The 88 at the Roxy, L.A.:
L.A.’s best-kept rock secret won’t stay that way for long, especially with a major label debut for Island Records , Not Only…But Also , on tap, and management by Irving Azoff ‘s powerful Front Line firm. Led by singer/guitarist Keith Slettedahl and keyboardist Adam Merrin , the hard-working, serious-minded band combines a love of classic, crunchy pre- and post-punk power pop that harkens back to Brit Invasion groups like The Beatles , Kinks and Small Faces with a new school approach to promotion that incorporates TV, movie and commercial placements. This Saturday night performance, part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival , served as a homecoming for The 88, who hadn’t really played the local club scene in over a year, and their confidence and cohesion from months in the studio paid off nicely, especially in the new material, like the Stax-like, funk-driven “Like You Do” and the Bowie sque wham-bam-thank-you-m’am glam slam of “Sons and Daughters,” one of two songs on the new album produced by Babyface –just one of the benefits of playing with the big boys. Songs like “All ‘Cause of You,” which has been featured on three separate film soundtracks, as well as the re-recorded “Coming Home,” the first single from the new album, previously heard on TV campaigns for Sears and Target, showcased the group’s sinewy chops and way with a chunky melodic hook, which have served them well opening for such disparate acts as Jack Johnson and Smashing Pumpkins . And while mainstream Top 40 radio isn’t known to embrace the band’s rock sound, there’s always room for a bunch of earnest rockers with an R&B fluency and pop chops along the lines of John Mayer or even Maroon 5 on the one hand, and indie stalwarts The Shins or name-the- Garden State alum on the other. At this point, the little girls understand and, if their boyfriends follow suit–and the group’s spot-on Led Zeppelin cover encore is a definite step in the right direction–The 88 could just expand their local hero status to national and maybe even international recognition.