LA WEEKLY - March 13. 2003

ORSON at the Hollywood Ramada Inn, March 8

Orson are among this town's most accomplished popsmiths, masters not only of progression, melody and harmony, but gifted in groove and wordcraft to boot. So it's odd that they're all but unknown � though restricting themselves almost exclusively to preaching to the choir at the Viper Room has done little to shift the shroud. Tonight, then, Orson are branching out a little, albeit only as far as the kitschy cellar bar of this faded '60s hostelry.

Amid a DIY ethic, and with only a practice-room P.A. for encouragement, Orson's twin-guitar interplay and white-boy soul nonetheless raise much of the Ramada's thrift-store hipster crowd to their feet. Newboy drummer Chris Cano's eyes-clenched passion, locking with Johnny Lonely's agile bass lines, ensure that Orson are both hummable and humpable, quotable and quivering. "Happiness" enters with a swaggering T-Rex riff, only to supplely shape-shift as Motown-once-removed vocals blur the cartoon. Orson offer all of Jellyfish's tuneful tenacity, only without the pomp and overcooked arrangements; all of Elvis Costello's last-call nostalgia, elevated by a uniquely epic optimism. Yet all this would count for little without shaven-headed frontman Jason Pebworth, a vocalist who can simultaneously conjure Morrissey and Freddie Mercury while delivering with the demeanor of a gentrified John Lydon. Pebworth's note choices grasp for stars, his enunciated, tremulous sustain only amplifying the already ecstatic gasp of his expression. Few have captured first-night-together, only-couple-on-Earth bliss, lyrically and musically, as Pebworth does through "No Tomorrow." It'll take just one brave industry player to grace the airwaves with Orson's uncompromising craft. Here's hoping. (Paul Rogers)


On this day that has influenced and touched all of us so deeply and on many levels, we wanted to take a moment to wish you all good health, safety and peace.

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