“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)
“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.
“Tonight what you see is a very, very, very stripped, stripped version of what it is that we do on a nightly basis…” OneRepublic’s show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga Sunday night was one of those very rare shows that surprised me (in a good way) on all counts. It was my first time seeing the band live, who are touring their latest studio album, Native (more on that later, also in a good way). Since it was such a different show from the norm, I can’t really account for what is different, though I suspect it was much more acoustic-driven than their typical set, though both approaches certainly do justice to their material. One thing that was apparent is that the group is made up of musicians at heart, and perfectionists in recreating their music on stage in a very real way. Their crew quite masterfully swapped out instruments (large on small) on stage in-between each song, helping to create a very memorable night that was a tapestry of the great music that OneRepublic has created. They sounded phenomenal and their identity as a band certainly came through in a variety of ways, especially their relationships with each other and boundless energy on stage. The experience definitely made me a bigger fan and my curiosity is definitely piqued and interested in checking out the other kind of show that they referenced as different from this one, which felt quite intimate and special.
“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.
The Cure “The Great Circle Tour” at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena | Honolulu, Oahu in Hawaii | 7/30/2013 (Concert Review)
Playing on stage for nearly three and a half hours, with just two 2-minute breaks and almost no in-between song chit chat, The Cure was all about songs and performance at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Oahu last night, making the legendary band’s first ever concert in Hawaii maybe one of the best for those lucky enough to score tickets at the sold out arena. Last night’s rocking show was all about fan service, from the sprawling 38-song set list to the special meet and greet opportunity for those who were able to get one of the coveted front row seats on the floor; the decades old group that is impossible to categorize played a dream set of many of their seemingly endless catalog of hits, spanning their entire career. Though they’ve been one of my own favorite bands since the 80s, I haven’t seen them live since their Wish Tour in the early 90s. I’ve been to over 60 concerts so far this year and with that probably have seen sets by well over 100 artists, and I would definitely rank this as one of my Top Three shows so far in 2013. Having traveled special to the islands for this special concert event – part of their “The Great Circle Tour” – it was definitely more than worth it as it was an unforgettable experience.
Kings of the Mic Tour (LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul) at The Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, California | 7/7/2013 (Concert Review)
I don’t go to very many hip hop/rap shows, but loved the artists that got their start (and really got that genre of music into the mainstream) in the 80s. My first ever concert, at the age of 14, was Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, and Ice-T at Cal Expo in Sacramento in 1987. So when I heard about this “Kings of the Mic Tour” earlier this year, and that it was headlined by LL Cool J, it was a must see concert for me. Unfortunately, the Bay Area show conflicted with other travel plans, but a date was added onto the end of the tour in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre, so I knew that was the one to catch. I am certainly glad that I did attend that specific show Sunday night, as it seemed to be a special one on all counts (and clocked in at over four hours of nearly non-stop entertainment). However, the highlight for me took me back to that very first concert experience I ever had, as there was a special surprise guest… toward the end of the last set, Darryl McDaniels (from Run-DMC) joined LL Cool J on stage, and the two performed “Peter Piper”, which was amazing. Stunning for me, really. Overall, it was a very impressive and high energy show from start to finish by all artists involved, and it definitely left me feeling that I need to catch more old school hip hop shows, though I think the bar was set very high by this last stop on the Kings of the Mic Tour.
Jewel “Greatest Hits Tour” at Ovations LIVE! Showroom, Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino | Chandler, Arizona | 6/8/2013 (Concert Review)
“I’ve been losing my voice, so I’m probably going to be singing a lot of sweet, falsetto songs tonight. I apologize for not being able to do more of my trademark growling and Janis Joplin screaming that I’m so famous for… but I’ll do what I can.” A few songs into her set, how singer-songwriter Jewel framed her performance at Ovations LIVE! at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino last night in Chandler, Arizona, well into her “Greatest Hits Tour”. Having had an opportunity to meet her backstage before the show, where conversation was limited to whispering, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Amazingly, sitting in the audience, you would never have any idea that she was having any issues at all, as she put on an incredible showcase performance, reflective of her place in the music world as one of our most gifted vocalists in popular music today, with range, versatility, and emotion bursting out of every song. Having penned over 500 songs, later in the show Jewel mentioned that no two shows are ever the same, yet in addition to the music she provided some personal insights into her life and journey in music, both of which seem forever intertwined. It was really a fantastic evening, and her (mostly) solo, all acoustic show is definitely a must see in live music today.