“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware” – Henry Miller. Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) had nothing really to say to the sold out crowd of about 300 lucky fans at the amazing show at Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur Tuesday night, but as an artist, he’s had plenty to say with his music over the years. And 2013 and 2014 mark the big comeback for the band, with their EP-1, EP-2, and EP-3 (with four tracks a piece) collectively comprising their first new album in over 20 years. Pulled together, their latest – Indie Cindy – somehow captures the sound and vibe of their pioneering work in the late 80s and early 90s, but with a contemporary vibe (though some would argue they were decades ahead of things back in the day). Currently playing live dates with their current touring bassist, Paz Lenchantin brings great energy, warmth, and sex appeal to the band which still features original guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, in addition to Black Francis at the helm of things. I’ve marked Pixies as one of my favorite bands since high school, and have seen them many times going back to the late 80s, and I’d have to say that not only was the show in Big Sur this week the best I’ve seen, it will probably go down as the best Pixies concert I will ever see. A sublime mix of venue, crowd, and energy, it was nothing short of magnificent. And since the two shows I saw in Los Angeles last year and Oakland a few months ago, it would seem that the band has come into their best groove ever, going without setlists and employing some keen (though at times glitchy) psychic powers among themselves. Like what Henry Miller was getting at, this is a group that is aware on many different levels…
“You’re one of the first cities that really, really supported us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” half of MS MR showering the crowd at the sold out Fillmore in San Francisco Monday night with some sincere gratitude. I’d seen the break out duo twice at The Independent last year, and as their success continues, they have stepped up from supporting at the Independent, to headlining multiple shows there, to now headlining multiple shows at the historic Fillmore, where they opened for Marina and The Diamonds a few years ago. As has been my experience seeing the band evolve, the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, seemed as thrilled as ever to step away from his keyboard a few times to dance and provide some backing vocals on Lizzy’s mic. I personally ranked their incredible debut studio album, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite release of 2013, so they certainly won me over as a fan. While they always sounded amazing live, they seem to grow in confidence with each new tour, while maintaining that humility and earnestness which is somewhat rare in the contemporary music scene. This was their best show year, and while it clocked in at just under an hour, to me that was just perfect, and I applaud that they keep the studio length of the songs rather than trying to stretch them out to fill out more time as some young bands succumb to when touring with just one album under their belt.
Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2014″ at Fox Theater | Oakland, California | 4/8/2014 (Concert Review) #PSBtour
It was one year ago to the day that I saw Pet Shop Boys and their Electric Tour in San Diego… and while the “show” was mostly the same on this 2014 tour, kicking off at Fox Theater in Oakland, my own personal experience was worlds apart. The actual concert itself was the same as last year’s, with the exception of I think just one change to the setlist, but that is actually a good thing – why mess with near perfection? While there are a few favorites of mine I would have loved to have heard, the highly prolific duo have been making hits for over three decades now, so there will always be some songs that aren’t going to make the cut for every tour. As with last year, the avant-garde stage production is of the highest order, with credit also due to Stuart Price with his music production and programming, Creative Director/Designer Es Devlin and Stage Director/Choreographer Lynne Page, the two colorful dancers (Merry Holden and Tom Herron) with their interesting costumes and stage presence, and many others behind the scenes. This show was their first of 2014, and at one point Neil even confessed to having some nerves in coming back on the stage, but his voice and delivery was spot on, and the blending of old and new music maybe even works better the second time around. It was one of my favorite shows last year, and it was great to revisit it as well as share it with someone very special in my life this time around – it is a concert that I will never forget (more on that later)!
I rarely publish articles about new album releases, but this one is definitely worthy of note, and checking out… Nostalghia’s album, Chrysalis, will be released tomorrow, April 8th. They are definitely one of the most original new artists on the music scene today, and Chrysalis is one of those unique albums that feels like a complete and purposeful work, rather than a collection of unrelated songs. A journey between light and dark, it has enough pop-like elements to push it forward, though with a noir and avante-garde framework, it gravitates toward some of the genre space that you might associate with artists with darker viewpoints… [Read more...]
The Cure (for Teenage Cancer Trust) at Royal Albert Hall | London, England | 3/29/2014 (Concert Review)
“It’s not my instrument; for the last time…” Not very talkative during a concert, a funny line blurted out by Robert Smith, front man for The Cure, after returning a cowbell to the side of the stage, during a sprawling set that ran continuous for nearly four hours, with no less than three full encores. The second of two nights playing to benefit Teenage Cancer Trust, The Cure played sans opener, coming on a about 7:30 and performing 29 songs… then the came back for a six song encore… then another seven song encore…. and finally a last three song encore. The sound was amazing, and the band was brilliant. An amazing evening with a stellar crowd, at a historic venue, all for a very worthy cause – it doesn’t get much better than this show…
“You know how many hits I got?” The genius at work on his keyboards/samplers toward the end of his initial set (in the midst of a freestyle mix/onslaught of some of the best pop hits of my generation – “When Doves Cry”/”Nasty Girl”/”Sign ☮ the Times”/”Pop Life”/”If I Was Your Girlfriend”/”Housequake”/”I Would Die For You”/etc…). All culminating in a mind blowing rendition of “Purple Rain” (in which Prince made a comment about how he will never get tired of that song). I don’t know if it was just a fantastic audience at the Fox Theater last night, or if Prince simply had the power to bring us to life and in perfect unison with his music, but this one off, last minute (instant sell out) show was certainly one I won’t forget. I’ve never seen the Fox that rocking before (and I’ve seen many shows there) and I would even go so far as to say last night’s show blew away his set of shows played at the relatively tiny DNA Lounge last year (see review Night #1, Night #2). As epic as those were (and I counted the two I went to among the very best of the nearly 100 concerts I attended last year), this one bested them on nearly every level. Truly a musical genius at work alongside the brilliant 3RDEYEGIRL, as though they came down from some other planet for a few hours to illustrate another way of life. Words really can’t describe, and without photos to aid in retelling the experience, it was really something you would have had to have been there for to fully appreciate and understand.
Rick Springfield “Stripped Down” at Yoshi’s San Francisco | San Francisco, California | 3/13/2014 (Concert Review)
“…I thought, ‘you know, there’s no better translator of Black American Blues than a middle-class, 16 year old Australian white child’.” Part of Rick Springfield’s storytelling in-between songs, it was apparent early on that not only has he led an interesting life, but he has real depth as well as a self-deprecating sense of humor. Though he is best known for that one big 80s hit (“Jessie’s Girl”) and acting on General Hospital as Dr. Noah Drake, he is a great storyteller and certainly a real artist with some great music and a knack for bringing it alive in a special way in an intimate venue. The highlight of the night for me was his very personal rendition of “My Father’s Chair”, a song about the loss of his dad many years ago. It’s rare to see an artist connect with such a powerful song on stage, and present such vulnerability to an audience. This set of solo shows is definitely well worth checking out, and in many ways more compelling than the traditional, full band rock show, as Rick Springfield has a lot of storytelling in him, in both personal accounts from his life as well as his music.
Another Planet Entertainment Brings Prince with 3RDEYEGIRL to Fox Theater Oakland on Saturday, March 15th
It all started with a late night tweet from the official Fox Theater Oakland Twitter account tonight, announcing that Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL will be playing the venue this Saturday, March 15th. On the heels of epic shows in England and most recently a 4-hour gig in Los Angeles, it looks like Prince will be heading to Northern California to follow up on last year’s four shows across two nights at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. [Read more...]
Former Joy Division and New Order principal Peter Hook will be taking his Peter Hook & The Light across North America later this year, performing New Order’s third and fourth albums, Low Life and Brotherhood. Currently they have plotted out 14 dates in Canada and the U.S. during the first three weeks of November. The special tour promises to play many of New Order’s biggest hits produced during that period between 1983 through 1987, including “Confusion”, “True Faith”, “Thieves Like Us”, “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “The Perfect Kiss” and more, including B-sides. [Read more...]
Rick Springfield Takes on 2014 with Solo “Stripped Down” Shows and Co-Headlining Gigs with Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
2014 is shaping up to be a great year for fans of Rick Springfield, as he is kicking things off with his solo “Stripped Down” shows currently, and plans to take on Summer with a co-headling tour with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. The former should be an opportunity to hear his classic songs in a different style and at more intimate venues, while the latter will team him up with one of the true female rock and roll icons of the 80s, Pat Benatar, as well as her husband, phenomenal guitarist Neil Giraldo, who famously recorded “Jessie’s Girl” with Rick Springfield at Sound City Studios, as recounted in the documentary put out by Dave Grohl last year (and in concert as Sound City Players). [Read more...]
Throwing Muses at Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (Noise Pop 2014) | San Francisco, California | 2/28/2014 (Concert Review)
“Oh… ‘elaborate’… I know that word… I’m elaborately fine!” The end of a funny exchange between Kristin Hersh and the audience, which began with her asking how we were doing, which was turned back to her, which resulted in a short answer – “fine” – to which someone else asked her to elaborate… There was a bit of chit chat between songs throughout the show, including a reference to a recent dog bite that nearly caused this short West Coast run of Throwing Muses dates to be canceled. But the trio of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard Georges did indeed show up at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco last night to play to a sold out crowd of enthusiastic fans. While Kristin founded the band way back in 1980, and has produced a wealth of albums and songs over the years, the set list was heavy with their latest book/CD combo, Purgatory/Paradise, which was their first new studio release in a decade. They put on an electric show with great intensity, and I’m sure all in attendance felt fortunate to catch a rare appearance of the band that is legendary to those who have paid attention to music for the past 30 years.
The Cure, OneRepublic, Suede and Others to Headline Teenage Cancer Trust’s Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London
Teenage Cancer Trust, who “lead the world in the care of young people with cancer”, in partnership with The Body Shop, is holding their 2014 concert series at The Royal Albert Hall at the end of March in London. This year, headliners include Ed Sheeran (March 24th), an evening of comedy featuring Micky Flanagan and John Bishop as hosted by Jason Manford (March 25th), Paolo Nutini (March 26th), OneRepublic (March 27th), The Cure (March 28th and March 29th), and Suede (March 30). This year marks the 35th anniversary of The Cure’s debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, and they are expected to put out three hour sets each night for these special shows. [Read more...]