Love – Rock City, July 2003

As a lust fuelled teenager there was no time to appreciate the subtle complexities of Love. Instead I flirted with L.A.’s more prominent sixties attractions, enjoying back-row-fumblings with a leather-clad Jim Morrison and the easy-to-please Byrds. Ten years later, looking for more than just a quick-fix-turn-on, I decided to pay California’s forgotten sons another visit.

Jilting the nomadic lifestyle of their peers, Love shrouded themselves in mystery and the smog of their west coast home; an act that stunted their potential audience and commercial success. But this macrocosmic existence enabled Love to write the quintessential, sunset-stripped postcards of their time.

Arthur Lee was at the heart of Love, crafting the palpitating rhythms and lyrical landscapes that have seen their music top countless best-of lists over the past two decades. Rarely seen or heard during that period, his legacy has slowly grown. So tonight, when he takes the stage with a new backing band, the expectant crowd explodes. You get the feeling that for some, his presence is enough. But will his songs still be relevant in an era that’s moved on from the summer of love?

As Lee’s vocals glide over the staccato arrangements of the opening Your Mind And We Belong Together, it’s clear that Love’s music is not of their time – but timeless. Like most of tonight’s set, it was written at the height of a flower-powered society. But unlike many of his contemporaries, who challenged a dysfunctional system with a them-and-us stance, Lee explores the fallacy of collective freedom from a very personal perspective.

His compositions have often been labelled ambiguous and meaningless. But delve beyond the implicit surface and the delicately crafted instrumentation and words are pregnant with meaning. Backed by the gifted Baby Lemonade, who are dynamically faithful to the originals, none of this is lost live. The lilting melodies of Alone Again Or and Orange Skies barely mask lyrics that evoke feelings of desperate isolation and the inanity of needing to belong.

Lee takes us on a spiralling journey, punctuating tracks from the seminal Forever Changes with highlights from three of Love’s other studio masterpieces. He covers the stage like a funked-up whirling dervish, reaching an epiphany inducing crescendo with the vitriolic 7 And 7 Is and revelatory You Set The Scene. Barely satiated, we are left panting for more as Lee spurns the obligatory encore. I guess that’s always been the way with Love.

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