Tori Amos (Unrepentant Geraldines Tour 2014) at Paramount Theatre | Oakland, California | 7/21/2014 (Concert Review)

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“So this is one of your requests… I’ll see if we got this right.”  Tori Amos in the “Lizard Lounge” section of her performance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland last night, wherein on this “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” she does a few covers suggested by fans.  With Monday night’s show, the first was a kind of dark rendition of the Calvin Harris and Rihanna electro-house hit song, “We Found Love”.  What?  Tori Amos doing “We Found Love”?  Yeah, I know the song well, but it took my thought process a few seconds to catch up with the familiar lyrics played out in such a different manner.  As I settled into that incredible collision of techno pop and, well, however you might categorize what it is that Tori does, when she does her thing…  I started imagining what might be the most amazing cover to hear from her following that.  Immediately, I thought of “Tiny Dancer” (it has a special connection with my fiancé and I, and she was seated next to me in the orchestra pit for her first Tori concert)…  So after finishing “We Found Love” on her electric keyboard, Tori spun around and found her way to the deeper keys on her Bösendorfer piano and started into the classic Elton John tune.  I’ve seen, I would guess, thousands of artists live in concert – that was the first time I’d felt that maybe one read my mind.  Very surreal moment, and maybe the coolest moment for me at any Tori Amos concert (and I’ve been to my fair share).  She was certainly full of surprises last night, as a fan might see simply from taking a look at the set list, which had songs from her latest, Unrepentant Geraldines, going all the way back to her failed synthpop band, Y Kant Tori Read.  With the new album and this current tour, Tori has certainly hit her stride both in the studio and on the road, and she’s always been one of those rare artists that is a master at both.

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Replay America (The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 7/19/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Are we not in the desert?  Where are we?” A  bit of comic relief part way through The Go-Go’s set by Gina Schock, who as per tradition emerges from her drum kit at some point in the show to give us a bit of fun.  And that is kind of at the heart of The Go-Go’s punky/poppy/surfy/beachy New Wave music, so what better a group to headline 2014′s newest 80s-centric tour, Replay America.  Also on the bill is Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis from The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes.  A real assortment of 80s hitmakers each took to the stage at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night to take the crowd back about three decades to a real innovative time in music.  Though there was a lot of music to be heard, things proceeded along quite quickly with the first three artists sharing a band (with some changes set to set), and a quick changeover for the aforementioned Go-Go’s, who closed out the night with a string of classic songs.  Definitely a unique opportunity to catch many favorites in one sitting, and I know I thoroughly enjoyed each artist, only half of whom I’d seen live before (though I was already a fan of all four).  Awesome show.

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Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at Cal Expo (California State Fair) | Sacramento, California | 7/18/2014 (Concert Review)

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“When it hits the fan, people usually show up for each other…” Joan Jett of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, talking about surviving tragedy, and how real life experiences inspired their latest album, Unvarnished.  It was really quite inspiring to hear the punk icon with roots in music – in her teens – going back to the 70s, today crafting music that is informed by a fascinating and full life.  Yet regardless of her growth as an individual and as an artist, she still has that counter culture swagger and joy with a guitar strapped around her and a mic stand before her…  she can still rock it unlike any other, and she certainly made that clear at their appearance at the California State Fair at Cal Expo last night.  Whatever it is that she’s had since her formative years, that motor still drives her today.  A real rock and roll legend.

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OK Go at Assembly Music Hall | Sacramento, California | 7/15/2014 (Concert Review)

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“But the problem is, it’s a piece of shit… so things like the little thing, that goes on here… the plastic thing that keeps you from slicing your fucking finger in half?  That fell off in the middle of that song…” A post song, play by play recap by Damien Kulash of OK Go, talking about how part of his favorite guitar (purchased at a pawn shop in New Orleans) fell off and how he waited for the right break in singing to pick it up amid a floor covered in confetti… and for some reason decided to put it in his mouth for the rest of the song.  Quirky, funny, and entertaining…  an OK Go show would probably be worth the price of admission even if they didn’t play any music at all, as the between-song banter was all quite amusing on its own.  But they did put on an impressive showcase of music at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento… kicking off their 2014 tour that culminates in the release of Hungry Ghosts, their fourth studio album in October.

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Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at City National Civic | San Jose, California | 7/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“I don’t know about you, but this seems like a peace and love city…” A quote from a real rock and roll legend, Ringo Starr, at the City National Civic in San Jose last night as the front man for Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band.  It seems to be a consistent and heartfelt message and sentiment from the former drummer for The Beatles, though he doesn’t really “front” the group of talented musicians that share the stage with him on his touring concert event so much as jam with them and turn the spotlight not only on their gifts as artists but also provides a platform with which to share their own music with fans.  It was truly a spectacular concert on all levels Sunday night, with a collection of amazing artists, a superb setlist, and an excellent production (top quality sound and lights, etc.).  Not only did Ringo Starr play his own music, new and old… so, too, did his friends, which include Steve Lukather, Gregg Rolie, Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Warren Ham, and Greg Bissonette.  I would rank it as one of the best shows I’ve been to in 2014, and really an honor to see such legends all play together on stage.  They seemed to be having as much fun as the rest of us, and it was more like a glimpse into a two hour long jam session.

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New Order & La Roux at The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 7/11/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…since we’re in San Francisco, we thought we’d do something special.”  Bernard Sumner, singer and guitarist for New Order, as preface to an unexpected, second encore closer and cover of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night.  One of just a half dozen dates on this North American tour, the concert showed a band that has worked to refine their live set, with updated visuals as well as a bit of tweaking and reworking of what has become their usual selection of songs.  It was definitely the best I’ve heard them in the past four years, and they seemed most energized during their performance of new song, “Plastic”.  The sold out crowd of around 7,000 never stopped moving and bouncing as they ripped through a sequence of favorites at the end with “True Faith”, “The Perfect Kiss”, and “Blue Monday”.   As has been tradition, they closed out with an encore of a few Joy Division covers, but the Scott McKenzie cover at the very end showed that they can still surprise when they are inspired to do so.

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The Lovemakers at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 7/10/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Are you ready, San Francisco?” Scott Blonde of The Lovemakers, on guitar on the front end of a blazing set at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop last night, sometime around midnight.  With co-vocalist Lisa Light holding down the opposite corner on bass, it was am impressive onslaught of thumping and catchy 80s-inspired synth pop for the on and off again band that is maybe the best thing those outside of San Francisco are missing of late, as they have amazing songs and an incredible live show.  Following on a fantastic opening set by The Trims and framed by cutting-edge DJ sets by Aaron Axelsen and Omar, it was another unique evening with Popscene.

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Joan Jett and the Blackhearts 2014 Concert Tour Plays Festivals and More Across North America

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Rock icon Joan Jett with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will be playing around a number concert dates across the United States this Summer, including festivals, fairs, and summer concert series shows at a variety of venues.. The Platinum and Gold-selling “Queen of Rock n’ Roll” is best known for her string of 80s hits including “Bad Reputation”, “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, and others.  Her latest album, Unvarnished, debuted late last year. [Read more...]

Jewel Releases New Song “Sing On” For #LUNGFORCE; Plays Set of Special California Concerts This Month

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Country, folk, and pop singer-songwriter Jewel is playing a handful of shows up and down California this month.  The signer, guitarist, producer, poet, and actress will start playing shows beginning next week at The Center for The Arts in Grass Valley, followed by Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and then two Southern California shows.  Jewel released a new song last month, “Sing On” for the American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE initiative to help fight lung cancer. When you download “Sing On” on iTunes, all proceeds will go directly to #LUNGFORCE. [Read more...]

OK Go Kicks Off Summer & Fall North American Concert Tour in Sacramento Next Week

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OK Go will be starting a Summer and Fall tour of the United States and Canada next week, playing 29 headlining shows and ending it all with an appearance at the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas at the end of October, the same month their first new studio album in four years - Hungry Ghosts - is due for release.  Notorious for innovative music videos, the alternative rock band released one for “The Writing’s On The Wall” a few weeks ago (with nearly 9 million views on YouTube already), which was preceded by the release of a new EP, Inside Out, back in May. [Read more...]

Huey Lewis and The News at Marin County Fair | San Rafael, California | 7/2/2014 (Concert Review)

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“As I look out on all your faces, there’s a few people here I don’t know!  Most of you I do know… most of you are on the guest list, I think!”  Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News, peering out across the overflowing crowd within the tent at the Marin County Fair, it was more like a party than a concert, with friends and family making up a good portion of the audience.  A hometown show (Huey is from Marin County and the band as a whole is identified with the area), it definitely had a certain magic in the air…  a celebration of a band that has written and recorded a large catalog of fantastic music and stuck together now for about 36 years, the crowd was energized from beginning to end.  They played songs going back from 1978 to today, and showed how, as a band, they eclipse the decade that they are best known for, and can showcase not only their own music but rock and roll songs written by others, using electric guitars and their famous horn section as well as coming together to the front of the stage for acapella.  Definitely one of the most talented bands playing today, and, as always, one of the best tours going.

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Replay America (The Go-Go’s, Martha Davis and The Motels, Scandal, and Naked Eyes) Takes Over in July

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Replay America, a U.S. tour taking place this month, will feature The Go-Go’s, Martha Davis and The Motels, Patty Smyth and Scandal, and Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne.  With such a significant line-up of 80s music and pop culture icons, the concert series will certainly be one to see this Summer.  Everything kicks off in Clearwater, Florida this weekend.

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