Stevie Wonder - Nokia Theatre - December 21, 2013

Chris Victorio
Stevie Wonder at Outside Lands
Stevie Wonder
Nokia Theatre

For a music icon, Stevie Wonder has kept a relatively low profile in recent years. His touring schedule has been sporadic at best, and in the age of licensing music, Wonder isn't as prominently featured as some of his contemporaries. But the one thing you can count on from the Motown legend is for him to play a benefit around holiday time.

On the night of his 18th annual House Full of Toys Benefit, the singer decided to switch things up. We aren't talking about the vastly different arrangements of his greatest hits that are completely unrecognizable to casual fans.

After getting sick a few days before last year's benefit, Wonder knew had to make up for what in his opinion was a subpar performance. In order to make up for it, he gave fans a treat: Wonder played his seminal Songs in the Key of Life from start to finish.

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Pearl Jam - LA Sports Arena - November 23, 2013

Eddie Vedder
Pearl Jam
LA Sports Arena

It had been nearly 22 years since Pearl Jam last played the LA Sports Arena. As the opening act on a tour headlined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers with support from Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, few seemed to care about what the Seattle quintet had to offer. Back then they were a budding outfit still trying to navigate its way through the murky waters of balancing a hit record (Ten) while garnering the respect of their snarling contemporaries who were jealous of their success. On their long road back to the not-so-hallowed, decrepit arena (which was referred to the band by, of all people, Bruce Springsteen), the quintet has done more than that.

With no opening act, the band culled through its 10-album catalog to give fans on the first of two nights a certifiable greatest hits package. There were a number of songs not so surprisingly included from the band's latest collection, Lightning Bolt, which got lukewarm critical reviews. Yet among the band's diehard fan base, it's been a hit. The album started off at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200, and is the band's fifth No. 1 record overall. Though they've managed to keep a low profile press-wise, "Mind Your Manners" (aka "Spin The Black Circle" part 2) and the drawn out ballad "Sirens," their two singles, can be heard regularly on radio and wisely spliced in between commercial breaks during sporting events. Like with many Pearl Jam songs, some of the newer material translated much better in a live setting, but it's hard to imagine these songs will elevate to beloved or even cult status amongst the fan base.

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Ben Harper - Walt Disney Concert Hall - November 18, 2013

Timothy Norris/LA Weekly
Ben Harper
Walt Disney Concert Hall

"I've been making music for 20 years," singer/songwriter Ben Harper told the somewhat raucous crowd at the Disney. "What that means is that all of the shitheads are gone and we're left with you. It's 2,500 of your closest friends."

Harper was right. Playing a mostly solo acoustic set that spanned nearly three-hours, he wrapped up a brief two week run that began in his nearby in his hometown of Claremont. Playing the Disney appeared to have special meaning to Harper, who took multiple pauses over the course of the night to take in the modern marvel of the Los Angeles scene. Dressed to the nines, which in this case meant a white button shirt tucked into black pants, Harper rose to excellence that comes with playing in a venue as distinguished as the Disney.

For years, Harper toiled as he opened for bands like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band and Taj Mahal. Yet his strong solo material allowed him to piggyback on those bands and gain a core audience of his own.

Instead of being uptight, Harper was the opposite. He constantly cracked jokes, like how after 20 years he finally earned his "black card," and quipped about the semi-late arriving crowd.

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Danny Brown - The Glass House - November 8, 2013

Danny Brown
The Glass House

Detroit rapper Danny Brown must be on one of the best naturally induced highs of his life right now. He just dropped his new album Old to a suffocating wave of acclaim from critics and fans, and his career is at an all-time high, with features on him by virtually every major outlet and venues across the country booking him as if he's about to retire. A few years ago, he had to embark on a long bus ride just to grab a cheesecake, and now we're sure he has people who would probably pay to bring him a wholesale supply of cheesecakes.

Today, Brown is one of the best live performers in hip-hop. He doesn't have the budget of Jay-Z and Kanye, but he has enough charisma and sheer energy to flip a festival crowd from stagnant to starstruck by simple letting out his out high-pitched cackle. He can play alongside bands, DJ's, or whoever else is booked that day, and usually outshine them as if he's always the headlining act wherever he goes.

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The Meat Puppets The Constellation Room - November 5, 2013

Kenny Davis
Kurt Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets show at Alex's Bar
The Meat Puppets
The Constellation Room

Last night, underrated countrified psych punk legends The Meat Puppets brought wailing guitars and warbling vocals to the Constellation Room in Santa Ana. Despite the vocals being a little too loud in the beginning, the sound was impeccable. As always, brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood took the stage on their U.S. tour in support of their fourteenth album, Rat Farm.

Anyone who got close enough to take a peak at the set list saw that it was nothing more then a few words scribbled down to give Curt an idea of what he wanted to play. When Kirkwood decided what he wanted to play, he would exclaim, " That looks great!" tell his band, including drummer Shandon Sahm, what song it was and they would start to play it with spot on precision. Lush guitar and bass tones were achieved with a wide array of pedals between the Kirkwood brothers (for you newbies, his brother Cris is the band's co-founder and bassist). Curt also pull out this metal piece from time to time that he would slide up and down the guitar that created this heavy, distorted sound.

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Flatbush Zombies - The Constellation Room - November 1, 2013

Patrick Montes
Flatbush Zombies
Flatbush Zombies
The Constellation Room
Nov. 1, 2013

The past two times we've witnessed Flatbush Zombies have been at huge outdoor festivals put on by hip-hop monolith Guerrilla Union. They have always managed to rile up the crowd and perform as a punk band would, and each time, they have drawn enough of an audience to warrant their own small venue. Their psychedelically infused, unorthodox style of hip-hop has translated well to listeners across California, and for their first headlining tour, we were fortunate enough to have them book a show in the smaller, more intimate Constellation Room. This allowed for a better experience for all involved, with plenty of contact highs and mosh-pit injuries to go around.

See also: Flatbush Zombies Bring Plenty of Blunts and Brains to the Rap Game

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Tiger Army - City National Grove of Anaheim - October 26, 2013

Tiger Army
City National Grove of Anaheim

Tiger Army assured us that their OC Halloween tradition still had plenty of bite this weekend, performing for a sold out crowd at the Grove of Anaheim two nights in a row for their 6th annual Octoberflame concert. Though we admit they caught us a little off guard by starting their set just before 9 p.m.--well before the witching hour. But our lateness sort of paid off when we walked into the venue during the opening chords of "True Romance," which was a splendid song to walk into. And despite Nick 13's vocals being just a little heavy-handed on the reverb, the band put on an amazing set.

See also: The 10 Best Tiger Army Songs

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Festival Supreme - Santa Monica Pier - October 19, 2013

Taylor Hamby
Tenacious D
Festival Supreme
Santa Monica Pier

The Festival Supreme hosted by Tenacious D (aka Jack Black and Kyle Gass) was held on Saturday on the Santa Monica Pier. Unfortunately, the choice of venue spelled trouble from the start for the first-year festival. After looking for parking for 30 minutes and then a long winded walk to the pier, I made it to what I'd call the "main venue." Aside from the festival crowd, the pier was predictably packed with tourists and people without tickets just hanging around clogging the entrance. Inside the gates it was even more crowded and it was clear they'd drastically oversold this thing. The sheer number of people at the festival made it hard to catch most of what fans wanted to see without the aid of a Jumbotron screen. Despite the crowds, I was willing to give the fest a chance and stick through it out through the good, the bad and funny.

See also: Photos of Festival Supreme

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Atoms For Peace - Hollywood Bowl - 10/16/13

Timothy Norris
Atoms For Peace
Hollywood Bowl
The last time Atoms For Peace played Los Angeles, Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco were in front of a small packed house at Club Fais Do-Do jamming for 300 lucky fans. This time around, their set under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl seemed a bit more appropriate for the L.A.-born supergroup.

Currently finishing up its three-week North American run on top of a European summer tour, Atoms For Peace didn't appear to be road weary.Though they played their standard 17-song, 100-minute set--no Red Hot Chili Peppers covers sneaking their way into the set, but there were a few Thom Yorke solo songs along with other assorted songs from others, like Unkle's "Rabbit In Your Headlight" and a few from Radiohead sprinkled in as well.

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Depeche Mode - Staples Center - September 28, 2013

Andrew Youssef
Depeche Mode
Staples Center

Depeche Mode shadow danced into town aboard the Delta Machine tour at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. On the first of a three-night stint, the arrival of the Essex-bred quintet was sure to make every aging goth/emo/new wave fan around SoCal bust out the eyeliner and black, patent leather corsets.

Clocking in at 33 years together as a band, Dave Gahan and his posse of darkwave dance mavens put on a highly theatrical two-hour show that left little to be desired when all was said and done. Fabulous sound quality? Check! Did they come out on time and play many of their old hits along with the new? Check and check!! Can Dave Gahan still shake his money maker and slither around on stage like a white viper in heat? You bet your sweet twerkin' ass he can!

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