“It’s a happy and a sad occasion…“ Thomas Dolby talking about his last stop at Creat Theatre in Sacramento last night, in his preface to “performing” his very personal documentary film, The Invisible Lighthouse Tour. Really a film unlike any I’ve ever experienced, it was just that – an experience. Dolby has been a pioneer in pop culture from his very beginnings, well known for his 1982 New Wave hit, “She Blinded Me With Science” among a number of other accomplishments in and out of music. Dolby’s partner on the stage, Blake Leyh, produced some amazing “analog”, impressionistic sound effects during the film, which Dolby scored and narrated, which made it clear that each performance of his film has been quite unique and different. A real pioneer in the arts, Dolby certainly has consistently blazed his own path, and after hearing his candid thoughts throughout the event, it would seem that he operates in a bit of a pop culture bubble, and looks to technology to find new ways in which to create meaningful art and vehicles for expression, and currently he is inspired by the ability today to make powerful films, sans Hollywood budgets and crews. The result is something that literally has to be experienced in a theater, and hopefully this event is truly not the last for The Invisible Lighthouse.
The Invisible Lighthouse – A Film and Live Performance by Thomas Dolby at Crest Theatre | Sacramento, California | 11/23/2013 (Concert Review)
Anna Nalick at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nighclub | Sacramento, California | 11/20/2013 (Concert Review)
“I know I got that Adult Top 40 reputation, but don’t let that fool you… I’m wearing leather pants. And I will put foot on the amp and show you what’s what.” Anna Nalick definitely showed the packed crowd inside Harlow’s in Sacramento last night what was what, and then some. The genre defying singer-songwriter kicked off her mini tour of the West Coast, with shows in Oakland, Grant’s Pass, Spokane, and Seattle to follow through the end of this month. Best known for her triple Platinum hit, “Breathe (2 AM)”, from her debut album Wreck of the Day, she is on a two week break from starring in Scott Caan’s play, 100 Days of Yesterday at Playhouse West. This set of concerts presents a rare opportunity to see a truly gifted musical talent perform her original music as well as a number of new songs she’s crafted since 2011′s Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. I definitely have a lot of thoughts about the show… in short, I can’t recommend enough turning out to catch this special tour if you can. Brilliant, brilliant artist and performance, and a fascinating woman.
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.
Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, Conducted by John Mauceri, at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live | Los Angeles, California | 10/31/2013 (Concert Review)
“I just want to say, I used to see this guy at really crappy clubs right down the street. And now that it’s come to this, I’m like blown away. There is no better person to spend Halloween with, than him…” A few words from Tim Burton, paying tribute to Danny Elfman, the man who has accompanied him on quite the filmmaking journey that began with 1985′s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve ever seen and heard such an impressive display of music than with last night’s special event at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. With the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the 45-member Page LA Choir, conducted by John Mauceri, it was amazing. I feel like Danny Elfman was a key figure within pop culture in my formative years, as Oingo Boingo was the band I saw more than any other in concert in the late 80s and very early 90s, and as a huge fan of Tim Burton’s films and those consistent themes and quirky characters, I feel like I was along for the ride as well. So when I heard about this event, I knew it was one that I could not allow myself to miss, and I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to be part of it. Words really can’t describe; if you were there and are now reading this, I am sure you can agree.
Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base (V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party 2013) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 10/25/2013 (Concert Review)
Last night was all about old school hip hop legends, with Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base each taking the stage during V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party at Pano Hall inside Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln. Pioneers in what has since become a wildly popular genre of music, it was a celebration of the artists who built the foundation of hip hop, with respect paid to many of their peers who were not part of the concert, by way of mention and covers. It made for an interesting and unpredictable night of music, with legend Kurtis Blow doing his own music, like “The Breaks” (the first gold certified rap song back in 1980) as well as some unexpected works from others that followed many years later, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Hip Hop has obviously changed tremendously in the past three decades, but those in attendance last night, I think, appreciate that it was probably at its best in those early years, and it is gratifying to have seen these artists do their thing on stage last night in a relatively intimate atmosphere with a great crowd, some of whom also took to the stage throughout the show.
“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.
Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2013″ at Copley Symphony Hall | San Diego, California | 10/8/2013 (Concert Review)
I had really high expectations for this, the latest Pet Shop Boys tour… yet somehow, as I sit down to write my thoughts about their show in San Diego at the Copely Symphony Hall last night, I am left a bit speechless… Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I have this swirling flood of thoughts in my mind, and can’t seem to form a coherent approach to the whole thing. Maybe it was the overpowering strobe lights that disrupted the circuitry in my brain. Maybe it’s because they put on one of the most brilliant shows of the year. The cover of the tour program reads, “TURN IT ON”. Not a mere concert, it was a full blown, avant-garde stage production 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. Just when you expect that they should have peaked by now, they keep blazing new paths in music and life. Real artists, they create new work (in the studio and on stage) with a palette featuring colors all their own. They obviously put a lot of thought into not just sharing their music (old and new, hits and deep cuts), but creating a captivating and memorable experience. Though the visuals were mind blowing, the arrangements were amazing, Neil’s voice sounded better than ever, and the sound quality within the venue was superb.
Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (North American Leg) at Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort | Las Vegas, Nevada | 10/6/2013 (Concert Review)
When Depeche Mode announced the North American dates and cities for their Delta Machine Tour, I immediately identified the one at Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort as the one to go to, since I was familiar with the (relatively) small and intimate venue from past shows, and it was one of just a few in the United States with a general admission standing floor area in front of the stage. Having seen them five times overseas earlier this year, I had become spoiled with standing right in front of the stage, so that has become a must for me in experiencing my favorite band. With the show last night, I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and I suspect most to all in the crowd felt the same, as Vegas is one of those rare cities that pull fans from not only all over the U.S., but all over the world. It was quite a celebration for not only the audience, but seemingly the band as well, who were quite jubilant throughout the performance, which clocked in at about two hours (there was no supporting act at this date). For me, being surrounded by friends who also traveled from California for this show, it was the perfect way to close out an amazing year of live music by the band who have in many ways impacted my life with their art, particularly in my formative years throughout the 80s. [Read more...]
Creedence Clearwater Revisited at Reliant Park (Grand Prix of Houston) | Houston, Texas | 10/3/2013 (Concert Review)
“I tell them about… the definitive sound of the South. That sound, goes like this…” John “Bulldog” Tristao of Creedence Clearwater Revisited, telling a captive audience at Reliant Park in Houston about how he describes places like Texas when performing “up North”, before the band broke into their rendition of the classic folk song, “Midnight Special”. Playing a special Friday night concert as part of the three day Grand Prix of Houston event, there was a certain sort of reverence in the air among the crowd that turned out for the show, which flowed out beyond the seated area and grew as the band played through countless classic rock and roll songs.