While Ryan Adams was taking a seat onstage to start the “This is 40” soundtrack record release concert, the scene at the box office outside Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre may as well have been a scene from another Judd Apatow film.
Lindsay Buckingham, scheduled to go on after Adams, was a bit frantic while laughing, telling the box office attendant, “My name is Lindsey. I’m scheduled to play tonight but I can’t seem to get in.” Fortunately, she was able to open a side door for the Fleetwood Mac guitarist to enter the Sunset Blvd. club in time for his 8:30 p.m. performance.
The party was an outgrowth of the Los Angeles date for Graham Parker and the Rumour on their reunion tour, which began Nov. 24 in Tarrytown, N.Y., and wraps Dec. 19 in St. Paul, Minn. Parker and the Rumour play a key role in “This is 40,” a comedy that finds its drama in familial confrontation and its humor in sex, kids and the struggles of the modern music industry.
Adams and Buckingham, introduced by the film’s composer and producer of the soundtrack’s new tracks, Jon Brion, performed solo acoustic. Adams reprised the song he performs on camera in the film, “Lucky Now,” plus “My Winding Wheel” and “Everybody Knows”; Buckingham added two Fleetwood Mac songs, “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love” to his selections from the film, “Sick of You” and “She Acts Like You.”
Apatow, clicking photos on his iPhone from the club’s VIP section during their sets, praised Buckingham for his patience and gentle demeanor. “He wrote five songs for the movie and three were used,” Apatow told Billboard.com, who handed the soundtrack rights to Capitol Records because “they were the most enthusiastic” about the project.
From the stage, Buckingham had his compliments for Judd, Brion and music supervisor Jonathan Karp, three people he did not know until a couple of years ago. “I hope I suggested a few things,” he joked, “for them not to do.”
Ultimately, this was Parker and the Rumour’s show, a return to a building they performed in in 1977; memories are a bit cloudy. Parker remembers having lost his voice – he was a shouter back in the punk era – and being pretty stoned when his manager informed him that Diana Ross, Van Morrison and Joe Cocker were in the audience. He seemed to have no recollection of how that show went.
31 years after they last performed together, Parker and the Rumour have settled into a groove where the musicianship is masterful, the pacing measured so he can deliver a string of show-stoppers toward the end. It’s a reminder of how difficult a sell smart music was in the late 1970s when it defied easy categorization.
Parker and the Rumour’s new album, “Three Chords Good,” is more in tune with Parker solo efforts such as “Mona Lisa’s Sister” and “Struck By Lightning” than the intensity driven “Howlin’ Wind” or the landmark “Squeezing Our Sparks.”
“Hotel Chambermaid” conveys the tenor of the Rumor in their ’75-’80 heyday with an added dose of finesse; “Howlin’ Wind” felt downright grown-up with its reggae flavor enhanced and Bob Andrews adding jazz flourishes on keyboards; and “Watch the Moon Come Down,” a 1977 track featured in the film, is richer in harmonies and smoother in the texture, bringing out a commonality with the Band that was nowhere in evidence 35 years ago. An exquisitely performed “Get Started. Start a Fire.” from 1988 reminds you that this guy could never seem to catch a break; it’s as catchy melodically today as it was nearly a quarter-century ago.
Parker’s wit remained intact as he introduced “Long Emotional Ride” as their new single, which he figured meant it can be “stolen individually rather than in a bundle.” An easy-going song, it was one of a few songs in the middle of the set that allowed him to get his vocals lined up for the big finish of their most famous songs: “Discovering Japan,” “Nobody Hurts You,” “Protection,” “Stupefaction” and “Local Girls” before an encore of “You Can’t Be Too Strong,” “Passion is No Ordinary Word,” “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” Soul Shoes” and the Jackson Five cover “I Want You Back.”
The actors who portray the two guys who run the indie label in “This is 40,” Paul Rudd and Chris O’Dowd, were in attendance and got a different view of the reaction Parker receives in the film. Parker’s audience, many of them as gray and bald as the band itself, remains fervidly passionate.