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Music & Dance | POP MUSIC REVIEW

'80s legends whip it good

September 20, 2004|Lina Lecaro | Special to The Times

Fans of Morrissey may have been deeply disappointed when the ailing headliner couldn't make KROQ-FM's Inland Invasion concert Saturday at the Hyundai Pavilion, but the all-day parade of bands ultimately filled the void -- thanks in part to the presence of contemporary black-clad, reflective types such as Muse, the Killers and Franz Ferdinand.

The station's annual event has become the West Coast's biggest rock nostalgia trip after boasting a Sex Pistols reunion in 2002 and the androgynous allure of the Cure and Duran Duran last year. Saturday's lineup had more new acts than ever, resulting in a younger crowd.

Still, with inimitable '80s stars such as Billy Idol, Siouxsie Sioux and Devo as well as local luminaries such as X, the "Flashback to the Future" theme was in full effect during the concert.

Amid mercifully breezy weather, the nearly 12-hour program kicked off at 11:30 a.m. on a side stage, where modern rockers the Walkmen and Death Cab for Cutie played alongside Missing Persons and A Flock of Seagulls, two formerly famous hairdo bands whose assertive renditions of old faves showed them to be more than new-wave novelty acts.

The main stage opened with Muse, a group whose sound was vast, voracious and, despite its dark elements, exultant.

X followed with a plucky platter of favorites.

But only "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," a tribute to the late Johnny Ramone, came off as truly heartfelt, suggesting that the L.A. vets, who've been playing around town a lot lately, may need a break.

The Killers' charismatic set included the overexposed but still amusing "Somebody Told Me" and the powerful, subtly political "All These Things That I've Done" -- a song capped by the eerily harmonic affirmation, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier."

Ian Brown of Stone Roses fame continued the individualist theme with his former band's "I Wanna Be Adored." Although his backup band was rhythmic and exuberant, Brown's vocals were uninspired. He also gave the crowd the bad news about Morrissey.

It was a downer, but the familiar frolic of melodic-pop faves Tears for Fears and the bouncy electro-grinders Devo turned around -- the former with potent renditions of "Head Over Heels" and "Shout," and a slow-tempo version of "Mad World" inspired by Gary Jules' cover.

Clad in their familiar red dome hats and yellow jumpsuits, Devo offered the day's most enjoyable and madcap performance with a hit-packed program, and the energy level stayed high for U.K. darlings Franz Ferdinand, who delivered majestic versions of their sophisticated synth-rock.

Impressively, rebel yeller Billy Idol held his own.

His fist-pumping, lip-sneering, pelvis-thrusting act was indeed a flashback, and his singing built up to full throttle on "White Wedding" and "Mony Mony" -- which he dedicated to the missing headliner.

Although Siouxsie has the presence to fill the much-loved Morrissey's shoes, her decision to open with unfamiliar tribal drum-driven tunes drove some of the hit-hopeful away. Too bad, because the Goth enchantress ended up giving the faithful what they wanted -- gorgeous and haunting versions of "Christine," "Dear Prudence" and the rarely performed "Kiss Them for Me."

The good news for Morrissey fans is that he's promising a makeup show, so Inland Invasion-goers should hold on to their ticket stubs. It'll get you into that show.

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