Indie rock went big last night at the Hollywood Bowl, where TV on the Radio headlined a knockout five-band bill to close the historic Los Angeles amphitheater’s official summer season. With opening sets by Arctic Monkeys, Panda Bear, Warpaint and Smith Westerns, the show served also as something of an all-star homecoming for TV on the Radio: The Brooklyn band made this year’s Nine Types of Light in L.A., and last night they drew an ecstatic response from the thousands-strong crowd with twitchy future-soul jams such as "Will Do" and "Forgotten" – which frontman Tunde Adebimpe introduced as a song about "a neighboring community." ("Forgotten" imagines Beverly Hills in the midst of a nuclear winter.)
Playing as a six-piece with Dave Smith on trombone, the band complemented their sensual new stuff with brash older cuts like "Young Liars" and "Staring at the Sun," both from the group’s first EP, and "Golden Age," the funkiest track on 2008’s Dear Science. And they ended their main set with a furious rendition of "Wolf Like Me," Kyp Malone and Dave Sitek hammering away at their guitars as a flashing red siren filled the vast outdoor venue with an eerie end-times glow. "Let’s smoke this Bowl," Adebimpe had suggested earlier in the band’s set. Mission accomplished, dudes.
Dressed as a SoCal greaser complete with Danny Zuko pompadour, Alex Turner led Arctic Monkeys through a tight hour-long set packed with material from this year’s Suck It and See and 2009’s Humbug, both of which also were recorded in California. (Humbug’s producer, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, was on the scene last night.) The smart-alecky Brits drew the biggest cheers, though, with "Fluorescent Adolescent" – perhaps because the title accurately described a good portion of the Bowl’s audience.
DayGlo colors showed up earlier in the trippy video clips that flickered behind Panda Bear as he and Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3) did their woozy dream-pop thing. Panda Bear’s appearance was billed as the Animal Collective member’s only West Coast gig in support of this year’s Tomboy, but that hardly contributed to a sense of pressure: Eyes closed in blissful reverie, he happily offered up music to zone out to.
The same went for L.A.’s Warpaint, who concluded their set with a lengthy instrumental groove that split the difference between ESG and Elastica. As for Smith Westerns, the young Chicago band made the best of their 20-minute kick-off slot, cranking the neo-glam guitars and mumbling through their bangs like the Hollywood Bowl ain’t no thing. Summer's over, they seemed to be saying. Imagine our surprise.