Above Ground Benefit Show @ The Belasco Theater – 04/16/2018
In a star-studded one-night-only event at the Belasco Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro along with Billy Morrison (guitarist for Billy Idol) presented a benefit show dubbed Above Ground on Monday, April 16th. With all proceeds benefiting MusiCares, the night was a celebration of vinyl album as art but more importantly focused on raising awareness for mental health issues that continue to grow worldwide. Partnering with Revolver Gallery, displays were placed around the venue from Andy Warhol—adding to the overall retro vibe of the evening.
The musical menu this evening was shared at the announcement of the event months ago. Two albums that were instrumental to Navarro and Morrison were chosen, the first to be played front-to-back would be Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam & The Ants followed (after intermission) by The Velvet Underground & Nico by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Navarro and Morrison reached out to many of their musical friends to fill out their on-stage crew and the result was an all-star lineup that included the likes of Billy Idol, Courtney Love, Corey Taylor, Mark McGrath, Billy Duffy, Jesse Hughes, Chris Chaney and Macy Gray.
A drum circle led by Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction) set up in the general admission floor welcomed guests as they entered the historic venue. Shortly after 9pm, the show kicked off with Navarro and Morrison being joined on stage by Steve Isaacs (known best as the frontman for Power Channel, a side project w/ Navarro) on vocals during “Dog Eat Dog” and “Ant Music”. As two female hook suspension artists floated above the stage, this was just the start of a turntable of guest vocalists who would lend their talents to the Adam & The Ants classic album that was originally released in 1980.
Franky Perez (Apocalyptica) took a quick turn on “Los Rancheros” and then everyone’s favorite snarlin’ singer, Billy Idol covered “Feed Me To The Lions”. Navarro and Morrison shredded their way through each of these songs with aggression and passion. Slipknot and Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor was easily the most utilized singer in the front half of the performance as he contributed vocals to three tunes—“Ant Invasion”, “Jolly Roger” and “Kings of the Wild Frontier”.
Jesse Hughes (Eagles Of Death Metal) and Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray) helped out with “Killer In The Home” and “Don’t Be Square (Be There)” but the show got cranked up during “Press Darlings”. Morrison traded his guitar for the lead mic and welcomed The Cult’s resident guitar god, Billy Duffy and A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel to the stage. On the album closing song “Physical (You’re So)”, Navarro swapped out his guitar as he took his turn on the hook suspension system where he swung around the stage above Howerdel, held on only by skin clamps as Morrison welcomed back Billy Idol to the stage to cover vocals.
A lengthy intermission included radio and TV personality, Dr. Drew Pinsky and comedian Steve-O who worked with auctioneers to raise additional money for MusiCares.
The second half of the evening was dedicated to the Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground 1967 debut album Velvet Undergound & Nico. Macy Gray handled opening duties on “Sunday Morning” followed by a duo of songs by Courtney Love, “Waiting For My Man” and “Femme Fatale”. She was subtle yet powerful in her brief two song performance which had the crowd captivated. Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey later covered “Venus In Furs” while Billy Idol remerged for two more tunes, “Run Run Run” and “There She Goes Again”. The night was capped off later with Love, Idol and Hughes providing vocal back-up on one extra song, “White Light White Heat”.
Navarro and Morrison successfully pulled together a who’s who list of musical friends that covered two full length classics, throwing a party that drew attention to the rise of mental health issues in society. In the past few weeks, they have made the rounds at various LA media outlets (KROQ radio, KTLA Morning News) to promote the event. Having lost many friends to suicide over the years, Navarro was very heartfelt in his plea for help. With various silent auctions set up around the venue, tens of thousands of dollars were raised in efforts to erase the stigma that blocks many from getting mental health treatment.