“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…]
“It’s a very special evening for us, because this is the culmination of a lot of hard work… we’re about to take a month’s vacation, so tonight’s party night!” Shirley Manson of Garbage, playing before thousands at The Masonic in San Francisco, the band’s last U.S. show on their current tour (sort of, with a special one off show in Los Angeles next month). With this tour, they are supporting 2016’s new studio album, Strange Little Birds. As a follow-up tour to last year’s “20 Years Queer Tour”, we now see the band looking to the future more than reflecting on the past, though there is still some of that too, with stories about the birth of their music in the 90s and of course they are still playing those fan favorite songs and hits.
“Do I have my readers on my head? How long has that been the case? Is that from the first set? [shouts from crowd: “just the second!”] That just leveled me, a little bit, to be honest…” Tanya Donelly on stage with the recently reformed Belly, pulling her reading glasses off of the top of her head during their blazing show at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Friday night, which prompted bass player Gail Greenwood to playfully interject, “this is the only person I know who actually applied for an AARP card… meanwhile the rest of us will cut that motherfucker up!” Tanya, acknowledging her father up front and center in the crowd quipped in reply, “I’m an Irish girl… I like my discounts!” A reflection of the funny and fun-loving vibe between the band (and family) on this quite special tour, with the “dream pop” alternative band back together some 20 years after their break up in the mid-90s. Not only did they seem to be having more fun than anyone at the sold out show (which is saying a lot), but their performance was truly impeccable, bringing back so many of their great songs and playing them in a way that made them sound better than ever. With Thomas and Chris Gorman also on stage on guitar and drums, the reunited band also played two new work-in-progress songs, which is a reflection of the status and future of the band, moving forward with new love for one another and what they created together, as well as building on what once was with what might be. The future is bright for the quartet and their fans.
“Seriously. Seriously? Seriously? Shiiiiit… You guys are sounding so good tonight. Everything that you joined in with tonight was fucking insane. We wish that we could take you everywhere we went!” Kelvin Swaby of The Heavy, bringing the sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco into a frenzy, leading them into a sing along of “What Makes a Good Man?” – the first of their two punch encore close out, which ended with “How You Like Me Now?”. I started the show up front and center, with Kelvin just inches away most of the show as he strutted back and forth along the edge of the stage, feeding off of the fans. It felt more like what you might expect at a Rolling Stones or Aerosmith sports arena show, going by the jumping energy throughout their hour and a half set. Part retro blues/funk, infused with a garage band sound, the band is led by their crazy charismatic front man and vocalist… they are like a band born to play live to give fans an unforgettable experience. Fueled by four albums, including Hurt & the Merciless released this month, it was like a concentrated rock and roll vortex was set loose in the venue and none of us quite understood what hit us until it was all over and the house lights came up. Really one of the best live bands touring today. A must see. No, a must experience. [Read more…]
“I hope it wasn’t a massive hassle for you to come a week later… I’m sorry if it was… it fucking was for us!” Miki from shoegaze pioneers Lush at The Warfield in San Francisco on Sunday night, for their show that was rescheduled from the week before due to visa issues coming to the U.S. for Coachella and a handful of headlining shows California, the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver. The band just released their first new music in 20 years, EP Blind Spot, this month, and their sprawling set list of music new and old kept the packed crown transfixed on the stage for the duration of the show. Best known as “a 90s band”, music of that era is being rediscovered of late and it was awesome to see the band come back to the music scene to begin again in a different era. Prior to recent months (including an appearance at Coachella), the band last performed way back in 1996. You wouldn’t know it from their show, as they appeared relaxed, comfortable, and happy to play in front of their fans.
“Spread open your Golden Gates…” Morrissey always has an interesting little quip before delving into the first song of the night, and what he prepared from The Masonic in San Francisco was appropriate enough. Having seen him one other time this year – in San Jose in July (phenomenal show!) – he seems to be increasingly jubilant this year… a turn of fortunes for sure. He also seems much more comfortable in his own skin, and more confident (with a stellar band bringing his music alive in a way that eclipses all iterations that have come before it). He was also quite chatty with this latest engagement on Tuesday night, abandoning at least some of the darkness fans have become accustomed to (though he did make a remark about looking to find him in a monastery eight miles south of Vienna in the future). There is often a unique theme for each show by way of matching outfits for the band, and with this show, they all wore “Morrissey for President” t-shirts. We can only image. As one of my all-time favorite artists, I see him as often as I can, and it seemed most fitting to make this show my final one for 2015. He remains one of just a few artists that can still give me that chill down my spine and make me feel like I am witnessing something genuine and important (kicking in at this show with “How Soon Is Now?”). Morrissey has a way of bringing up feelings of nostalgia and fusing it with his new works to create something special. [Read more…]
“Fuck you, Greg! Just kidding!” What the audience playfully shouted at Inara George of The Bird And The Bee (on cue and at her direction) as she recorded video of the crowd with a borrowed phone, to share with the other half of their duo who is not joining her on this short, rare tour hitting just four cities in the U.S. (Pasadena, San Francisco, Chicago, and Minneapolis). Supporting their first all-original album since 2009 with the newly released Recreational Love, that crowd has certainly been waiting with great anticipation to see the act, in whole or part, for the better part of five years (in which time just a handful of dates have been played). The packed collection of fans at Social Hall SF in San Francisco (just below and part of Goldenvoice’s Regency Ballroom) was not disappointed, as Inara George and her band played through The Bird And The Bee favorites, old and new. Going by the quality and energy of the show, you wouldn’t know that live shows are not something that they do continuously, as it was a brilliant concert and the unique studio sound was recreated faithfully and, of course, at the heart of it all were Inara’s unique vocals. Definitely worth turning out for one of these rare shows, and short of that, checking out the new album, which takes them in a new direction while retaining that unique distinct, singular, signature sound. [Read more…]
I usually start off my reviews with a quote, but Wolf Alice don’t spend too much time talking on stage, and their concert at The Chapel in San Francisco Thursday night was a bit too chaotic and kinetic for chit chat; they let the music speak for itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch all three of their San Francisco shows in 2015 (their debut at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in March and follow-up at The Independent in May), but their most recent show – fueled by the June release of their debut album My Love Is Cool – was their best yet. They are, in my opinion, the most exciting new band recording and performing today. They continue to develop their many gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and their live concerts serve as a showcase for how amazing they are at recreating their rich and complex, multi-layered sound on stage. But back to that album… for me personally, it is the Album of the Year. Truly, the best album of the past several years. Every song is a gem. They are THE band to watch.
“Holy shit! San! Fran! Cisco! Oh my God. Well, I may be really fucking tired… I danced my ass off! I have sit down so I don’t have a heart attack! … just in case you missed what we were trying to say… San Francisco, you are fucking amazing!” MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, after coming back on stage for their encore, taking a seat behind the drum kit. That encore opened with a “fucking amazing” cover of “Uptown Funk”. This is the moment where they really showed off how each member of the group is an exceptional musician, as they went through an extended jam session that really showcased their music talents and ability to intuitively wander about a song and squeeze every last bit of sonic confection out of it. I first saw the New York pop band performing as part of the KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, and came away feeling that it was a band destined for a very bright future. That feeling was cemented Thursday night, as they have matured even more as a live act. Their debut album, Our Own House, has since been released, and fueled them through an hour and a half show. The theme of the night, for them, seemed to be an earnest love for The City by the Bay, with Mandy becoming choked up at the love being showered onto the band throughout the concert. They are definitely a young act with much larger stages waiting for them in the not too distant future, as long as they keep on doing what they are doing.
“I’d like to thank our two friends down here who have been down here all day; it was crazy for us to have any of you here in San Francisco all the way from London…” Ellie Rowsell’s gratitude expressed to the two Wolf Alice fans who came a long way to see the UK alternative four piece play in the U.S. I’d just seen their show at Popscene in San Francisco only three months ago, and I could not wait to catch another one of their dynamic live concerts. Having since had an opportunity to get schooled in their music released to date, I have found Wolf Alice to be one of the most exciting newer bands recording and performing today. With their debut album – My Love Is Cool – due next month, I am confident that their music will propel them to greater success and larger stages. They have a real set of gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and the contemporary yet timelessness of their music which features some touches and influences that span many disparate music genres and eras. They are the real deal.