“The hangman looks round as he waits, the cord stretches tight, then it breaks…” Peter Hook & The Light opened their sold out concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Saturday night with the dark and prescient “In A Lonely Place”. Kind of an appropriate song to begin with for a few reasons… of course, it is from New Order’s Substance, which they played in it’s entirety, in it’s original track order (with three bonus songs on the front and one at the end). But it was also a song that the original members of New Order wrote as Joy Division with front man Ian Curtis from that original band. So it really doesn’t sound anything like a New Order song at all; it is distinctly Joy Division (dark, analog, and sans any pop sensibility). Having covered Peter Hook & The Light’s previous “album” tours in the past few years, I expected them to come out and do the Joy Division set first and the New Order set second, but they flipped the script. But that first song, is at once a Joy Division song and a New Order song… at the time a bridge from the past to the future. They led out with New Order’s Substance and closed the night performing the Joy Division compilation album of the same name. So how was it? Well, I saw the full original band perform in live in concert almost a quarter of a century ago. In recent years, I’ve seen Peter Hook as Peter Hook & The Light several times. I’ve also seen the rest of New Order (sans Peter Hook) touring separately several times as well. I have to say that, hands down, this show was the best “New Order” performance I’ve ever experienced. In my opinion, New Order’s Substance – their most seminal work – this is the best it’s ever been done live on stage. It truly exceeded my own hopeful and lofty expectations. At the center of it all is the fact that Peter Hook somehow continues to keep the “flame” of both Joy Division and New Order ignited and authentic to what it was and always will be to those who find power and meaning in the works of both bands. Brilliant show. [Read more…]
“Before the night is over, I’m going to be in with these guys…” At some point into the sprawling one hour, forty five minute set put on by (an at times plain goofy) James Blunt and his band, the singer-songwriter looked up at the small section of balcony seats in the sold out show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, then glanced at the standing crowd right below, and made those up front feel that something special might happen toward the end of the show. Keeping his promise, a sweaty James Blunt did indeed end up surfing the crowd – not what one might expect of the emotional crooner, best known for his kind of dark, break out hit song “You’re Beautiful”. Full of energy and great humor (much of it self-deprecating, which wasn’t surprising coming from an Englishman), James Blunt seemed like a born entertainer, feeding off the crowd and giving it all back in spades. At times it seemed like a bit of an odd affair all around; kind of like what might come about from making cookies without a cookie cutter… the audience certainly didn’t fit any particular profile or stereotype, and his music seemed to draw what you might call “people who don’t dance at concerts” (and funny enough, I would classify myself as one of those), so there was a sort non-traditional connection between artist and fan – not so much seen, but felt. It seems that the James Blunt fan might be more of a devotee – quizzing the crowd up front, people started a line at 2:30 for the 7:00 doors show. With four studio albums under his belt (with the latest, last year’s Moon Landing serving as the theme for this tour), he seems to be doing well, and enjoying himself along the way.
“It’s all about the attitude, right? Intention and context are everything. What’s next? Oh, sometimes I surprise myself!” 80s pop culture icon Boy George, before launching into “Church of the Poison Mind” with his amazing band, one of a handful of songs performed to the sold out crowd at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night. He had a lot to say to those who turned out for his show, and it marked his first visit to the city since 1999*. He was beaming with joy throughout their lengthy set, that ran about two hours and fifteen minutes, with interesting anecdotes, and witty and self-deprecating humor (at one point describing himself as an emerging UK artist). Culture Club’s albums were some of the first I bought as a kid, but in their prime years of ’83-’84, I was around 10-11 years old, so had no chance to see them live. This was one of the tours I’ve most anticipated this year, and with uncertain expectations, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined it would be, or even could be as stellar as it was. It was truly magnificent on every level, and I’m an even bigger fan than ever after experiencing the show last night. Definitely one of the best shows of the year.
“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.
“Joy is not supposed to… it’s never meant to be this seamless stream of happiness, you know? Joy happens in moments, in little minutes, in little capsules of time…” Alison Moyet, talking about the ideas and themes and inspiration behind her latest studio album, The Minutes. As I gushed about in my preview last month of this very special three date, three city stop in the United States by New Wave icon Alison Moyet, she has been one of my all-time favorite vocalists, so I had really high expectations for this concert. I expected it to be a highlight among the approximate 100 concerts I’ll have attended by the end of the year. Remarkably, my expectations were exceeded in every way. Truly a fantastic concert and I know from being within the crowd of fans that I am not alone in my assessment. She was joined on stage by band members John Garden and Sean McGhee, and there were ample songs from her latest album (in my opinion maybe her best solo record of her career) as well as favorites going all the way back to her beginnings with Vince Clarke with whom she partnered with for Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.). It is too bad for the masses here in the States that this must-see show is limited to just San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, but if you have a chance to catch one of the other two upcoming dates, it is well worth it. A phenomenal and unforgettable show by one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of my generation.
This week The Breeders returned to San Francisco, the city where recorded their second studio album, Last Splash, back in 1993. This weekend will literally mark the 20th anniversary of the release of this album, and the original band members that recorded it were on stage for two concert dates at The Fillmore on Tuesday and Wednesday. I have been to many anniversary-style shows over the years, but this was maybe the most literal, with quite an attention to details, history, and nuance. The Kim Deal-fronted band did a brilliant job recreating the seminal album on stage as part of their “LSXX” celebration. As a special bonus to the two San Francisco dates (the first of which was sold out, and is the basis for this review), the “Last Splash” line-up not only played that album front to back, but their debut album, Pod, as well, so it was a really amazing show for fans of the band.
“If you’re on the wall, you’re awesome…” Peter Murphy relaying what he was told pre-show, in a pretty impressive American accent, about the custom poster designed for the sold out show at The Fillmore last night, on the second American leg of his “Mr. Moonlight Tour: Celebrating 35 Years of Bauhaus”, before he critiqued the fact that it portrayed him as bald and with wings. Peter Murphy has always been a bit of an enigma to me, as you have an idea of what he might be like from listening to his music, but on stage he usually has a few funny things to say in-between songs. But for this tour in particular, fans turned out for the songs, with an all-Bauhaus setlist, with Peter Murphy and his band bringing the classics to life on stage, with great precision and style. Bauhaus were one of the most important bands during that era, with a massive influence in music at large and a catalog of music that has stood the test of time. The show in San Francisco last night definitely lived up to the billing as a celebration of that music. I would say it is the best Peter Murphy concert I’ve seen (which is saying a lot). One of the best tours of the year.
“We did something rather foolish here…” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been, reminiscing about a past performance at the historic Fillmore, in San Francisco where the band was born. A fitting venue from which to launch their North American tour last night, supporting the new studio album, Specter At The Feast. Robert never came back around to explain their past foolishness, but there is always a bit of mystery about this band and their music, as well as a genuine politeness, on and off stage. In any event, Robert and co-singer/guitarist Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro did not hold back at all with their overpowering sonic performance; a virtually non-stop set clocking in at about two hours and fifteen minutes. The hard rocking band only slowed down a little for a few acoustic numbers in the second half of the show and at the end, and later with the encore and set closer, “Lose Yourself”, which played out in a way that felt as if the building were unwinding itself like an overspun vintage pocket watch, beat by beat, with minimalist yet powerful drums that even improve on the studio recording. But I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with this band, who take their live sets to levels only dreamed of by other artists. It was one of those shows that felt like a special one, and I can’t imagine a better way for them to kick off what is likely to be a stellar tour.
“Yeah, we rule a very tiny kingdom…” Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid’s modest response to a fan shouting out “you rule” in-between songs during their lengthy set, gesturing to the crowd within the historic Fillmore in San Francisco as they celebrated with their “Vivid 25th Anniversary Tour” last night. The band literally attacked the stage, with drummer Will Calhoun busting a large hole in the kick drum two songs in, with their explosive live performance of their classic Grammy Award-winning 1988 hit, “Cult of Personality”. Playing Vivid front to back, the group put on an amazing concert that underscored what a great work that album was, taking us back to a time when albums mattered, as well as showcasing their innovative blending of disparate musical styles and genres into something really unique and powerful.
Tonight I had the opportunity to see The Ting Tings in concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco. This is my first time seeing the band, and they were absolutely fantastic, which is all the more astonishing given that Katie White (vocals, guitar, bass drum, keyboards, and even cow bell) had an emergency appendectomy last Friday. The way she performed and danced all over the stage, and even into the audience (more on that later), you would never imagine that she had surgery just about a week ago. Jule de Martino is the other half of the band, on drums, guitar, bass guitar, vocals, and keyboards. [Read more…]