Sun June 5
Sabala's Mt Tabor
4811 SE Hawthorne
The Mercury had been receiving numerous e-mails (probably all from the same promoter) about Levon Levan, an irony-free Ukrainian lounge singer who was building quite a following. As some sort of terrible punishment for something I'm not entirely clear about, the Mercury sent me to find out if this guy was for real, or just a corny put-on. Levon Levan appears to be the real deal. Hailing from the "heart of Europe," he could easily be the oversexualized cousin of Andy Kaufman's Latka--a hairy-chested man who first learned sexual manners under the spell of Communism, and then again in front of a television broadcasting the worst that America had to offer. He prowls the stage in his signature outfit--leather pants, a silk shirt unbuttoned to his solar plexus, and a too-stereotypical-to-be-true gold chain around his neck.
Like all men (sorry, 90% of men), he's got snatch on his mind. And like all good entertainers, that's the only reason he's on stage. A typical lyric (he writes his own songs, which he should reconsider, stat) is "Ooh, I vant you baby. Come here I vant you girl." Levan moves like a 1988 Tom Jones--all schmaltzy, Elvis-ripped gyrations with a hard-rocking gusto. It's a limited repertoire, but it's Levan's jam and he knows how to work it.
All of what I have described so far could be condensed into a 90-second skit, a limitation that keeps Levan from being entertaining for longer than a minute and a half. Once his shtick settles in, there's nowhere left to run with it conceptually, and it's like attending an entire concert by the Killer Bees from Saturday Night Live. Levan's vocal range is limited, his one or two rock poses get recycled multiple times within a single tune, and every song sounds identical.
Levon Levan could be an untapped diamond in the rough looking for his Col. Parker. While his hard-rocking, 45-minute sets emphasize his limitations rather than his strengths, he could find a rather ideal role as a recurring character on Letterman, circa 1994: Levon Levan tries out for American Idol; the Ukrainian sensation as surprise musical guest at Tom Potter's birthday party. A smart video director could make an awesome video in the style of an Eastern European karaoke booth. But in his current incarnation, Mr. Levan will remain relegated to repeating the same musical set over and over to butt rockers from Gresham with underdeveloped senses of irony.