pics for UltiMilla 3 (hint, hint).
In conclusion, it was worth the trip. The sets were short, but there was some great music packed into that short time. Oh, and she did mention that she was playing at another venue on the 16th (of July, I assume). I'll work on my friend to see if I can get the digital camcorder for that one ;)
Review by Nikki
Before I begin this review, I must report that I have met Milla on one occasion last year. I was at a club in Hollywood and she happened to step into the joint with a furry black boa and an antique camera slung around her neck. I spotted a guy she was with and started talking to him. Turns out, he was her best friend/roommate Chris Brenner. We started talking about her music and how I'd been listening to it ever since The Divine Comedy shifted my musical taste. Turns out, he wrote most of her songs, and I had to give him a huge hug for track 10 on that CD, a song I could listen to on repeat for 23 hours straight. Anyway, he introduced me to Milla, and I asked her when her next CD would be released. She laughed and told me that she had done some recording but that she didn't really take it seriously and that she was concentrating more on her acting career these days. I shamelessly gushed about how much I admired her and loved her music. She seemed genuinely flattered, and then politely excused herself to go and introduce herself to Alyssa Milano sitting at the bar.
Ever since, I've had the most respectful vision of Milla Jovovich. She's a very gracious and humble soul. Going to see her perform at Luna Park in Hollywood was a test to see if she still maintained all of those endearing qualities through stardom. She passed with flying colors.
My friend and I sat down at a reserved table two feet from where Milla would be singing her mantra. A very indiscreet non-gentleman touched me on the arm and asked if he could take my picture and buy me a drink. My friend chuckled at his high forehead and short stature, so for the rest of the night, we referred to him as Ben Stiller. He said he was tight with Milla because he is Russian and his dad and her dad were best friends. "Stick around after the show and you and your friend can come to my party", he said. Milla will probably be there and I can introduce you. I politely accepted his drink and clandestinely poured it down the sink when I visited the ladies room.
When the velvet curtain withdrew, I almost thought I was attending some British pop invasion. Milla looked absolutely stunning. She had adopted some kind of Beatles meets Jim Morrison ensemble, with her dark wavy locks all combed forward and donning the poet shirt and black jacket and pants. Everyone kind of stopped talking and stared while she looked out under her bangs to survey the crowd. She absorbed the silent reaction of her audience and just when I thought she might drop her electric guitar and leap through the back wall, she started to sing.
Anyone coming to this show thinking they were going to hear The Divine Comedy or The People Tree Sessions, were knocked straight into the next euphonic dimension. The music was of a bolder, more unreserved style, with that raw-edge charm that showed Milla Jovovich does have that extra something to become a certified rockstar. Hey, anything they can do, she can do better.
Her voice has matured along with her attitude, probably from her chain-smoking, probably because she has a deeper knowledge of her art. She was beautifully paired with the slow electricity of the instruments, not abandoning the folky adolescence of her previous CDS, but adding the edge she needed to be taken seriously in the more hard-core circles of the music industry. She strummed, she screamed, she harmonized, she even danced a cooler version of the hula. Chris Brenner was in fine form and full effect as well. He accompanied Milla on stage with the mixing/keyboard cues and brought her a bottle of Corona beer, which she chugged between and during songs. Before one of the numbers, she announced to the audience that "this one is dedicated to someone who's really sexy". I had waited six years to see this woman perform live, and I was not in the least bit disappointed. I enjoyed every second of it, from the way she sang and danced, to the way she introduced her band members between little nervous giggles.
After the show, Ben Stiller asked for my phone number so that he could get me in touch with Milla after the show. I told him we were not in the position to manipulate any forced encounter with her, and that we would kindly just hover at the club as long as we could and let what happens happen. He seemed a little perturbed, but left us alone after that. I saw Chris in the corner talking to a few friends, and approached him. "Hi Chris", I said, "I don't know if you'll remember me, but we met a year ago at The Opium Den". He looked at me and smiled big. "I do remember you! You were that cute girl I spotted earlier!" How great can one guy be? Anyway, he talked to us for a while and asked if we wanted to talk to Milla. Um, yeah.
Just as he was getting Milla's attention to talk to us, Ben Stiller grabbed her shoulder and whispered something into her ear. She stepped back and said in a disciplinary (but sweet) voice, "Can we not talk about our families right now? I don't know you, and I'm very distracted right now. I've got people to talk to, alright?" Boy, did Ben Stiller really retreat into the shadows after that. She turned around with a beautiful smile and I began to speak. "Hi Milla", I siad, my voice shaking a bit. "We met last year at a club, I don't expect you to remember me, but I just wanted to say that you were fantastic tonight". She said, "I'm sorry, I don't remember, what's your name?" I told her and Chris tried to remind her, and she was genuinely apologetic. She signed the polaroids we took of her during the show and even posed for a picture with us. We went away glowing from her presence. Everyone in The Fifth Element was not kidding when they referred to her as "the perfect being". She's the real thing.