Sascha Konietzko’s brain child, KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, loosely “no pity for the majority”), played its second concert in the past year at The Independent in San Francisco to a crowd of its devotees last night. One of the leading artists that helped to build the Industrial music scene in the 80s (though Sasha prefers “Ultra-Heavy Beat”), they are certainly one of the last from that era who continue to carry the torch for that genre of music. They have been quite prolific in the past three decades, with regular and continued touring and 18 studio albums, as well as being uncompromising in staying true to that particular format of music. Sascha has been the one constant with the German group, with a rotating roster of band members, though the current formation was hitting on all cylinders last night. They put on an excellent concert and I can’t imagine that any who found their way into the show went away disappointed. While never remotely a mainstream act, the fans that they have converted over the years are truly dedicated, with a much more substantive relationship with this band than is the norm. These concerts feel as though they serve as an escape as well as celebration among those who “get” the counter culture sound and viewpoint that KMFDM imagines and then delivers with its relentless beat.
Alison Moyet (The Minutes Tour) at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 11/11/2013 (Concert Review)
“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.
Charli XCX’s first U.S. headlining tour kicked off this past week, making an early stop in San Francisco at Slim’s last night to a dedicated and enthusiastic young crowd. The high energy evening kicked off with opening sets by LIZ and Kitten, providing a showcase of music with three young women fronting acts with three different styles of music. While Charli has been making music and performing going back several years, she broke much wider into the pop culture consciousness in the past year with Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, which she wrote and also provided vocals to in the hit pop song. Her own music, off her debut album True Romance, is a bit more experimental and darker by contrast, which is why she gave the song to the synthpop Swedish duo for their own album. Charli has had a productive time since I last saw her opening for Santigold in the Summer of 2012, having toured with Coldplay, Paramore, Marina and the Diamonds, as well as put out a lot of new music and music videos like the recently released “SuperLove“. She is definitely one to continue to watch as she forges her own unique path through the music industry. She put on a great show last night and really seems to have grown into having a real command on the stage (with new band in tow) and has inspired and sparked the imagination of a generation of fans.
“Thank you so, so much for being here tonight. It means so, so much to us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” in MS MR thanking the crowd at the Independent in San Francisco last night for being “early adopters” of their music, while the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, preps the crowd for the last song of the night, “Hurricane”. Appropriately enough, the new band has taken the music industry by storm with their phenomenal first studio album, Secondhand Rapture, which I certainly rank as one of the Top 10 Albums of 2013. Their unique blend of at once dark and poppy electronic music has taken me back to those same feelings I had when I found Yazoo 30 years ago (with another male-female duo in Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet), though updated and reflective of our time today. This was the third of three sell out shows at The Independent in the past week, which is remarkable since it was only four months ago that I saw them take the same stage supporting CSS back in June. In much the same way Imagine Dragons graduated from The Independent (they played there as well earlier this year) to filling sports arenas, I suspect that MS MR will continue on with their upward trajectory, carried by their awesome music and brilliant live performances, which sound as sublime as the studio recordings. This is definitely a tour that fan who are lucky enough to check out will not forget.
“This is actually the first song we ever wrote… do you remember your first time?” Susan Ottaviano, vocalist for Book of Love, providing her introduction to “It’s in Your Eyes” halfway through their set at DNA Lounge in San Francisco last night, one stop in a handful of California dates this month. The New Wave synthpop band from Philadelphia, which was formed more than 30 years ago, have started working together and recording together again, and these special concerts are a part of that rebirth for the group. Based on the packed nightclub and enthusiasm of the crowd, they are not forgotten, and there was a large fan base in attendance, many of whom traveled special for the relatively intimate show. As the style of music that they helped to develop back in the 80s gains in popularity today, it is exciting to see the band active and killing it on stage as if they’ve been active all along, rather than reuniting. Hopefully it will mark the start of more to come.
The real thing. Real, authentic rock artists can’t be manufactured… they are born. And standing witness to the phenomenal performance by London-based post-punk revival rock band Savages, I had a deep feeling that maybe they were born a few decades later than when they should have been, yet it makes them that much more powerful. Having been born in 1973 myself, I was too young and on the wrong continent to catch the original shows put on by pioneering artists such as Bauhaus, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Cure… but I had this deep sense and feeling in watching Savages at The Independent last night that maybe what I felt like experiencing their show is what it may have felt like back in the day with those iconic bands. This was the second of two sold out shows in San Francisco. It was a different sort of show – unlike any of the 75 or so others I’ve attended thus far this year, and the many more going back years prior to that… there is nothing contrived or manufactured about Savages. Nothing at all – it is just pure post-punk art at its finest, in the best format of all – a live concert performance. They have brought something new to this space that hasn’t been felt in decades – even by those original players still recording today. A true resurrection. And given the state of society and culture today, it could not be more timely.
Peter Hook & The Light Performing New Order’s “Movement” and “Power, Corruption & Lies” at Mezzanine | San Francisco, California | 9/27/2013 (Concert Review)
“I asked him what he wanted for his birthday… What do you think he said? He said, ‘Dad, I wanna play ‘What Do You Want From Me?”” Peter Hook of Peter Hook & The Light, currently, and formerly of Joy Division, New Order, Ad Infinitum, Revenge, Freebass, and Monaco. “What Do You Want From Me?” was the top single produced by Monaco, and as Peter Hook (more affectionately referred to simply as Hooky) recounted his conversation on stage before the packed crowd at Mezzanine in San Francisco last night, he held his hand on his heart, touched by his son’s request, and beaming with pride. It was definitely a special sort of evening last night, with more than the one big surprise, as I don’t believe his current band Peter Hook & The Light – with son Jack on bass – have ever performed that song live for the public. The other big surprise of the night was opening and supporting band Slaves of Venus… but more on that later. In the end, it was nearly three hours of not just the promised first two New Order albums, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, but a bit of Joy Division as well. Really much more to cover than I can even contemplate in this opening teaser, but it was a stellar show and a showcase of amazing music.
Blondie with X “No Principals Tour” at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 9/19/2013 (Concert Review)
Blondie’s spectacular show at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday night was a reminder of how seemingly effortlessly Debbie Harry and the band crossed into and innovated within so many different styles and genres of music in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk, post-punk, disco, pop, New Wave, even some rap, reggae, and infusions of some world music, they were quite the innovators, really serving as a pioneering force in music, and they continue to record new and relevant music today. The Debbie Harry-fronted East Coast post punk/pop/disco group Blondie share the bill on the “No Principals Tour” with Exene Cervenka and John Doe fronting on vocals for the West Coast, L.A. punk pioneers X, which features its original line-up. Both artists brought amazing energy to the stage, which created a frenzy within the crowd at the Masonic unlike anything I’d seen at the usually mellow venue, with fans of both bands flooding the area between the all-seated venue and the low stage. It was definitely a different sort of concert (in a great way) and celebration of music that really served as a pivotal transition from the 70s to the 80s, paving a pathway into what turned out to be fresh and new world.
GROUPLOVE “Seesaw Tour” (Night 1 “Heavy”) at The Independent & (Night 2 “Light”) at The Chapel | San Francisco, California | 9/14/2013 & 9/15/2013 (Concert Review)
“We do it for love, sweet love…” Fittingly, the final words sung on stage both Saturday and Sunday night in San Francisco by GROUPLOVE, from their hit song, “Colours”. Playing back-to-back shows as part of their special run of their “Seesaw Tour”, performing at two small venues in select cities, doing one traditional show and one acoustic-style show, each night featured a different kind of show, almost as if seen, heard, and felt through a kaleidoscope that shifted not just night to night, but within each show. GROUPLOVE is a band with probably the best energy of anyone playing today – such joy and positivity beaming not just from the speakers at the venues, but from the artists themselves – their expressions and jumping around, and interactions with the audience. The funny thing is that the audiences and shows kind of played counter to expectations, with the “heavy” night at The Independent skewing older and more mellow and the “light” night at The Chapel being much more youthful and boundless, which seemed to fuel the band into rocking their acoustic instruments on the tiny stage, which could barely contain them. Two incredible shows that delivered well beyond expectations.
“It sells more every year now than it ever did when it did first came out in 1968″… Rod Argent, keyboardist and vocalist, talking about the second studio album put out by The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, as he and vocalist Colin Blunstone took the time between stretches of songs to provide some history and context into their “musical journey” through the history of the British Invasion band. After a stellar opening set from supporting band Et Tu Brucé, the two founding members of The Zombies along with rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (front Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums demonstrated with their performance why their legendary status continues to grow. Yoshi’s San Francisco was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the audience seemed to be swept away with their brilliant and timeless music.
Heart “Heartbreaker Tour” with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at America’s Cup Pavilion | San Francisco, California | 8/28/2013 (Concert Review)
I have been to many, many concerts this year, but this is one of those few that left me feeling kind of speechless. With their San Francisco stop on their “Heartbreaker Tour”, Live Nation and America’s Cup hosted the event at America’s Cup Pavilion as part of their Summer Concert Series. Joining Ann and Nancy Wilson on this Heart tour is Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Experience; more than a supporting act, it is a dynamic fusion that has made for a very unique and unforgettable concert experience. Throughout the evening, the musical journey and artistry on display seemed to build perfectly, song after song, moment to moment, and culminated with Jason Bonham and his band joining Heart on stage to perform Led Zeppelin material, with the crescendo of the overall experience being their collective rendition of “Stairway to Heaven”. Really, live music does not get any better than that, and when you see even the venue security rocking out with the fans, you know you are part of one of those special concert experiences where people forget who they are and just live the moment and soak it in, basking in the greatness shining from the stage.
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.