Semi Precious Weapons: Concert Review

By Jeff Walsh

The last time Semi Precious Weapons were in town, I was waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to work on my novel, which precluded my from attending night events (like their sold out club show). Thankfully, that was not the case this week, when the band played the historic Fillmore in San Francisco as part of the Perez Hilton Presents tour.

They shared the bill with Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (party nerds), Julian Perretta (Mika meets Jamiroquai), and then, after Semi Precious Weapons, Ladyhawke had the unfortunate chore of trying to follow Justin and the boys. They were probably good, but it's an unenviable slot.

If you're a fan of Semi Precious Weapons (and really, by this point, you should be, what's the hold-up?), then seeing them live just adds to the fun you already get from them. Lead singer Justin Tranter struts around the stage like a glam peacock, wearing panty hose and spike-heeled boots, and constantly ratchets up the party. From my perch at about the second row, I could see Justin offstage before the band took the stage. Ironically (or on purpose?), Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," was playing (read my previous interview with Justin for their love of, and history with Gaga), and he was already amping himself up, singing along, and dancing around.

The band took the stage, without Justin, playing the opening riff of "Semi Precious Weapons" a few times, until Justin made his appearance. In my book, things are immediately off to a good start when the opening lyrics to any band's set are "I can't pay my rent, but I'm fucking gorgeous." From that opening salvo, until their closing with "Magnetic Baby," there wasn't a dull moment.

It was definitely the most animated the crowd was all night, getting the floor boards to bounce under us, as Justin and the rest of the band tore through track after track off their debut album. They even played three new songs -- Sticky Champagne, Statue of Ourselves, and I Could Die, in addition to the other non-album cut "Put A Diamond In It and Bite Down," which show they have a clear vision for the band, and are ready to keep the party going once they hit the studio again in November.

At one point, Justin admonished the people sitting at tables in the balcony, saying they needed to get up out of their seats and dance. No one who sits at a rock show will ever get laid, he told them.

It says a lot about Justin that he can taunt the audience, demand applause, call us cunts (and later whores, not sure if that was an upgrade or downgrade), and yet he still comes across as likeable, especially when he's not headlining a Semi Precious Weapons show and many people might be there to see other bands. But somehow, it all works.

Although Justin is the center of attention, it's worth pointing out that he's not the flamboyant one on a stage of shoe gazers. Cole Whittle, on bass guitar, is sort of an animated blur, yet somehow plays all the notes. At some points, he seemed to nearly be doing a headstand with his feet up in the air, and always looking like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave him dancing lessons. (And, accordin to Justin on Twitter, Semi Precious Weapons ended up dancing onstage for Ladyhawke's last song, and Cole was naked. I was already home at that point, they weren't doing enough for me). Dan Crean on drums seems to like his beats and his pants tight. His shirts however are a testament to how little fabric, barely string together, can still constitute a shirt. And Stevy Pyne on guitar brings the rock and roll abandon, as well, at one point jumping from the stage onto a small landing in front of the security barrier, without having any clue how he'd get back up onstage. I just wanted to point out that, while Justin is the center of attention, he's the eye of a pretty hot and interesting storm.

At one point, Justin opened a bag onstage, pulling hot seemingly magenta glam boots and a different panty hose and top out of it, and proceeded to strip down to his nude panty hose, and changing costume while laying on the floor in front of the drums. The band never stopped, and he just stood up ready to rock the second half of their set with a new outfit. Take that, Cher!

It is a bit interesting to me that, in this day and age, I can easily contact Justin on Twitter to get the titles of the new songs for this review (since I forgot one of them when we chatted briefly after their set), and even confirmed that, sadly, I won't be interviewing Julian Perretta in Oasis, since he isn't gay. (I got that tidbit from Perez Hilton, who was in the audience dancing after introducing every band for the night, heh).

The upside if that Semi Precious Weapons tore through every song you needed to hear, although it was still an abbreviated set with four bands on the bill. Of course, the goods new is that if the band played every song they could, every new song that's half-ready, and every cover they could come up with, they'd still leave the audience wanting more.